Uniting American Families Act
The Uniting American Families Act is legislation that would grant U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the right to sponsor their same-sex permanent partners to immigrate to the United States. The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would provide same-sex couples with the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex couples. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) first introduced this bill to Congress in 2000. In July 2003, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), introduced the Senate companion bill for the first time. By the end of the 111th Congress, the bill had garnered 135 co-sponsors in the House and 25 co-sponsors in the Senate.
If passed, UAFA would allow U.S. citizens and permanent residents to file a visa petition on behalf of their foreign national same-sex permanent partners, allowing them to immigrate to the U.S. and adjust their status to become lawful permanent residents. See 2009 H.R. 1024 § 3 (which would amend 8 U.S.C. § 1151(b)(2)(A)(i) to include "permanent partners" as "immediate relatives" of U.S. citizens not subject to numerical limitations or worldwide limitations, thus allowing those individuals to file a petition under 8 U.S.C. § 1154 (a)(1)(A)(i)); 2009 H.R. 1024 § 5 (which would amend 8 U.S.C. § 1153(a) to give "permanent partners" and spouses of permanent residents the same preference allocation, allowing permanent partners to file a petition under 8 U.S.C. § 1154 (a)(1)(B)(i)).
The bill defines "permanent partner" as any person 18 or older who is:
- in a committed, intimate relationship with an adult U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident 18 years or older in which both parties intend a lifelong commitment;
- financially interdependent with that other person;
- not married to, or in a permanent partnership with, anyone other than that other person;
- unable to contract with that person a marriage cognizable under the Immigration and Nationality Act; and
- is not a first, second, or third degree blood relation of that other individual.
In order to qualify, the permanent partners would have to prove that they have a bona fide relationship1 through documentary and testimonial evidence proving each of the above elements. The sponsoring "permanent partner" would also have to commit to providing financial support before the other partner could obtain immigration benefits based on their relationship.
The above requirements ensure that the UAFA protects same-sex couples in committed relationships while preventing fraudulent immigration applications. Indeed, the applicable burden of proof standard would be identical to that which currently applies to all heterosexual married couples seeking immigration benefits. Moreover, just like heterosexual couples, permanent partners would be subject to severe criminal penalties for immigration fraud or other abuse in connection with the application for permanent residence.
Because the Act's intent is to remedy the unequal treatment of same-sex partners, it would not affect unmarried heterosexual couples, who currently have the option to marry and seek relief under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
UAFA does not alter or redefine the federal definition of marriage for immigration purposes or otherwise. Instead, it simply provides US citizens and legal permanent residents with the right to petition for their foreign national permanent partners to immigrate to the United States.
NCLR is a member of the UAFA working group, a diverse coalition of organizations that advocate for UAFA and its principles to be included as a part of any efforts for comprehensive immigration reform.
See http://www.immigrationequality.org/template.php?pageid=152 for information on the most recent co-sponsors and status of the bill. For additional information on UAFA as well as information on how to successfully lobby your representatives in Congress, visit Immigration Equality.
To learn more about how immigration law affects bi-national same sex couples, read Human Rights Watch and Immigration Equality 's publication "Family, Unvalued: Discrimination, Denial and the Fate of Binational Same-Sex Couples under U.S. Law."
click here to follow the bill's current status in Congress
click here to read the Washington Post Editorial "Separation Anxiety"
NCLR joins a national coalition of LGBT-rights groups, including Immigration Equality, Marriage Equality USA, Out4Immigration, Join the Impact, and Love Exiles, in asking you to call your U.S. Representative to urge them to cosponsor the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). Find your Congressperson and then call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask to be connected.
What to say when you reach your representative’s staff:
“I am calling to ask Representative ________________ to be an original cosponsor of the Uniting American Families Act of 2009. To cosponsor, (he or she) must contact Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who is the lead sponsor of the bill.
The U.S. government discriminates against gay and lesbian binational couples by not allowing them to sponsor their foreign-born life partners for immigration. Because of this, they face the terrible choice of leaving the person they love or leaving the country. No one should be asked to choose between family and country.
Please ask Rep. _________________ to cosponsor the Uniting American Families Act of 2009 by reaching out to Rep. Nadler right away.”
1 Immigration authorities typically decide whether a heterosexual marriage is bona fide by questioning spouses about their home life, habits, and history to determine whether the couple is truly committed in the long term, or whether they are engaged in a sham marriage.
2 Financial interdependence is typically established by submitting evidence of a joint bank account, and shared responsibility (e.g. both names on statements) for credit cards, utilities, rent and the like.