State Department changes visa rules for same-sex partners of foreign diplomats

Geneva Stokes
October 2, 2018

"Only 12% of United Nations member states allow same-sex marriage", she wrote on Twitter.

Those who don't submit proof of marriage by 31 December will be required to leave the country within 30 days, the memo says. That allowed them to attain visas and accompany their diplomat partners as household members, a status that was not extended to heterosexual couples. "It is an unfortunate change in rules, since same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited choices when it comes to marriage".

"Same-sex spouses of USA diplomats now enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses", the US mission wrote in a July 12 note to United Nations based delegations, according to Foreign Policy. It was not clear how many foreign diplomats and United Nations employees with pending USA posts will be affected by the policy shift.

But that could put pose a problem for couples ineligible to legally marry in their home country.

Only 12 percent of the countries in the world recognize same-sex marriage. And unmarried partners who aren't yet in the United States will not be eligible for visas to move there.

Currently, 25 countries have recognised same-sex marriage.

As of Monday, regardless of their home country's laws or customs, the administration has also started taking the extraordinary step of ordering any unmarried partners to exit the US if they don't marry by the end of the year.

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The United States will no longer give same-sex domestic partners of diplomats and United Nations staff visas to live in the country, under a new policy that took effect this week. The latest policy change, the United States explained in the note, was aimed at ensuring all couples were treated equally.

But it also rolls back a practice championed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to extend benefits to same-sex domestic partners of diplomats or global staff posted in the US, even if they were not legally married.

This will have an insidious impact on same-sex couples from countries that ban same-sex marriage or only offer civil unions.

"Requiring a marriage as proof of bona fide partnership is a bad and cruel policy, one that replicates the awful discrimination many LGBT people face in their own countries", she wrote in a statement.

Domestic partners who are already in the United States can get married there.

The change was implemented Monday, and will also apply to diplomats from countries where homosexuality is criminalized, leaving them few options.

Samantha Power, a former USA ambassador to the United Nations, denounced the new policy on Twitter as "needlessly cruel & bigoted". But officials posted to worldwide organizations, such as the United Nations, do not represent a foreign government, and there are no exceptions to the policy.

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