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US Customs & Border Protection Broadens Definition of "Family"

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After the Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), two federal agencies announced that they would be expanding the definition of marriage and families. This has a significant impact on immigration law as it previously restricted who could apply for visas and separated nontraditional families.

Household redefined in immigration

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has also broadened what they classify as a family for those crossing the border into the U.S. “Members of a family residing in one household” is the only requirement someone needs to file a joint customs declaration.

This includes same-sex couples, other domestic relationship such as foster children, stepchildren, half-siblings, legal wards and other dependents that were not previously included. Families that are traveling together will no longer have to fill out separate forms because they reside in the same household. Two years ago same sex couples still had to fill out their forms separately and identify as “single” because of the law.

FAFSA aims to include all families

Another department of Education also issued guidance about legal same-sex marriages and recognized this for federal financial aid purposes. Before DOMA was overturned, the FAFSA still included options of mother and father whereas now, the new forms say parent 1 or parent 2. This ensures that marriages will be recognized no matter if people travel into states that do not recognize same sex marriage.

While there has been much progress in recognizing same-sex marriage, there are still many benefits and services that are not guaranteed to these couples. The Department of Veterans Administration, for example, has a separate law that only recognizes the marriage between a man and woman. So a same-sex couple in Texas will have to pay an additional $50,000 when buying a house because the VA would not approve their loan. But recognizing same sex couples as a family is more than just a financial change, but rather a completely different outlook on what it means to be a family.

If you have questions regarding applying for a visa or immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.


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