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New Measures for Same-Sex Partners of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in U.S.

As the numbers of LGBTI people fleeing their persecuting countries increases, the U.S. Department of State has changed the guidelines for refugee admissions, making it easier for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, (LGBT) refugees and asylees to have their partners join them in the United States. However there are limitations. The State Department officially changed the interpretation of the term "spouse" under the Process Priorities, or P-3 family reunification program to allow same-sex partners of qualified refugees and asylees in the United States to file an Affidavit of Relationship so that they are able to join their partners in the United States—even if they are not legally married.

“The State Department has made a small but important change to its regulations, which will allow for more LGBT asylum seekers to reunite with their families in the United States,” noted Sharita Gruberg, Center for American Progress (CAP) Senior Policy Analyst and author of a column released today on the department’s change in policy. “Given that so few countries recognize same-sex marriages, the State Department’s former requirement of marriage documents meant that LGBT refugees had to choose between safety and living with the ones they love. Though the policy change is an important step toward equality within the refugee system, it must be expanded from the limited number of countries recognized in the P-3 program.”

However, unfortunately, the P-3 program only recognizes a few countries and fails to include some of the countries that are the most hostile toward LGBTI people. AHRC joins other human rights groups, such as CAP, urging the U.S. Department of State to establish a universal P-3 status, which will open family reunification to all refugees and asylees regardless of country of origin. Short of this measure, those from non covered countries must use the onerous humanitarian parole route to allow partners of asylees and refugees to enter the country to marry in the United States and thereby extend protected status to partners who are then in fact spouses. Click here to read the CAP column.

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