Alternatives for Couples

Love Sees No Borders is NOT a legal organization, and none of the recommendations below should be construed as legal advice. The intent of this page is to show you various options so you may discuss them with your lawyer. Love Sees No Borders strongly encourages couples to consult immigration attorneys who are sensitive to issues related to LGBT people and same-sex couples. For more information on how to contact a lawyer, please contact LGIRTF or NCLR.

Here you will find information about:

Green Cards
Green Card Lottery
Moving to Canada
Moving to Europe
World Passports

Foreigners who are unable to secure sponsorship for an immigrant visa - "green card" - have to make use of "non-immigrant" visas such as student, work, or tourist visas. Student and work visas usually require the sponsorship of an organization, be it an educational institution or a company. A tourist visa, in general, requires that the foreigner has compelling reasons to return to their home country after the visit ot the U.S. is over. For example, having a steady job or owning a home in the home country indicates an intention/motive/reason to leave the United States. Please consult an immigration attorney to learn more.

Although a person MAY be able to enter the U.S. on a tourist visa and later change it to a student or work visa (please note the word MAY), the same rules would apply. That is, the foreigner would need institutional sponsorship from a school or an established business.

NOTE: Students have a one-year practical training period after completing thier studies. This means that for one year, a graduate can work in the U.S. to train in their field of study.

NOTE: Work visas are issued to qualified foreigners. The spirit of the visa is to satisfy a demand of workers not available in the U.S. Therefore, usually people with professional skills are elligible for this kind of visa. In addition, foreign workers are limited to the kind of work they can do. For example, a computer programmer will not be granted a work visa to work in a marketing department, or as a server. This person would HAVE to work in some kind of programming job.

For more information on these visas please visit the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
For Student visas:
Work Visas:
Tourist Visas:
For other visa categoriues not covered here, please visit:

There are a few ways to obtain a green card to come to the United States. The easiest one is when foreigners are wealthy can can invest one million dollars in the United States. This is what is called inverstors visa. Asylees can also obtain green cards and this will be discussed later. The two most common routes to obtain a green card are family-based and employment-based routes.

The family-based route, as the name implies, is when a family member, who is an American citizen or resident, living in the U.S. petitions for the immigration of the foreigner. Qualifying family members are parents, spouses and children over 18 years of age. Same-sex partners are not considered family members. For all federal issues, such as immigration, same-sex couples are considered legal strangers. Please consult an immigration lawyer if you think you can use this route.

The employment-based route is when a company sponsors the green card of a foreigner. In many ocassions the foreigner entered the United States with a work visa. U.S. regulations demand that employers prove that no qualified Americans were found to do the job prior to granting the green card to the foreigner. Therefore, the health of the U.S. ecomony affects the chances of employment-based green cards being approved.

Many lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered (LGBT) people are unaware that the United States grants asylum based on sexual orientation. We have met couples who were able to remain together because the foreigner had a bona fide asylum case, and was granted asylum.

The rule of thumb is that in order to claim asylum a person has to come from a country that is oppressive towards gays. In other words, a person from the Netherlands, which grants same-sex marriage and is incredibly gay-friendly, will not be eligible for asylum since this particular country is very accepting of LGBT people. On the other hand, coming from a country hostile to LGBT people DOES NOT guarantee that an individual will receive asylum in the United States. Asylum is granted ON A CASE-BY-CASE BASIS AND SOLELY ON THE MERITS OF THE CASE. The best way to know if you could qualify for asylum is to consult an immigration attorney who has an understanding of asylum cases based on sexual orientation. Please contact LGIRTF or NCLR for more info. You should also contact the National Asylee Hotline at 800-354-0365 for more information.

NOTE: A year after being granted asylum an asylee can file for a green card. While the green card is being processed, the foreigner is still an asylee and cannot travel to his or her country. After being granted the green card, the foreigner is no longer under protection of the federal government and can travel anywhere he or she pleases, including the native country. Currently, as of 03-06-2003 it is taking 11-12 years for an asylee to be granted a green card.

For the BCIS site on Asylum please visit:

The green card lottery is the common name of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. It was started to diversify the pool of immigrants in the country and this is why people comming from countries that have a large number of citizens living in the United States are unable to participate. For example, Mexico, United Kingdom and India, among others, are not elligible to participate.

Please note that this process is filled with little details meant to disqualify people participating, thus reducing the number of applications. For example, the application should be received AFTER noon on the first day of the application period, and BEFORE noon on the last. If an application were to arrive at 11:30 am on the first day of the application period it will be automatically disqualified. The same is true if you use express mail or courier services and for other details such as zip codes to be used, paper size, etc. Also please note that this is a free application. There are many people who charge for their "services" in filing the application.

For more information, please visit the Department of State page on the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program at

Canada currently has an expanding economy and seeks talented individuals to join its workforce, making the process to immigrate to Canada with an equivalent of a green card a rather painless task - especially when compared to achieving the same objective in the U.S.! Canada also recognizes same-sex couples for immigration purposes. Therefore, as long as one of the members of the couple qualifies for residence in Canada the partner will be given residence too. For more information on how to immigrate to Canada, please contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada. If one of the partners is Canadian, check out with LEGIT-ICGL how to sponsor a non-Canadian partner.

NOTE: If you choose to move to Canada, each partner would have to complete an individual application. Then, include both applications in the same envelope, and attach a cover letter explaining the nature of the relationship. You may or may not be asked to prove the relationship, so be prepared to show documentation, such as a joint bank account, family photos, envelopes addressed to the two of you , etc.

Many European countries grant their citizens and residents with same-sex immigration rights, unfortunately not all do. Yet, if a person is from a country that is a European Union member, he or she can relocate to one of the countries that grant immigration rights and sponsor a same-sex partner to migrate there. Stonewall Immigration Group operates in Europe and may be able to provide couples more information about this.

World Passports

Some people have wondered whether the so-called World Passports could help binational couples. Below you will find an explanation on this issue from John Nechman, co-chair of Immigration Equality.

Dear Immigration Equality Members,

A few people have recently posted about the "World Service Authority," a private organization that issues official-looking "world passports" (and various other documents) based on "world citizenship," purportedly under authority of various UN charters/sections. Some list members have posted responses wondering if such a "passport" might be the magic key to coming to the U.S. for which so many have been hoping.


Here are the applicable laws:

Title VIII of the U.S. Code, Section 1101(a)(30), defines a passport as follows:
"The term 'passport' means any travel document issued by competent authority showing the bearer's origin, identity, and nationality if any, which is valid for the admission of the bearer into a foreign country."

The U.S. Foreign Affairs Manual, Volume 9, 41.104 states as follows:

World Service Authority Passports are not acceptable as "passports" for visa issuing purposes. The World Service Authority is a private organization and not a "competent authority" within the meaning of INA 101(a)(30). The document is a 40-page, passport-size document with a bright blue cover with gold lettering.

If you have any questions on this, please feel free to contact me or IE's terrific legal director, Vickie Neilson.(

John Nechman,
IE Co-Chair

You can also find useful information at Lambda Legal's page on Frequently Ask Questions about LGBT Immigration.


Copyright ©2002 Love Sees No Borders