Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Minor detail

Today I received an email from the US Consulate General in Auckland. There’s nothing new about that—I’ve been getting them for years, and sometimes they have useful information.

Today’s contained a link to the PDF of the Veteran’s Day edition of the Consulate’s newsletter, “The Consular Post”. It’s kind of interesting to an expat American, but I stopped abruptly when I read a little item headlined “Moving back to the U.S. and need to file for your spouse to accompany you?” It said:
"As a U.S. citizen, you need to file an I-130 Petition to qualify your spouse for an immigrant visa. You can file it with us only if you live in New Zealand or the rest of the consular district (Samoa/Cook Islands), and have been here for at least 6 months (and not just on a tourist visa). You can obtain the initial forms and instructions to start the immigrant visa process by calling the Visa Center on 0900-87-847 (a caller pays service) or contact the Immigrant Visa Section at email… Your non-citizen spouse can start the process by mail if you are outside Auckland city. However, eventually the I-130 petition must be filed in person by you — it cannot be filed by mail. Download from USCIS website: www.uscis.gov – Forms. You can file without an appointment at the Consulate General on weekdays between 8 – 9 am."
First, it continues to amaze me that many of the services provided by the consulate—including phone calls—are on a user-pays basis. But I’m also amazed that in 2010 virtually nothing can be done online—actual, paper documents are still required. When I was filling out my paperwork to vote, I had to download a form, print it, sign it, scan it and THEN I could submit it by email or fax (some states don’t allow even that—actual physical forms must be mailed in.

But the main thing that struck me was this: The word “spouse” refers only to an opposite sex married couple. The partner of an American citizen in a same sex or opposite sex Civil Union under New Zealand law is not considered a “spouse” under American law. Neither is a same-sex married couple recognised by the US—and it can never be until the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed (which won’t happen for at least two years) or struck down by a court.

That little newsletter item didn’t mention any of that, nor, as far as I could tell, does the website for “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services” of the Department of Homeland Security. Neither do any of the required forms or their instructions. This is hardly a minor detail, so why don’t they mention it? Are they embarrassed? Well, I’d like to think so, but I doubt it.

That I-130 petition mentioned has a filing fee of $US355 (today, $NZ453). I couldn’t tell if they refund the fee to any gay couples that attempt to file due to the lack of any instructions that they can’t.

The picture accompanying this post is of the bottom of the email. I’ll admit I rolled my eyes when I read that final line.


Roger Owen Green said...

Ah, DOMA strikes again. Which was passed under which "liberal" President, BTW? I had a debate/argument with a conservative guy I know well (he's in my church choir) and either Bill's or Hillary's book was coming out. He said, "I'm sure you liberals will be out buying this book. I said, "The Clintons are not liberals." He was stunned by my assertion. The Communication Act of 1996, DOMA - there's a lot of illiberal positions taken by Bill.

Juli said...

One of the reasons why Adam and I got married was because it made it SO MUCH easier to claim U.S. citizenship for our son.

We just had to provide the Consulate with one piece of paper to "prove" our relationship.

It is so unbelievably wrong that same-sex couples do not have the same right. The Defense of Marriage Act needs to be struck down.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Roger: Yep. And I said that about Clinton, too—and I say it now about Obama. They may sometimes do liberal things, but that doesn't make them liberals (and not even close to being socialist, in Obama's case!)

Juli: When I became a permanent resident, it was as Nigel's partner and we had to provide a boxful of documentation to prove our relationship was real. That was long before there were civil unions, of course.

Personally, I believe that DOMA will be struck down as unconstitutional long before Congress ever gets around to repealing it.

Also, marriage equality in New Zealand is inevitable, but probably not until Labour is leading government again.