The following seeks to address questions from prospective employees of the Department of State, USAID, and other foreign affairs agencies about U.S. travel and immigration processing for LGBTQIA+ employees and family members domestically and abroad.
This information is grouped by topic below, was compiled by glifaa, and reflects our understanding of current U.S. government policy. However, this informal Q&A is not an official publication of the Department of State nor any other U.S. Government agency and has not been cleared by any U.S. government source.
Please reach out to your immigration attorney, Consular section, USCIS Field Office, Management Section, Executive Office, and/or Human Resources office to confirm the accuracy of this information before taking any action based on the contents of this page.
This page was last updated in August 2022.
U.S. Travel, Immigrant Visa, and USCIS Processing Topics
- U.S. Travel, Immigrant Visa, and USCIS Processing Topics
- LGBTQIA+ Travel and Safety Information
- Traveling on a U.S. Passport with a “X” Gender Marker
- Deciding to Get Married
- Obtaining a Marriage Certificate
- Filing an Immigration Petition: USCIS vs. Consular Direct filing
- Expediting my Immigrant Visa and/or USCIS application
- Obtaining U.S. Citizenship via Expeditious Naturalization
LGBTQIA+ Travel and Safety Information
Q: Where can I find information on traveling abroad as an LGBTQIA+ person?
A: The Department of State maintains essential travel information for all countries worldwide at travel.state.gov, as well as a specific LGBTQI+ travel information page. Several other countries (including Australia, Canada, and the UK) and private organizations (including the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) and Harvard University) also publish their own travel and legal resources. Organizations such as ILGA and the National Center for Transgender Equality publish trans-specific travel resources.
Q: Where can I find information on international travel restrictions for people living with HIV?
A: Country-specific information about international travel restrictions for people living with HIV can be found on travel.state.gov as well as the Global Database on HIV-Specific Travel and Residence Restrictions.
Traveling on a U.S. Passport with a “X” Gender Marker
Q: I and/or my family members (including minor children) have an X gender marker in our U.S. passports. Is it safe for us to travel abroad? Will we encounter issues during immigration and customs inspections at foreign borders because of the X gender marker?
A: While the United States government issues passports with the X gender marker, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You may face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the X gender marker. Before you travel, check with your destination country’s embassy or consulate in the United States for more information, including whether the country maintains any entry restrictions for people carrying X gender marker passports. Additionally, you should also be aware that current border/immigration processing systems used by some countries and travel companies may not recognize the X gender marker. You could still be asked to provide your sex/gender information as either male (M) or female (F) when traveling abroad.
Deciding to Get Married
Q: I am a U.S. government employee who is planning to marry my partner (U.S. citizen OR foreign national). Do we need to notify the U.S. government that we are planning to get engaged and/or married? Do we need to wait for approval before we get married?
A: If you are a U.S. government employee, you should discuss your intent to get married with your agency’s human resources and security offices before you get married. Each agency maintains its own reporting requirements and review processes. All U.S. government security clearance holders must disclose their intent to marry and/or cohabitate with a foreign national at least 90 days before they get married, in accordance with their agency’s processes. State Department, USAID, Commerce, Agriculture, and USAGM Foreign Service employees must also report marriages to U.S. citizen spouses within 90 days of the marriage. Regardless of whether you are marrying a U.S. citizen or foreign national, State Department, USAID, Commerce, Agriculture, and USAGM Foreign Service employees must follow the reporting procedures outlined in 3 FAM 4190.
Q: I am a U.S. government employee returning to the United States from my assignment abroad. My same-sex partner and I want to live in the United States together during my domestic assignment, but we can’t and/or don’t want to get married at this time. Doesn’t the State Department have a program that allows unmarried same-sex partners to obtain J2 visas and live in the United States?
A: Unfortunately, the State Department decided to end the Same-Sex Domestic Partner (SSDP) program that allowed the Bureaus of Consular Affairs (CA) and Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) to issue J visas to same-sex spouses of diplomatic personnel assigned to the United States in 2015, following the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalizing gay marriage in the United States. Although glifaa strenuously advocated for the Department to not only continue the program but expand it to unmarried partners (Members of Household, or MOH) of all genders/orientations, the Department did not concur. More information on the Department’s decision is available on an archived Department website at: https://2009-2017.state.gov/documents/organization/250859.pdf. The glifaa board’s statement responding to the Department’s decision is available from our website archive at: https://glifaa.org/2015/10/15/glifaa-statement-on-departments-rollback-of-same-sex-domestic-partner-protections/ (Note: The hardship exemption program mentioned in glifaa’s 2015 statement was terminated by the Department in 2018.)
Q: My foreign-national partner doesn’t want to get married and begin the U.S. immigration process because they’ve heard they will lose citizenship from their country of origin if they become a U.S. permanent resident and/or citizen. Is this true?
A: It depends. Many countries have recently changed their laws to allow their citizens to hold dual citizenship, including some that until very recently prohibited the practice. U.S. law allows dual citizenship and more information on U.S. policy is available at travel.state.gov. Please consult with an immigration attorney in your partner’s home country and in the United States for the most up-to-date information on dual nationality legislation.
Obtaining a Marriage Certificate
Q: I want to marry my partner and begin the U.S. immigration process. How do I get a valid marriage license if same-sex marriage is illegal in my country of residence?
A: Host-country prohibitions on marriage equality present an unfair obstacle to the immigration process for LGBTQIA+ employees and their families. As an interim solution until marriage equality is achieved worldwide, any person living anywhere in the world can obtain a marriage license by traveling to the United States or a third country that recognizes same-sex marriage and getting married there. USCIS and U.S. Embassy and Consulate Consular sections worldwide should recognize the validity of a U.S. or third-country marriage license when adjudicating an immigrant visa application or petition. Per 9 FAM 102.8-1(E), a same-sex marriage celebrated in the United States or in a third country with marriage equality would be considered valid even if the applicant is applying from a country in which same-sex marriage is illegal, because the laws of the place of marriage celebration determine the validity of the marriage certificate. If one or both members of a couple are unable to travel to the United States or a third country that recognizes same-sex marriage, anyone worldwide can obtain a valid U.S. marriage license via the internet from the Utah County Clerk/Auditor’s office (located in Provo, Utah). The state of Utah has no citizenship or residency requirements to obtain a marriage license and any couple whose marriage is not forbidden by Utah law may apply for and be issued a valid marriage license. Additional information about the Utah County “Remote Appearance Ceremony” is available here: https://www.utahcounty.gov/dept/clerkaud/PassMarr/RemoteAppearanceFAQ.asp
Filing an Immigration Petition: USCIS vs. Consular Direct filing
Q: How do I immigrate my spouse and/or immediate relative?
A: There are two main paths to become a U.S. permanent resident: applying from outside the United States at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad through the State Department via the immigrant visa process (also known as Consular processing), or applying from within the United States after you are already physically present in the United States by applying for adjustment of status with USCIS. Consult with a U.S. immigration attorney to understand the best option for your situation.
Q: I am a U.S. government or military employee assigned to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad and I recently got engaged and/or married. Where should I file an immigration petition for my spouse and/or other immediate relatives?
A: Most U.S. citizens and permanent residents who live in the United States must file immigration petitions domestically with USCIS (generally the I-130 application form for married spouses and immediate relatives, or the I-129F form for engaged couples). While USCIS processing times vary, many petitioners report waiting for more than one year for their domestically filed petitions to be reviewed and adjudicated. According to State Department guidance issued in March 2022 via diplomatic cable 22 STATE 25952, Consular sections at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide may now accept and adjudicate form I-130 petitions filed by U.S. government and military employees assigned to overseas posts on behalf of immediate relatives, in accordance with procedures outlined in 9 FAM 504.2-4. Upon acceptance of clearly approvable petitions filed under these provisions, posts should prioritize the processing of these immigrant visa cases to completion.
Expediting my Immigrant Visa and/or USCIS application
Q: I filed an immigration petition and/or adjustment of status application with USCIS domestically, and we urgently need to PCS to our next assignment abroad. Can I get expedite USCIS processing?
A: You can request an expedite request through USCIS if your request meets the USCIS processing criteria for expedite requests, available on the USCIS website. You can generally request expedited processing after you have obtained a receipt notice by calling the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283 (TTY 800-767-1833) or by using the Emma virtual chat function on the USCIS website. You cannot request an expedite from USCIS without already having a receipt number. Some State Department employees have successfully expedited USCIS applications on the basis of U.S. government interests by submitting signed expedite request letters on official government letterhead from State Department regional bureau executive office (EX) human resources or assignments officers. If you need further assistance regarding this matter, please email the glifaa board at email@example.com to request an individual advocacy case consultation.
Q: As a U.S. government employee assigned abroad, how can I expedite an immigrant visa petition or interview for an immediate relative?
A: Any applicant can follow the procedures to request an expedited appointment as outlined by the National Visa Center and/or any post-specific policies issued by your post’s Consular section (available on your post’s website). You should also consult with your post’s Immigrant Visa and/or Consular chief for more information about your options to request expedited processing for your eligible family members and/or immediate relatives.
Obtaining U.S. Citizenship via Expeditious Naturalization
Q: I am a U.S. permanent resident/green card holder and an Eligible Family Member of a Department of State direct-hire employee. Can my naturalization be expedited if we are planning to PCS soon or are already at post?
A: The State Department’s Global Community Liaison Office (GCLO) acts as liaison with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to support expeditious naturalization cases for foreign-national spouses of Department of State Foreign Service employees. More information is available from GCLO’s website. Employees of other U.S. government agencies (including USAID) should contact their respective Human Resource offices for possible assistance with expeditious naturalization under section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.