Immigration 

United States law does not explicitly prohibit transgender people from visiting or immigrating to the U.S. Transgender people should face no significant or systemic difficulties in obtaining the vast majority of visas (i.e. tourists, students, employees of a company based in the U.S, etc).

Many transgender people have immigrated to the U.S. due to their marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. However, due to the legal difficulties that some transgender people occasionally face in getting recognition of their marriage, couples where one partner is transgender are strongly encouraged to seek legal information and advice prior to applying for marriage based immigration. Organizations in the resource list at the bottom of this page may be able to provide legal assistance. Look in the blue bar to the right of this page for additional publications that may answer your questions.


Federal Immigration Policies

Immigrants in America face a range of challenges and hostilities, and the current, broken immigration system violates basic standards of decency through indefinite detention, separation from partners and the denial of medically necessary healthcare. Because of sometimes unclear documentation, challenges to their marital status, and blatant discrimination, transgender immigrants face additional hardships. The following proposals could ameliorate these problems and protect human rights for everyone.

  • Uniting American Families Act. Congress should pass the Uniting American Families Act, which would grant equal immigration rights to same-sex bi-national couples.
  • Immigration and Marriage. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should issue a memorandum instructing DHS personnel to recognize, for immigration purposes, different-sex marriages where one spouse is transgender so long as the marriage is valid in the jurisdiction where and when it was entered into.
  • Immigation Documents. DHS should update its criteria for issuing immigration documents to transgender people to clarify that there is no surgery requirement for changing gender on those documents.
  • Embassy Human Rights Reports. The Department of State should require that all embassies provide information regarding discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in their annual human rights reports.
  • Yogyakarta Principles. The Department of State should require the use of the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity or expression and should include a definition for gender identity or expression.
  • Housing Detainees. Immigration and Customs Enforcement should update its policy for immigrant detainees to place transgender detainees in the housing that reflects the accurate and appropriate gender in which they live, except where the detainee requests an exception out of a reasonable concern for personal safety.
  • Classification of Detainees. The Department of Homeland Security should issue specific policies regarding the classification and management of transgender detainees that take into account individualized factors such as a person’s self-identification of their gender as well as the individual’s safety.
  • Safety of Transgender Detainees. The Department of Homeland Security should issue Program Statements that delineate adequate measures to specifically protect the physical safety of transgender detainees without relying on automatic segregation or long-term administrative isolation.
  • Access to Healthcare. The Department of Homeland Security should update its Detention Standards Manual to provide transgender detainees with access to hormone therapy and other transition-related health care and to ensure continuity of care after transfer to a new facility.
  • HIV/AIDS and Detainees. The Department of Homeland Security should update its Detention Standards Manual to ensure that detainees with HIV/AIDS are guaranteed voluntary counseling and testing, treatment according to nationally accepted clinical guidelines, continuity of care within the facility and upon transfer, and confidentiality of HIV status.

Asylum

Anyone who is in the U.S. and has been harmed, or fears harm, in their home country because they are transgender, or because they don’t otherwise conform to gender norms, should strongly consider applying for asylum. Legally, the past harm, or fear of harm (called “persecution”), has to come from the government, or an agency that the government will/can not control in the person’s home county. The fear also has to be “legitimate” (which means that asylum applicants must provide some evidence of the harm they have suffered, harm that other people like them have suffered, or the existence of a policy or practice that would facilitate such harm).

Asylum is available to people who fear harm based, at least in part, on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, and/or political opinion. Many transgender people have received asylum in the U.S. because, in their individual case, being transgender or gender non-conforming has been found to be a part of a particular social group. Asylum allows a person to stay in the US, receive a work permit and public benefits, and eventually apply for a green card. 

For more information about qualifications for asylum and how to get legal advice or assistance, go to http://www.nclrights.org/publications/genderasylum.htm. To find out about possible help in other parts of the U.S., contact the Lesbian and Gay Immigrants Rights Task Force at http://www.lgirtf.org.

 


Naturalization Papers

Name Change

You must submit the following information, in person, at your local district or sub-office. Locations can be found at http://uscis.gov/graphics/fieldoffices/distsub_offices/index.htm.

  1. Form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document (found at http://uscis.gov/graphics/formsfee/forms/n-565.htm)
  2. A certified copy of the court order legally changing your name
  3. Original documents
  4. Two photographs of you that are less than 6 months old
  5. $155.00 fee

Gender Change

You must submit the following information, in person, at your local district or sub-office. Locations can be found at http://uscis.gov/graphics/fieldoffices/distsub_offices/index.htm.

  1. Form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document (found at http://uscis.gov/graphics/formsfee/forms/n-565.htm)
  2. Letter from doctor, surgeon, or hospital verifying that you have had Gender Reassignment Surgery
  3. Original documents
  4. Two photographs of you that are less than 6 months old
  5. $155.00 fee

This information must be filed at your local district or sub-office (locations can be found at http://uscis.gov/graphics/fieldoffices/distsub_offices/index.htm)

Please let NCTE know if you have had any problems changing these documents.

 

 

Take Action on Immigration

Visit Immigration Equality's action page on the Uniting American Families Act

Learn More

Read about the current status of the Uniting American Families Act

View the resource on Immigration Law and the Transgender Client from Immigration Equality, the Transgender Law Center and the American Immigration Lawyer's Association

Read Applying for Asylum Based on Gender Identity Persecution from the Transgender Law Center

 

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