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Listening Session - LGBT Community
Questions and Answers June 9, 2010
Applications Submitted by Transsexual Individuals, Visiting Same Sex Partners in the United States, Resettlement for LGBT Refugees, and Training for Refugee and Asylum Officers
Questions and Answers
Q. Is the guidance on USCIS document issuance contained in the 2004 memorandum “Adjudication of Petitions and Applications Filed by on or Behalf of, or Document Requests by, Transsexual Individuals” still valid?
A. Yes. The guidance on post-adjudication document issuance contained in the 2004 memo is not addressed in the 2009 memo, “Adjudication of Petitions and Applications Filed by or on Behalf of Transsexual Individuals” and is therefore still in effect. We are in the process of reviewing both the 2004 and 2009 memos to determine if any updates are needed.
Q. When marital status is not relevant to the benefit being sought, how should same sex married couples complete USCIS forms (i.e. should they mark married or single)?
A. USCIS is looking into this issue and will provide a response as soon as possible.
Q. If a nonimmigrant is granted a B-2 visa to accompany a same sex partner coming to the U.S. on an employment-based visa, USCIS generally does not grant extensions of the B-2. Is there any solution to this issue that can be implemented by USCIS?
A. The INA does not prohibit USCIS from granting an extension of a B-2 to someone visiting a same sex partner. However, the maximum period of admission in B-2 status is one year from the date of initial admission. B-2 status may be extended in 6 month increments beyond the initial admission period in certain circumstances. In addition, to maintain B-2 status and qualify for an extension, every applicant must continue to meet the statutory requirements after admission to the United States. In particular, the individual must continue to demonstrate that he or she has not entered the United States for the purpose of study or performing skilled or unskilled labor, is maintaining an un-abandoned residence overseas, and that the purpose of the visit is truly temporary.
Q. Many LGBT refugees are resettled in countries in which they continue to face the same level of intolerance as they did in their home countries. Is there a way to prioritize resettlement in the U.S. for this group?
A. The Immigration and Nationality Act stipulates that access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) is allocated among refugees of special humanitarian concern to the United States in accordance with a determination made by the President after appropriate consultation with Congress as well as other governmental and non-governmental agencies. USCIS is responsible for adjudicating refugee claims, but the Department of State (DOS) has the lead in determining eligibility criteria for access to the USRAP. However, DOS and USCIS often consult in the development of those criteria, so we are able to engage in discussions with DOS concerning this group.
Q. Can USCIS coordinate with UNHCR on training for UNHCR field officers?
A. USCIS is not involved in the training of UNHCR staff. The Department of State is the appropriate
agency to coordinate with UNHCR on training for field officers. However, USCIS does work with UNHCR and can facilitate information sharing between non-governmental organizations and UNHCR.
Q. What training on LGBT issues is included in the Asylum Officer Basic Training Course (AOBTC)?
A. Asylum Officers are provided general training on the consideration of LGBT claims in the AOBTC lesson regarding gender-related claims. In addition, practical exercises (including mock interviews) are used to increase officers’ exposure to and understanding of these issues. USCIS is working to further enhance its training on LGBT issues used in the AOBTC and is in the process of developing training for journeymen asylum officers to be presented in each of our eight asylum offices. We welcome input, recommendations, and participation of stakeholders in the design and presentation of this training. Please contact Joyce Stadnick at Joyce. Stadnick@dhs.gov, with any information you wish to contribute.
Q. Can the component of the AOBTC that covers LGBT issues be made available to refugee officers?
A. The Asylum Division and Refugee Affairs Division already collaborate on training issues, and trainings developed by one Division are often incorporated into the training of the other, to the extent that the training information is applicable to the responsibilities of both Divisions. Additional information on the training program is available on the USCIS website at Asylum Division Training Programs.
Q. What resources do asylum officers use to determine country conditions?
A. Asylum officers are instructed to rely on a variety of reports on country conditions, created by both the government and non-governmental organizations and publicly available and chronically relevant sources, in an effort to gather as much information as possible. Through the USCIS Country of Origin Information Research Section (COIRS), which gathers and makes available country conditions information from a wide variety of sources, asylum officers have access to numerous sources on country conditions, including media, academic journals, human rights monitoring agencies, and refugee advocacy groups. The COIRS provides information independent from other government agencies to ensure that foreign policy or other improper considerations do not play a role in the adjudication of asylum requests. Refugee officers receive the same instruction.