The State Department this week revoked its preferential visa policy for same-sex partners of foreign staff working at the United Nations and other diplomatic missions in the United States. This means same-sex couples will need to marry in order to remain in the country together ― an option that still doesn’t exist in most countries.
Effective Oct. 1, “U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses,” the State Department said on its website.
Diplomats with same-sex partners will have until the end of December to get married, or their partners will be sent home in January. Same-sex marriage is only legal in a handful of countries worldwide.
“The change in policy reflects the Department’s goal to help ensure and promote equal treatment, consistent with the Department’s policies regarding opposite-sex couples and derivative eligibility for visas in other visa categories,” a State spokesperson said in a statement. Personnel were notified of the upcoming change in July.
Exceptions may be made for those who come from countries that don’t allow same-sex marriage but do accept U.S. same-sex diplomatic spouses for accreditation.
The G-4 visa, which gets awarded to spouses, had been available to same-sex partners since 2009, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton allowed it to ensure that couples could remain together without needing to be legally married.
“With this change, the State Department is enforcing parity in the way they recognize opposite-sex partnerships and same-sex partnerships,” UN-Globe, a U.N. staff LGBTQ advocacy group, said in a statement. “It is an unfortunate change in rules, since same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited choices when it comes to marriage.”
A spokesman for Clinton didn’t immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Foreign Policy estimates there are at least 10 U.N. employees working in the U.S. who would have to get married by the end of the year for their partners to be able to stay in the country.