FS candidates with Same-Sex Domestic Partners who are not U.S. citizens
Q: I have a conditional offer for employment as an FSO, and I am in a somewhat unusual situation vis-a-vis my family. My partner and step-child have been categorized as my EFMs, but they are currently living overseas because the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) precludes my sponsoring them for residency. If I were to accept an A-100 offer, would the Department assist with their relocation to DC? Or, would we be forced to wait until I was posted abroad before they could join me? If they would be allowed to accompany me to Washington, would State facilitate their visas? And what kind of timeline would we be looking at? Alternatively, could they enter the country temporarily as visitors, and then work with the department to acquire visas for my first assignment? Thanks for your help.
A: Support for Same-Sex Domestic Partners (SSDP) is something that is very important to the Department of State. For new hires, the Foreign Service “candidate” must first be sworn in as a Department employee and have successfully completed the DS 7669-Affidavit of Eligibility For Benefits and Obligation to effectively utilize the SSDP program.
In February 2011, the Department of State designated the Bureau of Human Resources, Office of Career Development and Assignments (HR/CDA), as an SSDP Exchange Visitor J-1 Visa Program sponsor for this US government visitor program under which non-US-citizen SSDP of members of the Foreign Service member may be eligible to come to the United States during their partners' domestic assignments. The Office of Continuity Counseling (HR/CDA/CC) was tasked to manage and to administer the program designated as the SSDP Exchange Visitor J-1 Visa Program. Because the Immigration and Naturalization Act requires all non-US citizens to either have a non-immigrant visa or an immigrant visa to enter the US, the Department of State found that the existing J-1 visa program was the best mechanism.
If an SSDP is not an American citizen, he/she may be able to enter the US on a J-1 visa to accompany the Foreign Service member assigned domestically. Under this program, an eligible SSDP will enter the U.S. on a J-1 visa ( 3 FAM 1610, Domestic Partners). To apply for a J-1 visa, the SSDP must first obtain a Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status. To obtain Form DS-2019, the Foreign Service employee must request an application form by email from Crystal Johnson the new Alternate Responsible Officer in HR/CDA/CC, or from her colleagues Bernadette Cole Byrd, or Elliott L. Harris, in HR/CDA/CC, and return it along with a copy of Form DS-7669, Affidavit Pursuant to Declaring Domestic Partner Relationship (scanned copy is sufficient).
Upon receipt of the required documents and confirmation of eligibility, HR/CDA/CC will issue a Form DS-2019 through SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security) and send it via FEDEX to the SSDP participant. The SSDP must provide Form DS-2019, along with other required visa application forms, when applying for the J-1 visa at a US embassy or consulate overseas. Unmarried dependent children under the age of 21 of an eligible non-US citizen SSDP apply for a J-2 visa.
Please be advised that other adult dependents are not eligible under this program. HR/CDA/CC must operate within the confines of the Exchange Visitor Program regulations, 22 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 62. The SSDP and Foreign Service member must meet with the Responsible Officer or Alternate Responsible Officer for an orientation after arrival in the United States. During the orientation, topics discussed and explained will be the rules and regulations of the program; the administration of DS-2019s; the adherence to either educational/academic requirement or the community service requirement; and procedures and rules for monitoring and updating individual information.