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Immigration Issues/Anyway to obtain residency for my girlfriend


Hi, my name is Hope. First of all I would like to thank you for so generously providing this service. I have a question that perhaps is not in your area but I will give it a try.
I am a US born citizen, 17 years old. I live and have lived in my parent's home country (El Salvador) for 2 and a half years. During this time I have been dating a girl who is 18.
Now that I have completed high school, I will be returning to the US to work and attend college. As soon as I am 18 my girlfriend and I would like to get married, although in this country it is not permitted and in the US it only is in certain states so I have a few questions:
If she can obtain a tourist visa, could we get married in one of those states or would she have to be a US permanent resident?
Also, is there any way to obtain some sort of long term residency for her? I realize you can only obtain citizenship through marriage, not relationships, and not through same sex marriage because it is not recognized nationwide.
Is there any solution in my situation?
I cannot stay here because of the slow economy, scarcity of jobs, and extremely low wages, I realize it would be irrational to remain here and as I grew up in the US, I miss it terribly and want to go home, but I do not want to be separated from my girlfriend.
I'm willing to wait if I have to and I realize I must be 18 for any marriage but is there anything I can do once I am of age?

Eileen Chun-Fruto, Los Angeles immigration attorney writes:

Dear Hope,

Thanks for your question.  It is an important one.  And as for volunteering my time, you are welcome.  

Yes, you are right, same sex marriage although recognized in some states is not recognized for federal purposes, such as giving immigration benefits to a same-sex spouse.  So, let's say two people of the same sex marry in a state where such a marriage is legally recognized.  While this couple has a valid marriage in that state, it is of absolutely no use if that couple seeks a *federal* (not state) benefit, like immigration benefits.

You have probably researched this a bit, but the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines a marriage as between a man and woman and DOMA is what controls federal law benefits like immigration.

I'm certainly no expert on the question, but my firm does research and blogs on many immigration issues, including this specific scenario.

Although there is little that can be done for your situation at the moment, I'll refer you to my blog below and you can check it out to see how the debate unravels in Congress.  You may find it useful.

Good luck,
Eileen Chun-Fruto

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Eileen Chun-Fruto


I can answer any employment-based immigration question including questions about PERM labor certifications, H-1B skilled workers, L-1A multinational managers or executives and L-1B specialized knowledge, R-1 and I-360 religious workers, investor cases (E Treaty Trader and E Treaty Investors and EB-5 "million dollar investors") and O-1 extraordinary ability cases. I can also answer any questions regarding family-based immigration, such as adoptions, waiver cases, consular processing (using foreign consulates to enter as an immigrant), marriage and fiance/fiancee cases, 245(i) cases, VAWA (Violence Against Women's Act), battered spouses, and Child Status Protection Act (CSPA).


I have over 12 years of experience in business and family immigration. I was a former law clerk for the Executive Officer for Immigration Review (the immigration courts) in San Francisco and I current serve as the California Service Center's (CSC) liaison on behalf of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. I represent individuals and corporations alike, ranging from professionals in the high tech, science, liberal arts fields. I have a special niche in working with start-up companies and individuals with more complex immigration issues.

Member, American Immigration Lawyers Association Member, Los Angeles County Bar Association, Executive Committee on Immigration

J.D., University of California at Davis - King Hall School of Law (1997) B.A., University of California at Irvine, cum laude (1994)

Awards and Honors
2005, 2006, 2007, 2008: Selected to Southern California Rising Star - Super Lawyers List (an honor shared by no more than 2.5% of the attorneys practicing in the entire Southern California region) Faculty/Moderator on various AILA and LACBA continuing legal education seminars in the following topics: H-1B, O-1, religious workers, business immigration visas

Past/Present Clients
My typical business clients can range from a start-up company, established engineering and software research and development companies, manufacturing, trade and distribution companies, public and private schools, and religious organizations. Family clients include spouses, parent-child petitions, siblings, naturalization, and most especially, representation of abandoned and neglected children viewed as orphans under the immigration law. I have represented many clients who relied on special provisions of the immigration law to preserve or "grandfather" benefits to family members in limited (and complicated) circumstances, to avoid re-application fees and longer waiting times.

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