USCIS Struggles in Defining Live-in Partner

By David North on August 28, 2011

I do not mind the policy regarding the temporary legal status of live-in lovers of long-term nonimmigrant aliens, but I get a huge kick out of USCIS' struggles with the English language as it defines its rules.

For at least ten years, the government has been willing to provide long-term tourist (B-2) visas for live-in-lovers of principal nonimmigrant aliens. If you are here as an F-1 (student), or J-1 (exchange visitor), or H-1B (high-tech worker), for instance, your partner, of whatever sexual orientation, can get one of those B-2 visas; traditional spouses would be eligible for, respectively, F-2, J-2, or H-4 visas.

For reasons that probably relate to national politics, USCIS published a Policy Memorandum on August 17 on the subject, reminding its staff and the public that live-in lovers of nonimmigrant principals, of all kinds, can receive or extend B-2 visas.

So how does that tongue-tied DHS agency define the relationship?

For purposes of this memorandum, a "household member" of a principal nonimmigrant is an alien who regularly resides in the same dwelling as the principal nonimmigrant and with whom the principal nonimmigrant maintains the type of relationship and care as one normally would expect between nuclear family members.

We know that USCIS does not handle numbers very well, as noted in an earlier blog, but it is not much better with the English language.

Some ten years ago, dealing with exactly the same issue, then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, or someone writing for him, said of B-2 visas for such dependents: "This is true for both opposite and same-sex partners."

Write on, Mr. Secretary!

Meanwhile, there is an odd double standard going on here.

If you are a diplomat, one of ours or one of theirs, as I have pointed out in an earlier blog, your live-in-lover gets an employment authorization document (EAD), but if you are just a run-of-the-mill nonimmigrant the live-in lover can be here legally, but cannot work legally.

The administration is currently stressing the legal presence aspect for these B-2s, but is not mentioning that it is illegal for such live-in lovers to hold jobs.