Uniting American Families Act

H.R. 519; S. 296

The Problem

Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may sponsor their spouses (and other immediate family members) for immigration purposes. But same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not considered “spouses,” and their partners cannot sponsor them for family-based immigration. Consequently, many same-sex, bi-national couples are kept apart or torn apart.

What is the Uniting American Families Act?

The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would remedy this injustice and allow U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex partners (called “permanent partners” in UAFA) for family-based immigration. 

The legislation amends the definitions sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act to include definitions for “permanent partner” and “permanent partnership.” UAFA defines “permanent partner” as an individual who is at least 18 years of age who is in a committed relationship with another individual at least 18 years of age who is not a first, second or third-degree blood relative, with the intent that this be a lifelong commitment. The individual must be financially interdependent with his or her partner, cannot be married or in another permanent partnership and must be unable to enter into a marriage recognized under the INA with the partner.

UAFA will provide lesbian and gay individuals the same opportunity as different-sex, married couples to sponsor their partner.  Like different-sex couples, there are requirements such as providing proof of the relationship — including affidavits from friends and family or evidence of financial support.  As with current immigration laws for married couples, UAFA would impose harsh penalties for fraud, including up to five years in prison and as much as $250,000 in fines. 

Countries that have Embraced Immigration Equality

The United States lags behind many other countries that recognize same-sex couples for immigration purposes, including Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. None of these countries has reported fraud problems associated with its decision to allow immigration equality for its citizens.


What is the Current Status of the Bill?

UAFA was reintroduced in the 113th Congress in the House by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on February 5, 2013 and in the Senate by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) on February 13, 2013.


For more information, please contact

Last Updated: February 14, 2013