USCIS Issues Memorandum Revising Treatment of Gender Designations

The law of the US ensures rights to everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Now, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has revised its policies to better protect and help those who are transgendered. Recently, the USCIS has accounted a Policy Memorandum which will change how transgender individuals can assign their gender designations on USCIS immigration forms. The policies will also ensure that if a transgender person has married as part of a recognized and legal different-sex marriage, the USCIS will recognize the marriage for immigration purposes, even if one party alters their gender subsequently.

The new changes will be present in the Adjudicator’s Field Manual, which is the manual used by USCIS staff who take care of immigration forms and processes. Harper Jean Tobin of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) has praised the USCIS’s new move, stating that it reflects the Obama Administration’s obligation to equality. Tobin feels that the new changes will make it easier for transgender individuals to claim immigration benefits that they are entitled to, with fewer delays and fewer intrusive questions.

The USCIS’s changes are based on and part of similar changes occurring in other government agencies. The U.S. State Department, for example, has updated its passport policy, so that transgendered individuals do not need sex reassignment surgery in order to declare their gender on passport forms. The new steps allow a doctor to certify a person’s gender, without requiring surgery.

Tobin has stated that the new changes help to offset the Defense of Marriage Act, which many find discriminatory. As well, the new changes ensure that transgender immigrants arriving in the US get access to the same benefits that non-transgendered individuals can enjoy. However, Tobin has also stated that more needs to be done to ensure equality for all immigrants.