On January 19, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a Policy Memorandum (“the Memo”) [PM-602-0141] titled “Subject: Revision of Adjudicator's Field Manual Subchapter 10.22 — Change of Gender Designation on Documents Issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.” The Memo revises the Adjudicator's Field Manual (AFM) to update USCIS's policies “regarding procedures and requirements to change the gender designation on a USCIS-issued document.”
In this article, we will review the new guidance for changing one's gender designation on a USCIS document.
The AFM explains that the USCIS issues many documents, including, but not limited to, “Employment Authorization Documents, Refugee Travel Documents, Permanent Resident Cards, and Certificates of Citizenship or Naturalization.” Many of these documents, including those listed, include the gender of the individual possessing the document. An individual holding a USCIS-issued document may request a change of gender on such document.
In order to request a change of gender on a USCIS-issued document, the individual may use the standard USCIS form for requesting the document. In order to have the gender on the document changed, the individual must present one of the following forms of evidence in support of the change in gender designation while meeting all other applicable requirements for the requested document (paraphrased):
- A court order granting the change of sex or gender. In this case, no additional evidence is needed;
- A government-issued document reflecting the requested gender designation. The AFM explains that acceptable documents include “an amended birth certificate, a passport, a driver's license, or other official document showing identity issued by the U.S. Government, a state or local government in the United States, or a foreign government”; or
- A letter from a licensed healthcare professional certifying that the requested gender designation is consistent with the individual's gender identity. The AFM explains that a licensed healthcare professional includes “licensed counselors, nurse practitioners, physicians (Medical Doctors or Doctors of Osteopathy), physician assistants, psychologists, social workers, and therapists.” The letter from such a healthcare professional must include the following information:
- The healthcare professional's full name, address, and telephone number;
- The health care professional's license number and the issuing state, county, or other jurisdiction of the professional license;
- Language stating that the health care professional has treated or evaluated the individual regarding the individual's gender identity (proof of sex reassignment surgery or any other specific treatment is not required for the USCIS to issue the requested document in the changed gender); and
- The health care professional's assessment of the individual's gender identity.
The AFM explains that the USCIS, in its discretion, may request additional evidence of the individual's gender identity if it determines that such evidence is necessary to verify the change in gender designation. USCIS-documents that display the holder's gender “are limited to indicating only female or male.” Therefore, the individual must request that the new document reflecting a change of gender designation show the individual as being male or female.
If the individual is also requesting that a name change be reflected on the document, he or she must submit evidence “that the name change was completed according to the relevant state or foreign law.”
If the USCIS grants the request, it will issue an initial or amended document reflecting the changed gender designation of the individual.
If the USCIS finds “significant substantive discrepancies, has reason to question the accuracy or authenticity of documents submitted, or finds other indicators of fraud,” the USCIS may refer the request for change in gender designation to the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS). As with any other immigration application, lying or submitting fraudulent documentation carries the risk of severe penalties.
The USCIS provides four distinct methods for seeking a change in gender on USCIS-issued documents. The best method for any individual case will depend on the circumstances of the applicant and the evidence of gender change that he or she has available. An applicant may consult with an experienced immigration attorney for guidance on whether he or she may qualify for a change in gender designation on USCIS-issued documents, and assistance in filing the requisite forms with qualifying evidence for a change in gender designation to be approved.