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(CNSNews.com) – Panelists in a Google+ hangout hosted by the U.S. Department of State encouraged foreigners in civil partnerships to get married in order to obtain a U.S visa more quickly. And they reassured those who have overstayed their visas that their illegal entry into the U.S. will be forgiven if they marry their same-sex partners.

Victoria Neilson, legal director for the LBGT group Immigration Equality, was one of three panelists fielding questions submitted through social media sites. She was asked exactly how foreign domestic partnerships will be recognized under new State Department guidelines that require visa applications based on same-sex marriages to be treated the same way as those for heterosexual marriages.

“The advice that we have been giving to most couples is… if you’re in a civil union or civil partnership and you can get married, that your rights will be much more certain at that point and the processing of an application would be more straightforward,” Neilson said.

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