The United States will no longer grant diplomatic visas to same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations employees, reported the BBC. Same-sex partners currently in the US have until December 31 to leave, get married or change their visa after the new policy came into effect on Monday.

The update was circulated in a United Nations memo, which said, “As of 1 October 2018, same-sex domestic partners accompanying or seeking to join newly arrived United Nations officials must provide proof of marriage to be eligible for a G-4 visa or to seek a change into such status.” G-4 visas are granted to employees of international organisations and their immediate families.

The policy change was announced in July. The State Department has mandated foreign same-sex partners wishing to remain in the US to submit proof of marriage by December 31 or expect to leave the country within 30 days of that deadline.

“Only a relationship legally considered to be a marriage in the jurisdiction where it took place establishes eligibility as a spouse for immigration purposes”, states the US State Department. “Effective immediately, US Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses.”

According to the new policy, foreign diplomats and staffers from countries that do not recognise same-sex marriage would either have to give up their careers or face the possibility of going to prison back home, reported NBC.

In a statement, an unidentified spokesperson of the State Department said the change is “to help ensure and promote equal treatment” between straight and gay couples.

The UN-Globe, advocating for the equality and rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community in the United Nations workforce, described it as “an unfortunate change of rules”. “Couples already inside of the United States could go to City Hall and get married,” it said. “But they could potentially be exposed to prosecution if they return to a country that criminalises homosexuality or same-sex marriages.”

According to the Human Rights Watch, only 25 countries recognise some form of same-sex marriage, while it is punishable by law in more than 70 other nations.