Love Is In The Air

Stewart_marriage CBS

In New York, they've had to call in security to handle the lines. In Maryland, they're doing weddings in two minutes flat.

And in Los Angeles, requests for marriage licenses are running 200 percent above normal. "We've had to divert some other staff to this area. We've had to put on overtime, start working Saturdays, and we're still behind," admitted Registrar Conny McCormack.

Altogether an estimated 640,000 couples are racing to beat an April 30 deadline that makes it easier for illegal immigrants to become legal residents, but only if they marry a legal U.S. resident by then. Miss the deadline and it's back to their home country for a visa, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart.

It's made love break out all over, as a woman in Los Angeles can attest to, "I love him too much. I want to get married and I got my papers ready to stay here in the United States. I love this country."

The Legal Immigration and Family Equity (LIFE) Act
The law reinstates a provision that
allows immigrants to apply for legal status without having to go to
the U.S. consulate in their home country. That is significant
because most illegal immigrants are barred from re-entering the
U.S. once they leave.

But the rules governing who may sponsor whom for legal status
are complex. In certain cases, relatives may sponsor applicants; in
some cases employers may do the same - but only after proving a job
is legitimate and there is a shortage of American workers to fill
it. Marriage to a U.S. citizen is often the best, and simplest,
route.

Click here to read the entire Act.
Not surprisingly, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) suspects thousands of the couples are faking it, and requires that applicants be questioned separately — just to see how much they really know about each other.

"It could be, 'What did you have for dinner last night?' It could be, 'Where did you spend your summer vacation?' It could be, "What did you give each other for your birthdays?'," said Joe Green of INS Investigations.

Or — and this is no joke — what color is your wife's toothbrush? The INS wants to know.

"If you marry a United States citizen for the purpose of getting a green card, it's fraud," warned Green.

But spend n afternoon at the Registrar's Office and it becomes clear that for most it's simply a welcome loophole. A last, best chance to turn what had already been a marriage of the heart into equals under the law.



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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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