When we think of reality TV, we usually associate it with something frivolous or trashy and discard it as a program of value. What if I told you that reality TV can shed light on the real struggles of the United States immigration policies?
The American reality TV show, 90 Day Fiancé, follows couples who are planning to get married in America. One partner is a U.S. citizen while the other is a foreigner. Each couple must reconcile their cultural norms, language barriers, and the overall change in lifestyle as they work towards a legal American marriage.
In order to bring us all back to reality, here are 5 things you should know about the process for applying for the K-1 visa:
- If you are a U.S. citizen looking to get married in the United States with your non-U.S. citizen fiancé, you must file a Form I-129F in order to legally bring your partner to the U.S..Background checks may be conducted, drawing information from national security and criminal history databases.
- The K-1 nonimmigrant visa is also known as the fiancé visa. To obtain a K-1 visa, you must intend to marry your fiancé within 90 days of your foreign fiancé entering the United States. However, like all visas, the K-1 visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S.; it is at the discretion of the Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officer to grant your fiancé entry.
- Why 90 days? That’s the time allowed for couples to plan their weddings and hold ceremonies, get acclimated to living together, or in 90 Day Fiancé’s case, to meet your partner for the first time after being long-distance pen pals for years.
- Your wedding must be valid, meaning you and your fiancé plan to spend your lives together, and the marriage is not just a ploy to gain immigrant status. A marriage certificate is not enough evidence to prove a bona fide (real) marriage. Other documentation to supplement proof of marriage may include joint ownership of property, joint financial assets, and proof of relationship or shared activities (birthday gifts, Facebook anniversary posts, vacation pictures).
- If you and your fiancé successfully get married within 90 days of being admitted to the U.S with a K-1 visa, your fiancé can apply for a Green Card by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. While some couples on 90 Day Fiancé succeed, other couples realize marriage is a bigger commitment than they were reckoning with before (disaster avoided!).
In order to get married in the U.S., the transnational couples in 90 Day Fiancé must undergo the same rigorous and lengthy application process for the path to citizenship that we do. Some couples are mysteriously denied twice and consider getting married outside America; other couples are successful on the first try.
Even after the K-1 visa is granted and couples are officially married, that doesn’t mean that their legal troubles are over. One successfully-married couple went through a nasty legal battle when the American citizen filed for an annulment, a “cancellation” of their marriage. That could mean deportation for their Tunisian spouse, and the court case quickly spiraled into a divorce. Unfortunately, 90 Day Fiancé skims over the precarious legal consequences that non-American citizens face at the hands of an immigration policy they are unfamiliar with.
Remember, this is just a broad overview of the process for applying for a K-1 visa in the United States. For detailed information, please refer to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Ultimately, 90 Day Fiancé is more than just a quip of one-liners. Buried within all the drama and meltdowns are the stories of real couples in love who want to spend the rest of their lives together. Check out the success stories in 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After!
“Visas for Fiancé(e)s of U.S. Citizens.” USCIS, March 23, 2018. https://www.uscis.gov/family/family-of-us-citizens/visas-for-fiancees-of-us-citizens.