The premise of 90 Day Fiance is catchy, it could easily become a guilty pleasure. But I refuse to watch it. I will not even watch Youtube segments on the show. I admit I watched one segment to see what all the hype was about, but never again.
As an American married to a foreigner, and with a brother also married to a foreigner, these types of shows fuel the jokes and culture around marriage and fiance visa fraud. It has made it culturally acceptable to say “Oh he/she needs a visa? Do you know anyone they can marry?” All of this has made my life, and my brother’s, harder than it ever should. While I’m not one to shy away from a difficult situation, it just seems to be a double standard promoted here that I will explain.
I used to love the movie The Proposal, with Sandra Bullock which came out in 2009. It’s a light-hearted rom-com that ends well, and overall means well. Like all romantic comedies, it makes you feel good in the end. But also like most romantic comedies, the actual plot of the story and the cultural problems that follow are hidden by the feel-good ending.
In this movie the usual underlying sexist ideas of a romantic comedy aren’t the problem, here the problem is that the whole storyline is actually illegal. I mean, it is so blatant about the illicit activity even on its promotional poster by saying “Here Comes The Bribe…” However, it seems to not be a problem because a) it is a rom-com and b) the woman is white and from Canada. Can you imagine if they had made that movie with a woman working for a high-end company that was immigrating from Sudan? Or from Iran? Or from Syria? It would definitely not be a light-hearted romantic comedy. Or furthermore, if the movie had been about another illegal activity- like drug smuggling. Would it be as light-hearted if in the end the guy ends up with the girl and they all live happily ever after?
“Here the problem is that the whole storyline is actually illegal.”
Now on to 90 Day Fiance, which is listed as a “documentary series” on TLC and has been running since 2014 and currently on its 7th season. It revolves around the K-1 visa, or more commonly known as the Fiance Visa. There are two ways that a spouse of an American Citizen can come into the USA, either through an IR-1 visa which means you were married outside of the USA already, or through a K-1 visa which means that you are coming to the USA on the requirement that your wedding in the USA will be within the first 90 days of your stay.
“The addictive nature of the show is that the audience is inclined to guess which relationships are real as if it is inherent that someone is lying, further normalizing visa fraud.”
This show follows different couples through their process of both immigrating to the USA and planning their wedding. The addictive nature of the show is that the audience is inclined to guess which relationships are real, and which ones are fake. Which foreigner is using the American Citizen for a visa, which American is just using the foreigner, which couples are both faking just for some ulterior motive, and which couples are actually genuine couples (obviously the boring ones of the show).
The first problem I have with this show is that it makes it seem so easy to get a visa. It doesn’t really go into detail the amount of money it takes to go through this process and the months that the couples have to wait, usually apart, for their application to be approved.
The second problem I have is that it promotes this idea that it is okay to marry to get into the US because there aren’t other options if you don’t have a relative able to sponsor you in the United States. Aside from the fact that the USA has a very outdated immigration system, which is under hot water right now politically but mostly for Asylum seekers, this show just promotes the idea of visa fraud which makes those who are in genuine relationships have to go through even more hoops to prove that their relationship is true.
I met my husband in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus while on vacation. After a year and a half of dating, we got engaged. We had originally decided to get married in Turkey, where we were living because we had intended to stay in Turkey to save more money before making the move to the USA. While we did not apply for the K-1 visa, the IR-1 visa was just as frustrating- and still is. We have been in this process since 2015.
Because of the long history of visa and marriage fraud in the United States, we have to go through an extra interview process after the first two years of being in the USA to prove our relationship. If it were just the act of scheduling an interview with an immigration officer it really wouldn’t be that big of a deal. However, it is more than that. These extra interviews involve another round of paperwork and waiting that can last up to 18 months and an additional $1000. This is on top of the high cost of the initial forms for him to come into the country, and then yet another $700 in two years when he will be eligible for citizenship. These interviews remove the conditional status of his Green Card and allow him to stay in the USA for 10 years before renewing it again if he decides he doesn’t want to naturalize and become a US citizen.
“Immigrating is hard, and in some respects, it should be. “
Immigrating to a country is hard. There is no question about that, regardless of what country you are moving to. Whether it is difficult for financial reasons, or for cultural differences, or language barriers- it’s just plain hard. But the problem in this situation is that because the US immigration system has not been updated for so long it has become an incentive for people to find ways to bypass the lengthy, legal process of coming to the USA. And like a vicious never-ending cycle, in turn, makes it even more difficult to come into the country legally.
And with that, thank you for coming to my TedTalk. What are your thoughts? I would be interested in hearing what other people think about this. Do you think its harmless entertainment? Let us know in the comments below.
– Daughter/ Haley