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90-Day Fiancé: Breaking the Myths

90-Day Fiancé: Breaking the Myths


90-Day Fiancé– Breaking the Myths 

If you have ever watched the popular reality television series 90-Day Fiancé, you may have found yourself wondering, is this really how U.S. immigration law operates? 90-Day Fiancéis a documentary series regarding couples going through the fiancé visa process. A majority of the program is dedicated to the rough patches in the couples’ relationships stemming from extreme cultural and personality differences.

What viewers do not see on the program, though, is the entire immigration process from getting the fiancé visa to becoming a legal permanent resident. Many people are left with the wrong idea about how the fiancé visa process really operates. 

Do couples really only have 90 days to get married? 

Once a person enters the United States with a fiancé visa, the 90-day clock to get married starts to tick. Ninety days seems like a short amount of time to take the big leap of relocating to a new country and getting married. However, it is important to know that many couples who apply for a fiancé visa have known each other for months or years and have had time to develop a relationship. One of the requirements of a fiancé visa is that the couple has met in person within the past two years. There are some exceptions, including cultural or religious reasons, but for the most part, couples have had the opportunity to spend time together. Additionally, after applying for the fiancé visa, couples must wait approximately 8-10 months for immigration to make a decision on their application. During this time, couples often begin to make plans for the wedding and their life together. 

Does U.S. immigration care if the relationship is real? 

Immigration’s standard for issuance of a fiancé visa is that the marriage is based on the couple’s love and intention to joint their lives together. A couple cannot just apply for a visa because they want to obtain legal status in the United States. As part of the fiancé visa application process, couples must submit proof that their relationship is real. Evidence typically submitted includes letters of support from family and friends, plane tickets to visit each other, and photos together. Immigration reviews the evidence with a close eye for legitimacy and red flags. If immigration believes that there is not enough evidence, they will request more proof or deny the application. 

Isn’t the fiancé visa just a way for people to purchase a spouse? 

After the season with Mark and Nikki, many fans were left with a bad taste in their mouth. Mark and Nikki have an approximately 40-year age difference. Mark is a United States citizen and Nikki is from the Philippines. At only 19 years old, Nikki came to the United States on a fiancé visa and married Mark. The couple spurred a great deal of controversy as to whether Mark essentially purchased his bride. 

While I do not claim to support their relationship, it is important to know that U.S. immigration has a system of requirements and reg flags to identify indicators of human trafficking. In addition to having to show a bona fide relationship, the United States citizen must disclose his or her criminal history including domestic battery, assault, substance abuse, among other serious crimes. This information is provided to the immigrant at the consular interview, before the visa is issued. Additionally, if at any point the United States citizen spouse becomes abusive after the marriage, immigration provides other forms of protection for the immigrant. 

After marrying a U.S. citizen, does the immigrant automatically get legal status? 

Marriage to a United States citizen does not result in automatic status. The show ends after the couples marry, leaving many to believe that is all there is to the process. However, after saying “I do,” couples must file yet another application with immigration called the adjustment of status application. The adjustment of status application allows the immigrant to apply for legal permanent residency, often referred to as “getting a green card.” The adjustment application requires the couple provide immigration with updated relationship evidence, and the couple is also required to attend an immigration interview. At the interview, an immigration officer will question the couple about how they met and other details of the relationship. If the officer determines the couple has a real relationship and that the immigrant is eligible to become a resident, the officer will approve the application. Once the application is approved, the immigrant will become a legal permanent resident.   

Does the immigrant get deported if the relationship ends? 

The green card that is issued to individuals who obtain residency based on a fiancé visa is only a conditional status. The couple is required to file a removal of conditions application with immigration within the 90-day window before the 2-year anniversary of the date the immigrant became a resident. The removal of conditions application is immigration’s way of double checking that the relationship was bona fide. The couple must again submit proof of their relationship. 

After Danielle and Mohammed’s season aired, the couple got divorced. Danielle threatened to have him deported for lying about his intentions and only marrying her to obtain legal status. 

Unfortunately, not all relationships make it to the 2-year mark. The reality is that while individuals may have had a bona fide intent to joint their lives together, the relationship may sadly end in divorce, death, or abuse. For those situations, immigration allows a waiver of the requirement that the couple file the removal application together. If an immigrant applies for the wavier and submits proof that the relationship was real but sadly ended, he or she may be approved to remain a legal permanent resident. If immigration determines that the relationship was not bona fide from the start, the immigrant would be referred to immigration court for deportation proceedings. 

Megan Pastrana on Email
Megan Pastrana
Megan Pastrana
Megan Pastrana is an associate attorney at Indiana Immigration Law Group, an Indianapolis based firm that focuses on helping mixed-nationality couples build their lives together in the United States. Megan has traveled to Latin America for human rights work, and she studied abroad in China and Mexico. She speaks fluent Spanish and enjoys helping families through the complex maze of immigration law.