Can you believe we’re already five seasons into TLC’s addictive 90 Day Fiancé? While the reality series — and its spin-offs, Before the 90 Days, What Now?, and Happily Ever After? — have been captivating us with their couples for some time now, we’re still not really sure how the show works.
The complicated K-1 visa, which allows foreigners to travel to, enter, and remain the US, is a difficult one to unpack in the environment of a one-hour weekly docuseries. Still, watching an American attempt to marrying a non-citizen — and keep him or her in the country — is what this show is all about.
So to make it easier on all of us, let’s refresh ourselves on the step-by-step process of getting a K-1 visa, and how it factors into the show. Read on for how 90 Day Fiancé really works.
Step 1: The Meetup and Petition
Before anything else, whichever half of the couple is the American citizen must meet with their intended spouse, which can be either in the US, in the foreign party’s native country, or anywhere they’re able to connect in-person. They then file a 1-129F petition, which provides evidence that they have actually met, and that they’re in a committed, romantic relationship.
Step 2: The Identity Confirmation
Once the 1-129F petition is approved, the foreign half of the couple has their biometrics meeting. This process — which usually includes taking a photograph, and providing fingerprints and a signature — confirms identity for a background check. Occasionally, they may take a DNA sample, but only when the applicant is from a developing country or does not have birth certificate. These results are then sent to the embassy of the non-citizen’s home country.
Step 3: The Visa Filing
The actual visa filing doesn’t take place until the third step, when the foreign party's background check clears. That’s when the they will file for a K-1 visa, which is intended to make them a lawful member resident of the US through marriage.
Step 4: The Interview
After that’s been squared away, both halves of the couple are called in for an interview. This is when they will be asked about their time together so officials can be sure the relationship is real. Some questions past pairs have reported are things related to their first meeting, engagement, respective families, and wedding plans.
Step 4: The Final Trip
Following that difficult interview, the engaged lovebirds are pretty much in the clear! The foreign fiancé officially relocates to the US to live full-time with their future American husband or wife.
Step 5: The Marriage
Once the couple is under one roof, they have just 90 days to tie the knot. If they don’t marry by the end of the third month, the non-citizen is required to leave the country. As long as all goes to plan and the wedding does happen, the foreign party will then become a permanent resident of the US, also known as a Green Card holder.