Dating shows often push contestants to extreme measures in pursuit of love. Reality-show producers will impose fake deadlines, physical obstacles, and manufactured drama to create the juiciest spectacle. But on TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé, a high-stakes and wildly popular reality show, the producers didn’t need to dream up a deadline: It’s a requirement of the rigorous U.S. visa-application process.
The show follows real-life couples pursuing a K-1 visa—the “fiancé visa”—which allows a U.S. citizen’s foreign partner to enter the U.S. legally, but only for 90 days, the deadline by which they must get married. The show documents the complications of those emotionally charged 90 days, when two people from different countries, cultures, and sometimes races have to decide whether their relationship is real.
“From the very moment that the federal government became involved in immigration, you see the influence of biases of race as it’s intersecting with class and sexuality,” says Felicity Amaya Schaeffer, a professor of feminist studies and critical race studies at UC Santa Cruz.
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This episode was produced by Tracie Hunte and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Katherine Wells, Julia Longoria, and Emily Botein. Fact-check by William Brennan. Sound design by David Herman.