Do you watch 90 Day Fiance? This show is in its third season and I think I’ve watched every episode. I enjoy the show so much that I go to my parents’ house to watch it every Sunday (because I no longer have that channel)—my mom, sister, and I have fun providing a running commentary on what happens during each episode.
Each season, the show follows five or six couples (one half of each couple is a US citizen, the other is not) who obtain a K-1 visa. The K-1 visa (aka the “fiancé(e) visa”) allows a US citizen to bring a non-US citizen to the States, but they have to marry within 90 days of the non-US citizen’s entry into the US. If they don’t get married then someone has to go back to his or her home country; the visa can’t be extended. Spoiler alert: every couple, even the most unlikely ones, has gotten married since the beginning—I kind of hope things will be different in season 3 (more on that later).
Apparently Canada used to have a fiancé(e) visa but they cancelled it over 13 years ago. Canadian citizens can sponsor someone they’re not legally married to if that person is a common-law partner or a conjugual partner, but I think the traditional spouse route is the most common, and it would be my choice. If the other two options are being used in my local Nigerian community, no one’s talking about it!
In the US, you’re expected to have met your fiancé(e) in person before applying for the K-1 visa (there are some exceptions to this) which makes total sense. I’m sure a lot of long-distance relationships that turn into disasters after marriage could have been avoided if the couple had had more face-to-face time together before marrying. Ninety days isn’t much time to figure everything out, so I’d cram in as many visits as possible before applying for the visa.
When I hear of couples who marry the first time they meet face-to-face I’m always impressed because I couldn’t do it. I’d rather invest in traveling to meet each other face-to-face a few times before committing to marriage—even if our minds were made up beforehand, meeting in person deepens the relationship in a way that only physical interaction can (hehe, I don’t mean that physical interaction!). Carrying on for years without meeting, in a world where flights are only getting cheaper doesn’t cut it. Can you imagine long-distance dating someone for years, saying no to local interested parties, only to have the relationship fizzle once you meet in person? If this happens after six months or a year of dating, fine, but after four, five, or more years? That would be devastating! Long-distance relationships without any face-to-face meetings can work (if blessed by God) but nothing beats an in-person relationship (trust me, I know).
Meeting in person strengthens the legitimacy of a K-1 claim too. In cases where one half of the couple might be trying to deceive the other person, meeting face-to-face gives both parties a chance to figure out true intentions. Even if the tricksters hide their true selves, the K-1 visa gives you a few months to see more of their true colours, and at least within the Nigerian community, friends and family will speak up (whether anyone in love actually listens to contrary opinions is another matter!). And some people are very cunning and can fool people for years.
When I first started watching the show I used to feel sorry for the couples because 90 days isn’t enough time to plan a wedding, but then I remember how quickly my sister’s Nigerian wedding got sorted—the joys of not marrying in Lagos I guess! Earlier I said I hope that not all the couples get married because that would be more reflective of how the K-1 visa works in the real world: sometimes things don’t work out so I hope the show hasn’t asked the couples to promise they’ll get married for ratings purposes (with a quickie divorce in the future).
So let’s say one day soon, I come on this blog and announce to you that I’m engaged, and let’s say my future fiancé is a great cook who has no preference as to where he gets married. If the choice were mine, I’d have my traditional engagement ceremony in Nigeria and I’m 75% sure that I want my white wedding to take place in Canada, except he wouldn’t be my spouse in Canada’s eyes after our traditional engagement so we’d have to either have a court wedding in Nigeria and then have a second wedding in Canada, or do the white wedding in Nigeria. Meanwhile, if the same scenario played out in the US (including the part where my fiancé is an amazing cook, Amen!), my wishes could be more easily accommodated and it would be much easier to convince my family in Nigeria that my white wedding needs to be in the US for visa reasons.
What do you think of the fiancé(e) visa? Would you use it or do you know anyone who has used it?