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.
Music by Column (“Quiet Song,” “｢The Art of Fun｣ (Raj),” and “Sensuela”), water feature (“a horse”), Laundry (“Films”), r mccarthy (“Contemplation at Lon Lon”), Parish Council (“Walled Garden 1”), and infinite bisous (“(Terminally) Lovesick”), provided by Tasty Morsels and Nelson Nance. Additional music from APM (“Ordinary Fantasy,” “Yaas Queen,” “Your Fault,” “Ballroom Big Band,” “Brasillia,” “Sinking Feeling,” “Boogie Woogie,” “Duplicity (a),” “Oh My,” “You Got It Baby,” “Getaway,” “Into the Mist,” and “Freewheeling”). Additional audio from TLC, TLC U.K., and C-SPAN.
A transcript of this episode is presented below:
(Playfully plucky marimba-and-horn music plays.)
Tracie Hunte: So, to begin, I am going to send you a link. It’s a little bit long—it’s like seven minutes or so—’cause this is your first time watching 90 Day Fiancé, anything having to do with 90 Day Fiancé, right?
Julia Longoria: That’s correct.
Hunte: Okay, okay.
Longoria: I’m just curious, like, why are you interested in this? Like, why should someone care?
Hunte: (Insistently.) Watch the clip, Julia! (Laughs, and Longoria joins in.)
(Music shifts into long, sustained notes to build drama.)
Longoria: We start today with correspondent Tracie Hunte guiding me into the unknown: the world of r