Reality televisions shows make falling in love with somebody in another country look romantic (and sometimes dramatic), and then they make bringing that person to the United States as your fiancé look very, very complicated.
The truth is that "importing" your fiancé from another country is not an impossible task, unless you've never actually met, or they're coming from someplace that has a history of terrorism. And even then, it's not impossible.
A real life example of such a story? Cassia Tavares picked up her entire life and moved from Brazil to Florida to be with Jason Hitch, on Season 2 of TLC's 90 Day Fiancé. Yes, they got married, and she got her green card. And yes, they're still happily married.
Jason said the process for getting the K-1 visa wasn't difficult or stressful, but it got really expensive.
"Cassia and I decided to NOT use an agency or a lawyer. We jumped online and read EVERYTHING. We went to forums and watched YouTube videos. What to look for, what are common mistakes in the paperwork, etc.," Jason says.
"We filled out a 129 form and broke down our background — if we had been married, my income, and our history together. Proving we had actually spent real time together meant we needed to include receipts, boarding passes from my trips to see her in Brazil, and non-photo shopped pictures of us together. I also had to include proof that I could financially support her because she's considered a dependent," he explains.
Jason says the expensive part of getting the visa was the travel involved, because not only did she have to travel to the U.S. via a designated "entry port," he needed to fly to Brazil for an interview together with the U.S. Consulate in Rio before the visa was granted. While his presence wasn't absolutely required, he says it was made clear that your chances are greatly increased by the presence of the petitioner.
There's no way to shop for cheap airfare when you're working on a timeline that includes very little lead time for your interview appointment in the fiancé's home country. Add to that Cassia didn't live in Rio, she lived in Curitiba, a three-hour flight west of there. The approved physicians were also in Rio. Both halves of this couple had to spend enormously.
Finally, after they had their interview at the U.S. Consulate, they had to wait to find out if Cassia was approved. Visas are usually granted in a week to 10 days, meaning that you can't comfortably buy your plane tickets to the states until you've gotten that go-ahead or you could lose a lot of money.
"I had booked the flight back to Miami for that Friday, four days after the interview. I was bleeding money at that point. Sure enough, the visa doesn't arrive til Monday. It cost us an additional $700 to change the tickets," Jason says.
With that said, Jason and Cassia say it was definitely worth all the time and expense to be together.
*Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of * How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show Wedding Island, about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques.