THE TLC reality TV series 90 Day Fiancé tells stories of people from different countries who meet Americans and must decide if they are fit for marrying each other in 90 days — the time it takes for the foreigner's special 'fiancé visa' to expire. The show has also highlighted some scams — in people who marry just for immigration purposes and not for love.
While it is not honourable, many people from developing countries, including Jamaica, see marriage to a foreign national as a golden ticket to greener pastures, regardless of whether they are compatible with the spouse. And so we asked some people who have tried, whether successfully or not, to hit the visa jackpot, to share how it went.
Nadene, 30, entrepreneur:
When I went on the work and travel programme a few years ago I was determined not to come back home a single woman. I had one shot to find a rich foreigner and make him fall in love with me, and I wasn't going to blow it. After a few weeks abroad, I had a lot of prospects. I flirted, I dated, and I chatted with so many men I couldn't keep track of them all. When I came back to Jamaica I was still communicating with four of them, trying to see if any of them would lead somewhere. But I guess I'm just unlucky, because I'm still here struggling.
Alonzo, 43, mechanic:
I went to London to visit my sister and I met a rather corpulent woman who wanted to be in a serious relationship with me. I didn't like her but my family pushed me to do it, so I stayed with her and we got married. But I had to leave after two months, because she was very lazy, nasty, and very annoying. I just couldn't do it, no matter the economic benefits. I'd rather struggle with my two babymothers in Jamaica.
Cherise, 25, student:
My mother overstayed her British visa because she got involved with a man who promised to marry her. That was over 10 years ago. He is still with his wife, and she is still on the side, living in fear of deportation, using fake papers to get jobs, and waiting for him to marry her.
Penny, 29, writer:
I have a friend who met someone online, who introduced him to someone else, with whom he got involved. She came to visit him for a few weeks and they got married. Immediately we all knew it was a business marriage, because she was Caucasian, not very good looking, and on the heavy side, and he had a reputation for dating slim, cute girls. This was a guy whose family had money, but he just thought that marrying this woman would be the quickest way to getting his papers. It wasn't until after the fact that he learned that she was not in a position to put through any paperwork for him — because she was living on welfare in the States, and still in her parents' home.
Renae, 28, stay-at-home mom:
I got involved with a foreigner on a short trip to visit some relatives overseas, and we kept in touch for years. When I finished university and couldn't find a job in the desired field locally, he was right by my side. Now we are happily married and we live in the States together with our babies and our dog. I know a lot of people in Jamaica think I married him just for the papers, but that was only a part of it. There was love before there were benefits.
Nastacia, 32, lecturer:
When I was in college I met this older American online who wanted to travel, and so I agreed to be his travel buddy, and secretly hoped that it would eventually lead to something else. Well, we did go to a couple countries together, and he never made a move — all he wanted to do was travel! We corresponded for a few years, until one day I asked him for money and he stopped communicating with me. Turns out his friends had warned him about Jamaican women scammers, and he just cut me off like that.
Ophelia, 27, make-up artist:
It didn't even start out as a scam — I actually liked the guy very much, and wasn't even thinking of using him to get out of Jamaica. But once my family met him they began to put thoughts into my head, and encouraged me to get pregnant. Well I did, but the joke was on me, because he returned to Canada to the wife I didn't know about, and we spent quite a while in court as he and his wife tried to get custody of my child. So instead of getting status and riches, I just had huge legal bills and stresses over child support and visitation.