’90 Day Fiancé’: How the TLC Hit Got Its Start

Since it hit small screens six years ago, 90 Day Fiancé has been a ratings phenomenon for TLC. The network could not have envisioned the enormous success of a reality show following couples through the K-1 visa process – a visa designed for internationally-born fiancés of U.S. citizens.

Here’s how your favorite show started out.

'90 Day Fiancé' creator Matt Sharp (left) with show cast members
’90 Day Fiancé’ creator Matt Sharp (left) with show cast members | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

RELATED: ’90 Day Fiancé’: Danielle and Mohamed Jbali Are Talking Again After Ugly Divorce–Danielle Answers If They’ll Ever Get Back Together

How ’90 Day Fiancé’ works

The reality show basically follows couples, who have applied for or received a K-1 visa, throughout the ninety days in which they will marry.

The K-1 visa gives couples the time to make their wedding plans. Every couple has promised, in signed government documents, to marry one another and has petitioned the U.S. government for their K-1 visa.

RELATED: ’90 Day Fiancé’: Geoffrey Paschel Reveals the Real Reason He Wanted a Russian Girlfriend

Show creator Matt Sharp explained why that timeframe seemed so perfect to him when he pitched the show to various networks.

“The most interesting part of all, to us,” he told Glamour in February 2020, “was the K-1 visa process. We were blown away that after these people meet and fall in love, they go through all of this process for the visa. The second they hit U.S. soil, there’s a ticking clock. They had to be married in 90 days or leave the country.”

How the show got its start

Sharp, in 2012, was intrigued in reading about Americans who had been unable to find life partners in the United States and gone overseas for better luck. For Sharp, the potential drama, heartbreak, and basic human need for love made this scenario seem like television gold. While Sharp had to persist in shopping the show idea around, it eventually found a home on TLC.

RELATED: The Sad Reason Tom Brooks Didn’t Want to Do ’90 Day Fiancé’ With Darcey Silva

“In 2012, maybe even earlier,” Sharp explained, “I saw a television news piece about Americans going abroad to find love. These were people from all walks of life and all states who started talking to people online and fell in love. And, in many cases, they were going to meet them in person for the first time. To me, this felt like an incredible new world.”

“So we started looking into it, to see how prevalent it was. We discovered that once people found [others] abroad and traveled to meet them, they would then propose.”

The show was an immediate success

Once you start watching 90 Day Fiancé, it’s difficult to turn away. Each couple’s story is so intriguing that viewers are compelled to see it through to the end of the season. It’s no wonder the show was a hit from the very start.

Interestingly, Sharp noted, in order to get the show off the ground, they needed couples. So who better to turn to than. . . lawyers?

“We started by speaking to immigration attorneys. We said, ‘We’re doing this documentary show about Americans who have fallen in love with people abroad. If there’s anyone in your world who would be interested, please give them our information and have them reach out.’ People started trickling in.”

And the rest is love-in-90-days history!

Read more: ’90 Day Fiancé’: The Shocking Amount of Money Caesar Mack Gave Maria Every Year