But, two years after first locking eyes on a yacht in Croatia, Juliana Custodio de Sousa and Michael Jessen are planning to get hitched in a hurry — or she’ll be sent back home to Brazil.
The lovebirds star in the seventh season of TLC’s hit “90 Day Fiancé,” premiering Sunday at 8 p.m. The show follows long-distance lovers beginning with their K-1 visas, which allow foreign citizens to come to the US to marry their American fiancés — within 90 days of arrival — and has spawned four popular spinoffs.
Now, Custodio de Sousa, 23, a model from Goiânia, Brazil, and Jessen, 42, a self-employed investor, are living in Greenwich, Conn., preparing to get married after a tumultuous two-year period of being denied tourist visas and awaiting delayed paperwork.
“We were asked during Juliana’s visa interview in Rio de Janeiro if she had worked as a prostitute within the last 10 years,” Jessen tells The Post in an exclusive interview. “And, of course, the answer was no. She’s not a prostitute!”
The jet-setting pair initially met while seated across from one another at a dinner party.
“When I saw his green eyes and smile, I just melted,” Custodio de Sousa tells The Post. “I really wanted to talk to him, but I couldn’t speak English at this time.”
On the show, couples meet various ways: traveling abroad, perusing online dating sites. Some seem truly in love. Others seem to just want to be on television.
The big question is whether the foreign fiancé is just in it for the green card — as seemed to be the case with Season 2’s Mohamed and Danielle. (Mohamed, from Tunisia, fled from his Ohio bride at the first opportunity. Danielle paid for his visa, their wedding and their divorce.)
But it’s not just Custodio de Sousa who’s faced “insulting” questions.
Her American lover isn’t exactly spared the audience’s scrutiny.
“A lot of people may think I’m an old sleazy rich guy going after a beautiful young model from Brazil,” Jessen acknowledges in a show trailer. The clip smash-cuts to the financier — who has a passion for fine wines — presenting Custodio de Sousa with a vintage bottle.
“1996?” she reads.
“Your birth year,” he replies.
Cameras follow couples to important events, including meeting friends and family, visits to the immigration attorney and, of course, the wedding. Most of the show’s pairs do end up getting hitched during the 90 days, and numerous couples are still together, including fan favorites Loren and Alexei Brovarnik from Season 3, who announced her pregnancy Tuesday on Instagram. Even more get divorced, such as Larissa and Colt and Jonathan and Fernanda, both from Season 6.
Fans might be surprised to find out that the show casts by reaching out to immigration lawyers.
“The producers are looking for diversity among the cast, different countries, different kinds of couples,” says Aga Asbury, senior immigration counsel at FordMurray Law in Portland, Maine. The “90 Day” fan (who is not involved in Jessen and Custodio de Sousa’s visa) was contacted by TLC producers last April. She and her colleagues at their small Maine firm get a kick out of the increased traffic the show’s popularity has brought to their immigration law practice.
“People call us all the time now, either looking to be on the show or looking for a fiancé, like they think we are a dating site,” says Asbury. “People from both sides, those wanting US fiancés and people from the US wanting foreign fiancés.”
Asbury says a typical K-1 application can take six to 12 months and, all told, can cost more than $3,500 just for the paperwork and lawyer fees alone — not including the cost of all the international travel to visit each other. (“90 Day Fiancé” doesn’t cover any costs.) In order to be considered for the visa, you have to show proof of your love through photos, social-media posts, travel receipts and more, she says.
Jessen and Custodio de Sousa “were toward the end of the K-1 visa process when our lawyer asked if we’d be interested,” says Jessen. The couple spoke to The Post in the midst of their 90 days.
He says that viewers can expect to see some rough patches this season. Although he’s not allowed to elaborate, the tension points aren’t hard to guess. Besides the nearly 20-year age difference, both Jessen and Custodio de Sousa have been married before: Custodio de Sousa for just 11 months in Brazil and Jessen for 12 years. Jessen and his ex-wife have two kids under 13, to whom Custodio de Sousa — if all goes to plan — will now be a stepmother.
Plus, because the couple couldn’t be together in the US until now, their relationship has mostly consisted of fun and glamorous trips.
“As we were going through the K-1 visa process, for almost a week per month we’d figure out a way to get together,” says Jessen, who works from home. “She was living in London for a bit so I’d visit her there, or I’d have business in Asia and she’d meet me there. We’d take special trips, Chile, Argentina, a special Bugatti driving trip.” After adventures like those, he’s concerned that spending time in the US with “regular day-to-day life” will be a “reality check” for Custodio de Sousa.
But Custodio de Sousa says she’s looking forward to settling down when the visa craziness is all over.
“I’ve been to all the biggest cities in the world modeling,” Custodio de Sousa says. “But now I finally get to see the US. I can’t wait to see snow fall.”
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