In a sort of game show twist of its own, some couples when interviewed by Homeland Security are separated and asked personal questions about each other and then brought together again to compare their responses.
"We ask them questions that a reasonable person would know about their spouse. It is not the sort of deal where if you don't know what hair products your wife uses, you don't get in. … We're living in 2007, and people have a lot of different lifestyles; one spouse might maintain a residence on the East Coast and the other on the West Coast," Saucier said.
Last year, 339,843 people became legal permanent residents and received their Green Cards (a document that gives non-U.S. citizens permanent residence and the right to work) through marriage.
"The penalty for entering a fraudulent marriage for the purposes of gaining citizenship is five years and $250,000 fine," he said.
Two years after a couple has been approved, they must be evaluated again by the government. Even if a couple has divorced, if they can prove they tried to make things work as any other couple would, the foreign spouse is still eligible for citizenship, Saucier said.
Though the pilot episode of "Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen" included only Latin contestants, the show's producers say casting will be open to all legal aliens.
"We've received a flood of e-mails. … The show isn't just about Hispanic immigrants, contestants can be Chinese, Bolivian, German," the executive producer Rivera said.
Some immigrant rights groups are already calling into question the motives behind the show.
"The existence of the show speaks to the problems with immigration legislation, and why people sometimes enter sham marriages to gain citizenship," said Arnoldo García, director of the immigrant justice program at the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.