Melania Trump, wife of the poster monster for legal immigration for nonthreatening Europeans, may not have followed the letter of the law when she immigrated to the United States in the ‘90s, according to a new report from Politico.
Questions about how she came to the U.S. arose when the New York Post published nude photographs reportedly taken while she was in the country in 1995, for the January 1996 issue of Max Magazine, potentially on a short-term visa that would not have allowed her to legally work. Melania, Donald Trump, and the campaign have maintained that she immigrated legally in 1996.
Melania said in a January Harper’s Bazaar profile that she would return to Europe every few months to stamp her visa: “You follow the rules. You follow the law,” she said. “Every few months you need to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa. After a few visas, I applied for a green card and got it in 2001. After the green card, I applied for citizenship.” During another interview, she confirmed via a nod that she came to the U.S. on an H-1B work visa.
That doesn’t check out. From Politico:
Trump’s tale of returning to Europe for periodic visa renewals is inconsistent with her holding an H-1B visa at all times she was living in New York — even if it was the lesser-known H-1B visa specifically designed for models — said multiple immigration attorneys and experts. An H-1B visa can be valid for three years and can be extended up to six years — sometimes longer — and would not require renewals in Europe every few months. If, as she has said, Trump came to New York in 1996 and obtained a green card in 2001, she likely would not have had to return to Europe even once to renew an H-1B.
Instead, Trump’s description of her periodic renewals in Europe are more consistent with someone traveling on a B-1 Temporary Business Visitor or B-2 Tourist Visa, which typically last only up to six months and do not permit employment.
Working while on either of those visas could reportedly classify as visa fraud—though not a rare form among foreign models in the ‘90s—and she would have had to have lied about the purpose of her visits to the U.S. to remain in the country. If the government had been aware of this fraud, it would have likely affected her green card and citizenship applications.
Her husband has been an outspoken critic of illegal immigration, offering constantly and vaguely to build a border wall to keep Mexican immigrants out, and a ban on all Muslim immigrants. In March, he made a statement regarding H-1Bs, the exact visa Melania claims to have had, but likely didn’t.
“The H-1B program is neither high-skilled nor immigration,” he said. “These are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay. I remain totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse... I will end forever the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.”
Update: Melania Trump responded to the report with a tweet: