Melania Trump’s Lawyer Clarifies Her Past Immigration Status

Photo: Brooks Kraft/Getty Images.
Update: Melania Trump released a letter from her lawyer clarifying her immigration history after the media raised questions last month about when exactly she arrived in the U.S., and whether she had the necessary visa permit to work as a model. “I am pleased to enclose a letter from my immigration attorney which states that, with 100% certainty, I correctly went through the legal process when arriving in the U.S.A.,” she said in a statement posted on Twitter. In early August, Politico reported some gaps in Trump's immigration timeline. The former model had previously said that she arrived in the U.S. in 1996 legally, but inconsistencies in her tale make it hard to know whether she arrived on a temporary or tourist visa, which both would have prohibited her from working; or if, instead, she actually had an H-1B work permit. Michael J. Wildes, Trump's lawyer, said on the letter that the reports were “not supported by the facts.” However, neither Trump nor Wildes released any accompanying documents supporting their claims.
This article was originally published on August 4, 2016.

The publication of some images of Melania Trump's early modeling days have raised questions about her immigration story and what her visa status was when she arrived in the United States. According to Politico, the would-be first lady has said she arrived in New York in 1996 and would travel every couple of months back to Slovenia to deal with her visa. "It never crossed my mind to stay here without papers. That is just the person you are," she told Harper's Bazaar in January. "You follow the rules. You follow the law. 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." But there are a couple of problems with her story. According to The New York Post, the nude photo shoot took place in New York in 1995 and was part of a spread published in the January 1996 issue of the French publication Max Magazine. To be able to work in the United States in 1995 and even 1996, Trump would have needed an H-1B Specialty Occupation work visa. It's been widely reported that she had one when she moved to the U.S. But even if she didn't intend to live in New York in 1995, when the photo shoot allegedly happened, she would had needed this type of permit because "Slovenia was not part of the State Department's visa waiver program until 1997," Politico reports. According to Mickey Rapkin, a writer who interviewed her for luxury lifestyle magazine DuJour, she confirmed this fact to him. "When I interviewed Melania, I mentioned that she’d come to New York on that H-1B visa, and she nodded in agreement," Rapkin told Politico. But an H-1B can initially last up to three years and even be extended for an additional three-year period, so if the former model held this type of visa, she wouldn't have had to go back to Slovenia as often as she said she did. If she came to the United States in 1995 and got her green card in 2001, she potentially wouldn't have had to go back once to Europe in that six-year period. Instead, Politico reports that her tale is more consistent with that of someone who came to the States on a B-1 Temporary Business Visitor or B-2 Tourist Visa, which can last up to six months, and with which you're not able to work. If this was the case for Trump, she would not have been authorized to work in the U.S. by the time the photo shoot published by The New York Post happened. The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to Refinery29's request for comment. Melania Trump responded to the allegations earlier today on Twitter.
But without addressing the particulars of the media reports, questions remain about the gaps in her immigration timeline. After all, her husband's campaign has been centered around his opposition to illegal immigration, and even the suggestion of cracking down on programs such as the H-1B.

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