Politics

Melania Trump's Immigration Story Is Starting to Raise Questions

August 4th 2016

By:
Aron Macarow

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made restricting immigration a centerpiece of his presidential bid — from illegal immigration, to calling for immigration bans on entire religions. But new information published about Melania Trump is raising questions about his wife's own immigration story.

Images from a photo shoot released on Sunday and Monday by the New York Post, show Melania Trump posing nude for the January 1996 issue of the French publication Max Magazine.

The problem? The photos were reportedly taken in the United States in 1995, which highlights multiple inconsistencies in the account provided by Melania Trump about her pathway to U.S. citizenship.

What's the problem?

Taking those photos in 1995 constitutes work, and based on Melania Trump's own immigration story, it likely means that she was violating a short-term visa. It also calls the dates she has previously cited for her arrival to the U.S. into question.

According to Politico:

"While Trump and her husband, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, have said she came to the United States legally, her own statements suggest she first came to the country on a short-term visa that would not have authorized her to work as a model. Trump has also said she came to New York in 1996, but the nude photo shoot places her in the United States in 1995, as does a biography published in February by Slovenian journalists."

On her personal website (which was taken down last week), Trump previously said that she came to New York in 1996, and she also told Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that she "came to New York in 1996" in a January interview. But although the former model could have participated in the 1995 photo shoot in the U.S. legally, she would have required a work visa to do so, like an H-1B visa.

According to Melania Trump's own accounts, however, that's likely not the kind of visa she had, according to Politico's analysis of her previous interviews.

"It never crossed my mind to stay here without papers," Trump told Harper's Bazaar for a January profile of the real estate mogul's wife.

"Every few months you need to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa," she explained to Harper's Bazaar. "After a few visas, I applied for a green card and got it in 2001."

Trump related a similar story to Brzezinski in February, telling the audience of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that she traveled "every few months back to the country to Slovenia to stamp the visa."

But as Politico explains, there are issues with this story:

"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."

But if Trump worked in the U.S. illegally, as this Politico report suggests, she and Donald Trump certainly aren't alone.

Binational couples often play games with tourist and business visas (as it appears Melania Trump may have done) in order to work in the U.S. and stay together.

Why? Because H-1B visas, like the one that immigration experts suggest that Trump should have had to be working legally in the U.S. as a model, are notoriously hard to get.

U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services granted only 85,000 H-1B visas in 2015, which were selected by a lottery process from 233,000 eligible candidates. To get into the lottery, foreign workers had to have sponsorship from a prospective employer as well as pay a hefty $325 fee.

By contrast, a potential visitor only needs to pay a fee, apply, and potentially undergo an interview in order to come into the U.S. on a tourist or business visa from many foreign locations.

Still news that Melania Trump may have misrepresented her story to immigration authorities is ironic given her husband's stance on immigration — especially illegal immigration. And even worse for the Trumps, immigration experts have also told Politico that years-old misstatements to immigration authorities could even pose legal issues for the Republican presidential nominee's wife today.

Melania Trump took to Twitter Thursday morning to respond to the allegations, saying in part, "Let me set the record straight: I have at all times been in full compliance with the immigration laws of this country. Period."

However, she did not address the suggestion that she was working in the U.S. in 1995 or the type of visa she may have been using: