Republican president nominee Donald Trump‘s wife appears to have lied about her immigration status when she entered the United States in 1996.
Former supermodel Melania Trump came to the U.S. for a Max Magazine nude photo shoot in 1995 on a possible short-term visa that would not have allowed her to legally work, according to POLITICO. The Trump campaign has continually maintained that Melania immigrated legally in 1996 and came over on an H1-B visa.
“You follow the rules. You follow the law,” she said in a January Harper’s Bazaar profile.
“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.”
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.
As Jezebel points out, working with either of those visas could count as visa fraud. But it wasn’t uncommon for foreign models to sometimes use those methods in the 90s. If the U.S. government found out, it would have greatly affected their permanent residences applications, if they were to apply.
“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.”
In response to POLITICO’s report, the Trump campaign denied Melania entered the country illegally.
“Melania followed all applicable laws and is now a proud citizen of the United States,” campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks told POLITICO. “In recent days there has been a lot of inaccurate reporting and misinformation concerning my immigration status back in 1996,”
Melania Trump posted a statement of her own on Twitter Thursday.
“Let me set the record straight: I have at all times been in full compliance with the immigration laws of this country. Period,” she continued. “Any allegation to the contrary is simply untrue.”
— MELANIA TRUMP (@MELANIATRUMP) August 4, 2016