The Latest Melania Trump Controversy Begins With Nude Photos and Ends With New Questions Over Her Immigration Story

By
Melania Trump. Photo: Chip Somodevilla

Melania Trump, who is married to a man who has described illegal immigration as hurting us “from every standpoint,” may have been an undocumented worker in the United States at one point.

A detailed report in Politico highlights inconsistencies in Melania Trump’s story about immigrating to the U.S., starting with the date she arrived and including what type of visa she obtained to work as a model here. Strangely enough, the questions result from the New York Post’s decision to resurface photos of Melania Trump, née Knauss, as a 25-year-old model posing nude for a January 1996 issue of Max, a now-defunct French men’s mag. According to the Post, the photos were taken “in Manhattan in 1995, according to Alé de Basse­ville, the French photographer who shot the sexy snaps.”

Politico points out that Trump has said she came to the United States in 1996 after the alleged photo shoot took place. Other reports, including research from two Slovenian journalists who wrote a book on the mogul’s wife, place her in the city during 1995. “In 1995 she started coming to the USA according to the jobs she was getting at fashion agencies,” one of the authors, Bojan Požar, wrote to Politico. “We don’t know the exact dates of those before she officially settled in New York but her visits prior to that were temporary business opportunities that she had as a model.”

So there’s a muddled arrival timeline. But there’s also a question over what type of visa Trump actually had when she came to the country. To be employed in the U.S., models would likely have to obtain an H-1B visa for “specialized” workers. Trump, now a U.S. citizen, has been outspoken about her adherence to immigration laws and has described how she returned to her native Slovenia to get her visa stamped. Appearing on Morning Joe in February, Trump said, “I never thought to stay here without papers. I had visa. I travel every few months back to the country, to Slovenia, to stamp the visa.”

But according to 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.

Trump got her green card in 2001. She married Trump in 2005 and became a U.S. citizen in 2006. But her status could — though it’s probably unlikely — get a little knotty if she did misrepresent her visa situation when she obtained her legal permanent residency, and later citizenship.

Hope Hicks, spokesperson for the campaign of Donald “I know the H-1B. I know the H-2B. Nobody knows it better than me” Trump, told Politico: “Melania followed all applicable laws and is now a proud citizen of the United States.”

The media were already digging into apparent inconsistencies in Melania’s personal history. Last week, her website featuring her personal biography vanished and redirected instead to the Trump Organization. The disappearance coincided closely with questions over whether Melania Trump graduated from college in Slovenia. The RNC and her personal bio said the potential First Lady finished her degree in architecture and design, but the Slovenian journalists who wrote the book about Melania claim she only finished one year. Julia Ioffe in a GQ profile also reported that Melania “decamped to Milan after her first year of college, effectively dropping out.” (H-1Bs require a bachelor’s degree or “equivalent work experience” — or a combination of schooling and employment history.) Then, of course, there was the time Melania got herself confused with Michelle Obama. If only Twilight Sparkle had an explanation for the visa story.

Report: Inconsistencies in Melania’s Immigration Story