Questions on Melania Trump’s Immigration History Raise Importance of Visas

In the past week, the New York Post published nude photos that would-be First Lady Melania Trump posed for in New York over 20 years ago for the January 1996 issue of a French magazine. The photos, which unsurprisingly garnered widespread attention, may have been intended to attract readers for their explicit content, but they have actually raised a bigger question of whether Trump violated federal immigration laws by potentially working in the United States without having a visa that allowed her to do so, especially in light of the fact that her husband has made getting tough on illegal immigration a central issue of his presidential campaign.

What Trump Has Said About Her Immigration Status

Trump’s immigration status during the time prior to her marriage to Donald Trump is unclear. Although she and her husband’s campaign claims that she complied with all immigration requirements, other facts, including the photo suggest, do raise questions about whether this was the case.

In interviews, Trump has not said what type of visa she had when she entered the US from her home country of Slovenia. In an interview with MSNBC in February, she said that she had complied with the immigration laws and that she had “papers” and “travelled every few months back to…Slovenia to stamp the visa” and that she later applied for a green card. She also claimed that she originally came to the US in 1996, although the shoot in New York was in 1995.

The Questions Raised By the Photo Shoot

Trump’s description of travelling back to her home country every few months appear to be consistent with that of a B1 or B2 visa, which generally limits stays in the United States to six months. These visas are typically issued to business visitors or tourists, but those type of visa holders are not allowed to have “gainful employment” in the US.

Non-citizens who want to be employed in the US must obtain a work visa. There are several types of work visas, including those for athletes, entertainers, artists, and individuals with “extraordinary ability or achievement.” As a model, the most likely visa to be issued would be a H-1B visa for persons in a “specialty occupation.” The State Department’s classification for H-1B visas includes the description that it “includes fashion models of distinguished merit and ability.”

Unlike B1 or B2 visas, those with a H-1B visa can stay in the US up to six years, meaning there would be no need to leave the US to go to a home country to have the visa stamped. Thus, Trump’s description of leaving the US every few months suggests she may not have had a work visa allowing her to be gainfully employed in the US.

Get Experienced Representation in Your Immigration Matters

As an employee, contractor, or employer, it is important that you follow all federal laws regarding visas. Strict consequences can follow for failing to adhere to immigration laws, and it is important to have trusted, experienced legal guidance in your immigration affairs. At Gastelum Law, we represent workers and businesses in navigating all work visa and related immigration issues. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.