Modeling firm’s records show wife of Republican nominee was paid for 10 assignments before gaining US work visa in October 1996. Melania Trump was paid for 10 modeling jobs in the US worth $20,056 that occurred in the seven weeks before she had legal permission to work in the country, according to detailed accounting ledgers, contracts and related documents provided to the Associated Press.
The details of Melania Trump’s early paid modeling work in the US emerged in the final days of a bitter presidential campaign in which her husband, Donald Trump, has taken a hard line on immigration laws and those who violate them. Trump has proposed broader use of the government’s E-verify system allowing employers to check whether job applicants are authorized to work. He has noted that federal law prohibits illegally paying immigrants.
Melania Trump, who received a green card in March 2001 and became a US citizen in 2006, has always maintained that she arrived in the country legally and never violated the terms of her immigration status. During the presidential campaign, she has cited her story to defend her husband’s hard line on immigration.
The wife of the Republican presidential nominee, who sometimes worked as a model under just her first name, has said through an attorney that she first came to the US from Slovenia on 27 August 1996, on a B1/B2 visitor visa and then obtained an H-1B work visa on 18 October 1996.
The documents obtained by the AP show she was paid for 10 modeling assignments between 10 September and 15 October, during a time when her visa allowed her generally to be in the US and look for work but not perform paid work. The documents examined by the AP indicate that the modeling assignments would have been outside the bounds of her visa.
It is highly unlikely the discovery will affect her citizenship status. The government can seek to revoke the US citizenship of immigrants after the fact in cases when it determines a person willfully misrepresented or concealed facts relevant to their naturalization. But in practice the government does this in only the most egregious cases, such as instances involving terrorism or war crimes.
The disclosures about the payments come as Melania Trump takes on a more substantial role advocating for her husband’s candidacy. She made her first speech in months on Thursday, in which she spoke of her time working as a model in Europe and her decision to come to the US.
“As a young entrepreneur, I wanted to follow my dream to a place where freedom and opportunity were in abundance. So of course, I came here,” she said. “Living and working in America was a true blessing, but I wanted something more. I wanted to be an American.”