The Slatest

Turns Out Melania Trump Did Work Illegally in the U.S. After All

Melania Trump during a rally for her husband on Nov. 3, 2016, at the Main Line Sports Center in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Melania Trump was paid more than $20,000 for modeling work in the United States weeks before she was actually legally allowed to work in the country, according to the Associated Press. This is hardly the first time that there has been questions about the timeline of Melania Trump’s arrival in the United States and when she began working. But it seemed like the story had been put behind us after her lawyer put out a detailed letter that tackled pretty much all the questions and doubts that had been raised about her immigration. Slate’s Jeremy Stahl wrote a piece less than two months ago that pretty much declared the issue over, even stating that the questions had been raised from “erroneous reporting.” Melania Trump even retweeted that piece.

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But not so fast. The records that the AP reviewed seem to directly contradict some of the claims that Melania Trump and her lawyer made about her work history in the United States. Accounting documents show that the Slovenia-born model was paid for 10 modeling jobs worth $20,056 between Sept. 10 and Oct. 15, 1996, which was before she got an H-1B visa on Oct. 18, 1996* that allowed her to work legally in the United States. During the monthlong period in question, she was in the United States on a B1/B2 visitor visa, meaning she could be in the United States and look for work but not actually do anything that resembled paid work.

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The same lawyer who wrote that letter detailing how Melania Trump came to the United States legally also looked at the AP’s records and was decidedly unimpressed. “These documents, which have not been verified, do not reflect our records including corresponding passport stamps,” he said in a brief statement. He then refused to answer more follow-up questions. The Trump campaign also didn’t answer the AP’s questions.

All this happened way before Melania Trump (born Melanija Knavs but often known as Melanija Knaus) married Donald Trump in 2005. But obviously her immigration experience is relevant considering her husband has taken such a hard-line stance on immigration. Melania Trump, who became a U.S. citizen in 2006, has long insisted she did everything by the book. Coming mere days before Election Day, many might find the timing of the AP story a bit suspect. But AP says it has been seeking the documents since August and only got them this week. Throughout the controversy, Melania Trump has refused to publicly release her immigration records but did talk about her experience of moving to the United States in a speech on Thursday. “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.

*Correction, Nov. 5, 2016: This piece originally misstated the year in which Melania Trump received an H-1B visa.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.

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