When Melania Knauss (now known as Melania Trump) started dating the future-president back in 1998, she began the process of petitioning the government to become a U.S. citizen. When she filed her paperwork, she enrolled under a program usually reserved for people with “exceptional abilities.” Now, the Washington Post is reporting that immigration experts are wondering just how she pulled that off.
At the time, Melania was a model in Slovenia. She had walked in runway shows and was featured on a billboard in Times Square for a cigarette company, but her greatest modeling achievement at that point was grabbing a spot in the Sports IllustratedSwimsuit Issue. In the photo spread, she was hugging a six-foot inflatable whale.
She was soon after granted her green card in 2001 under the EB-1 program, which is reserved for people who are the brightest in their field, like, Olympians or Oscar winners. People refer to it not-so-jokingly as the “Einstein Visa.” In that year, only five people from Slovenia were allowed to come to the U.S. through the EB-1 program, the Post reports. In that same year, less that one percent of all green cards given were administered under this program.
“What did she submit?” immigration lawyer David Leopold asked. “There are a lot of questions about how she procured entry into the United States.”
To meet the “exceptional ability” standard, a candidate has to meet certain criteria. It is subjective, but immigration policy expert Sarah Pierce said said the “quintessential award you want to put on the application is Nobel Prize.” When Melania moved to New York to start modeling, she wasn’t that well known, according to industry insiders who spoke to the Post.
“She was never a supermodel. She was a working model, like so many others in New York,” a source who knew Melania in the 1990s said.
Michael Wildes, an attorney for Melania, told the Post that he wouldn’t respond to questions about Melania’s specific qualifications, but insisted she made the cut because of her talent. “Mrs. Trump was more than amply qualified and solidly eligible,” he said.
Now, under her husband’s presidency, working visas like Melania’s have become increasingly harder to get. In 2017, 50,000 less work-related visas were granted than the year before.
Melania’s parents also immigrated to the U.S. based on her sponsorship, and Donald has proposed ending this type of immigration, too.
“CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE!” he tweeted in November.