Tills Visa Law

Stephen K. Tills, Attorney at LAW

Melania Trump’s Visa Controversy

There is speculation by some in the media that Melania Trump may have obtained her lawful permanent resident status, LPR, (Green card) despite having a possible visa violation.

Melania and Donald Trump

Melania and Donald Trump

Let’s skip the speculating, because we don’t know what her status was prior to her marriage with Donald Trump.  But, based on what we do know, we can discuss as follows:

1.  Was Melania, born in Slovenia, permitted to conduct a photo shoot in the U.S. in the mid-nineties?

She is reported to have had the name Melania Krauss when She performed modeling shoots in the U.S.. As a model, like any other non-immigrant who has not obtained a work permit, She cannot be employed in the U.S..  She can work for free, She can be self-employed, or She can run a business, but She can not be a paid employee of a U.S. company without work authorization.

So, yes, She was permitted to do a photo shoot but could not be paid.

2. In what specific visa status could She work as a model?

***      B-1 business visitor.  If She was not paid for her work.  The most common visitor visa, with a maximum stay of 6 months, the B visa is issued to tourists as a B-2, or for business as a B-1.

USA Visa Law

USA Visa Law

Models use the B-1 for photo shoots to build a resume and pardon the pun, exposure.  They cannot receive pay for the work.

Ms. Trump could have done the same activity if She entered under the Visa Waiver program, with maximum stay of 3 months,  except that Slovenia, a part of the former Yugoslavia, wasn’t added as a U.S. visa waiver country until September, 1997.

***  H-1B visa.  This category is usually reserved for persons in high-skilled employment, with at least a bachelor’s degree,  but an exception has been made for modeling. The H-1 visa permits compensable employment and a continuous stay in the U.S. for up to 3 years, and then is renewable for an additional 3 years.

3.  What if Melania worked without authorization (for compensation) prior to her marriage to Trump and subsequent Immigrant Visa application?

It would not have prevented her from filing the visa application.  Spouses of U.S. Citizens are given special status throughout Immigration law, and applying for Lawful Permanent Resident LPR status is one example.  Unauthorized employment in the U.S. does not make spouses of U.S. citizens in-eligible to file for a green card.




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