Melania Trump worked illegally during first weeks in US, the AP reports

The Associated Press obtained accounting ledgers, contracts, and other documents that appear to indicate she was paid for modeling work whilst still on a visitor visa

<em>Reuters</em>
Reuters

Melania Trump was reportedly paid for modeling jobs before obtaining the proper documentation to work legally in the United States in 1996 – contradicting her earlier claims that she went through appropriate channels upon her arrival to the country.

The report came during the final days of a heated presidential election where her husband, Republican nominee Donald Trump, has campaigned on a hardline stance against undocumented immigrants. Ms Trump herself delivered her second high-profile speech about her immigration to the US on Thursday night.

The Associated Press based its findings on accounting ledgers, contracts, and other related documents from two decades ago.

Ms Trump arrived in the US on 16 August, 1996 on a B1/B2 visitor visa, as she has disclosed through a lawyer, and received her H1-B work visa on 18 October 1996. However, between that time, the AP says she earned $20,056 for 10 modeling jobs.

The payments would have fallen outside of what her initial visa would have authorised.

The AP obtained a management from the now-defunct Metropolitan International Management included a handwritten date of 27 August 1996. Another line on the document said it was “made and entered into as of this 4th day of September 1996”.

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Paolo Zampolli, a former partner of the modeling firm, had previously told the AP that he was involved in the recruitment of Ms Trump from Slovenia, but believed she had a proper work visa.

Still, he confirmed that the language on the documents was consistent with the language used by his firm at the time. He maintained that he was not specifically aware of Ms Trump’s legal status at the time.

“Honestly, I don’t know. It’s like 20 years ago,” he said. “The contract looks [like] a real one and the standard one.”

The report appears to contradict the assertion that Ms Trump was “at all times in compliance with the immigration laws of this country” made by Mr Trump, after receiving questions about his wife’s immigration narrative.

With only five days left until the election, Ms Trump had taken a more visible role in advocating for her husband on the campaign trail. During her Thursday speech she reiterated her immigration story, the time she spent as a model Europe, and her ultimate move 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 recalled. “Living and working in America was a true blessing, but I wanted something more. I wanted to be an American.”

Ms Trump received her green card in March 2001. She did not become a US citizen until 2006, after five years of permanent residence, and a year after she married Mr Trump.

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