Report: Melania Trump Worked in the United States Without a Visa

She has previously claimed she “correctly went through the legal process when arriving in the USA.”

Melania Trump, wife of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks in Pennsylvania on Thursday.Patrick Semansky/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Melania Trump booked 10 paid modeling gigs in the United States in 1996 before formally receiving a legal work visa, according to a report published by the Associated Press late Friday night.

New documents uncovered by the AP—including financial ledgers and contracts—contradict Trump’s account in September that she “correctly went through the legal process when arriving in the USA.”

The 1996 modeling assignments for the Slovenia-born model, then Melania Knauss, totaled $20,056 and occurred in the seven weeks before she received her work visa, according to the AP.

The documents obtained by the AP show she was paid for 10 modeling assignments between Sept. 10 and Oct. 15, during a time when her visa allowed her generally to be in the U.S. and look for work but not perform paid work in the country. The documents examined by the AP indicate that the modeling assignments would have been outside the bounds of her visa.

Questions about Trump’s early immigration status have swirled ever since the New York Post published racy photo-spreads of the GOP nominee’s wife in August. At the time, the tabloid reported the photos were taken in Manhattan in 1995, raising the possibility that Trump worked without proper authorization. Trump’s lawyer, Michael J. Wildes, issued a statement flatly denying the story, and the French photographer who shot the photo spread later told Mother Jones he couldn’t remember the exact date of the shoot. (The Post corrected its story to note the photo shoot took place in 1996,and appeared in a 1997 issue of French Max magazine.)

Mother Jones first reported in August that Donald Trump’s own prestigious modeling agency, Trump Model Management, used foreign models without proper work visas—a common practice in the modeling industry. Two former models recounted stories of being encouraged to lie to customs officials when traveling to the US on tourist visas. Their time working in New York City effectively became a lengthy audition for work visas.

Read Mother Jones’s exclusive reporting on Trump Model Management and its use of foreign models.

According to a personal financial disclosure that Donald Trump filed in May, he earned nearly $2 million from the company, in which he holds an 85 percent stake.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has continued to pursue hard-line anti-immigration policies in the lead-up to Tuesday’s election. “We will deport all criminal aliens,” he declared to a rally in Selma, North Carolina on Thursday. He has also promised a crackdown on visitors to the United States who overstay their visas, saying that when any American citizen “loses their job to an illegal immigrant, the rights of that American citizen have been violated.”

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate