Melania Trump is embroiled in controversy after it emerged that she was granted a green card in the elite EB-1 employment based immigrant program – reserved for renowned academics, multinational business managers and executives being transferred to the US, Olympic athletes and Oscar winning actors who demonstrated ‘sustained national and international acclaim,’- in March 2001. It is important to note that international executives and managers coming under the EB1C immigrant visa scheme do not have to be the top people in their field. They can be managers in small businesses and may be lower level and middle level managers.
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In reality US employment based immigrant visas have lengthy processing times. Employers are likely to apply for non-immigrant visas such as L1 visas, E2 visas, E1 visas and B1 in lieu of H1B visas instead of immigrant visas for many employees which have much shorter processing times.
Melania Trump's husband Donald Trump continues to make more news than most other US Presidents, thanks to his strange and unpredictable behaviour. President Trump sometimes likes to criticize comedians. He has attacked Stephen Colbert of the Late Show and Alec Baldwin of Saturday Night Live. Both shows have achieved significant rating boosts since Donald Trump became President. Below is an amusing Twitter exchange between Trump and Alec Baldwin.
Prior to her marriage to Donald Trump, Slovenian national Melania Knauss’ career included runway shows in Europe, a Camel cigarette billboard ad in Times Square and modeling for a swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated, which featured her on a beach wearing a string bikini while hugging a six-foot inflatable whale.
Despite none of these gigs meeting the ‘extraordinary ability’ criteria to obtain an EB-1 visa, the now First Lady was issued with a green card, regardless. In 2000, while dating Trump, Melania urged the government to grant her the right to remain in the US permanently.
EB1 Employment Based Immigrant visa referred to as “Einstein visa”
In the year that Melania was granted her EB-1 visa, dubbed the ‘Einstein visa’ by Bruce Morrison, a former Democratic congressman and chairman of the House subcommittee that wrote the Immigration Act of 1990 defining EB-1, just five people from Slovenia were issued with greens cards via the EB-1 program, according to the US State Department.
In total, out of the one million green cards granted in 2001, only 3,376 – less than one per cent - were issued to immigrants with ‘extraordinary abilities’, according to government archives.
Despite Melania’s career history failing to fit the ‘extraordinary ability’ criteria, by securing a US green card it put her on course not only to achieve US citizenship, but put her in a position to sponsor legal residency for her parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs.
According to a report published by the Washington Post her parents are close to securing their own US citizenship.
Contradictory ‘chain migration’ stance
In light of Melania’s methods for securing US entry for her parents, Trump’s Twitter tirade blasting chain migration back in November 2017 seems somewhat hypocritical. His controversial Tweet stated: “CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE!”
The President has since proposed scrapping the sponsorship of relatives, including parents, and continues to criticize chain migration for giving foreign nationals, who have become US citizens, ‘the decades-long ability to assist relatives in securing legal residency.’
Meanwhile, Michael Wildes, an attorney for Melania Trump and her family, refused to disclose whether the First Lady sponsored her parents for green cards. He did say that the lack of EB-1 visas issued to Slovenian nationals in 2001 is ‘no surprise’ because the criteria is strict.
Melania was eligible was EB1 Immigrant Visa
Wildes said: “Mrs Trump was more than amply qualified and solidly eligible.” However, he offered no comment on the qualifications that the First Lady had specified when filing her petition for permanent residency. He said: “There is no reason to adjudicate her petition publicly when her privacy is so important to her.”
Meanwhile, a White House spokesperson for the First Lady dodged questions about Melania’s US immigration status by directing them to Wildes.
Elsewhere, immigration experts say that Trump’s efforts to restrict legal immigration by targeting visa programmes such as the H-1B, L1, E1 and more recently the E2 scheme, have brought to light ‘lingering questions’ about how the First Lady and her relatives managed to secure residency in the United States.
The major question being asked is just how did Melania persuade US immigration officials that she was eligible for the EB-1 visa program?
Bruce Morrison indicates that Melania’s 2001 resume is ‘inconsistent’ with the necessary requirements of the visa. To be issued with an EB-1 in accordance with the extraordinary ability category, an immigrant must provide proof of a major award or at least meet three out of 10 key criteria.
The criteria includes:
· Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts
· Evidence of work displayed at artistic exhibitions
· Evidence of original contributions to a field
Former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AIA), David Leopold, said: “What did she submit? There are a lot of questions about how she procured entry into the United States.”
Extraordinary ability standard subjective
According to Sarah Pierce, an immigration expert at the Migration Policy Institute – a Washington based think tank – the process of determining who meets the ‘extraordinary ability’ standard is subjective.
However, the general consensus is that only two per cent of people in their field would be eligible. Pierce said: “The award you want to put on your application is the Nobel Prize.”
Melania first arrived in the US from Slovenia in 1996, on a visitor visa and then US work visas, according to Wildes. She was little-known in the highly competitive New York fashion world, according to people in the industry.
One person from Melania’s past, who knew her in the 1990s and wished to remain anonymous, said: “She was never a supermodel, she was a working model — like so many others in New York.”
In 1998, at the age of 28, Melania started dating Trump after meeting him at a party, a partnership that would quickly raise her modeling profile. She started appearing in pictures on the arm of the then real estate tycoon.
During this time, she was modeling on a US work visa for skilled immigrants. Melania was granted five H-1B visas between October 1996 and 2001, according to Wildes. Under the Trump presidency, H-1B visas have become harder to obtain, with 50,000 fewer visas issued in 2017 compared with 2016, according to USCIS.
With US immigration firmly in the spotlight, questions about Melania’s immigration status are likely to linger for a while longer.
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