First lady Melania Trump received permanent residence in the United States through a program for people "with extraordinary ability."
The EB-1 program is reserved for people such as academics, global business executives, Olympic athletes and award-winning actors who have shown "sustained national and international acclaim," the Washington Post reports.
“We called it the Einstein visa,” said former Rep. Bruce Morrison (D-CT), then-chairman of the House subcommittee that wrote the Immigration Act of 1990 defining EB-1.
When the then Melania Knauss received her green card, she was dating Donald Trump. She had worked as a model who had been in runway shows in Europe, a Camel cigarettes billboard, the swimsuit issue of "Sports Illustrated" and a few racy photo shoots, including one for British GQ in which she posed scantily clad on the wing of Trump's private plane and nude but for a fur blanket inside the cabin. (Today, the magazine asked outright: "Did Melania Trump get a U.S. visa thanks to this photo shoot?")
Melania Trump came to the U.S. from Slovenia in 1996. She was one of five people from that country to get green cards in 2001 through the program. Overall that year, only 3,376 of more than 1 million green cards were issued to immigrants with "extraordinary ability."
Trump attorney Michael Wildes told the Post that the first lady was "more than amply qualified and solidly eligible" for the EB-1 program but declined to elaborate on those qualifications. "There is no reason to adjudicate her petition publicly when her privacy is so important to her,” he said.
The first lady is now using the visa to sponsor her immigrant parents' citizenship process, a decades-long practice President Trump has criticized as "chain migration" and has resolved to end.
“CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE!” Trump tweeted last November.
Aside from the fact that not many models have appeared in "Sports Illustrated" hugging a giant inflatable whale, immigration experts are questioning how the first lady qualified for an EB-1. To meet the "extraordinary ability" provision, an immigrant has to submit evidence of a major award or prove they meet at least three out of 10 criteria, including commercial successes in the performing arts, work displayed at artistic exhibitions and original contributions to a field.
"What did she submit?" asked David Leopold, an immigration lawyer and a past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association asked in the "Post." "There are a lot of questions about how she procured entry into the United States."