Melania Trump's nude photos expose gap in her immigration story
By Jessica Schneider, Chris Welch and Sarah Jorgensen
(CNN) - When the New York Post published several nude photos of Melania Trump this week, it wasn't just her body that was exposed -- the shots also revealed a potential discrepancy in her immigration history.
According to Melania Trump, the story of her American arrival is quite simple: "I came to the United States, to New York, in 1996," she told CNN's Anderson Cooper on February 29, 2016.
But Melania posed for those photos, which appeared in the French magazine Max, during a shoot in New York City in 1995. She was 25 at the time and known as "Melania K," according to Bojan Pozar, the author of the biography "Melania Trump: The Inside Story."
That year is possibly the key to whether or not Melania, now 46, broke immigration law by working in the US without the proper visa.
Melania, who is from Slovenia, has said she came to the United States "the right way," on a visa.
"I flew to Slovenia every few months to stamp it. And came back, I applied for green card, and after a few years for citizenship," she told Anderson Cooper. "I obeyed the law. I did it the right way. I didn't just sneak in and stay here. So I think that's what people should do."
If this is accurate, Melania's visa would have been the type that had to be updated periodically, such as a tourist visa. However, this kind of visa doesn't allow for someone to work in the United States, according to New York immigration attorney David Gottfried.
The question is whether Melania was employed as a model before she was issued the H-1B visa, which allows people to work in the country for up to three years, with possible extensions up to six years. With this kind of visa, Melania wouldn't have had to return to Slovenia for updated stamps.
The man who discovered Melania, Paolo Zampolli, told CNN that he sponsored her H-1B visa through his modeling agency in 1996 -- a year after that racy photo shoot.
But it still may not have been illegal because, according to the photographer, Melania likely wasn't paid for the shoot. Photographer Jarl Ale de Basseville said he and the models did the free work to get exposure in the well-known French magazine.
"You were making this kind of magazine to have exposure, and this exposure was bringing you to the next level to have a catalogue," de Basseville told CNN. "No one was paying. No one was getting paid."
Melania isn't clearing up the timing on her arrival either. Instead, she wrote on Twitter:
"Let me set the record straight: I have at all times been in full compliance with the immigration laws of this country. Period. Any allegation to the contrary is simply untrue. In July 2006, I proudly became a US citizen. Over the past 20 years, I have been fortunate to live, work and raise a family in this great nation and I share my husband's love for our country."
Regardless, Michael Wildes, an immigration attorney who works with the Miss Universe pageant and the Trump Organization, said Melania's upstanding character enabled her to become a citizen in 2006, and any visa problems in the mid-1990s would not have prevented her from gaining citizenship.
"The main element of determining citizenship is a person's character, and that has been beyond reproach since 2006," Wildes said. "This issue is more political than legal."
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