Why People Suspect Melania Trump Was Secretly Married Before Tying The Knot With Donald

Few married couples are more ubiquitous or divisive than former president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania Trump (née Knauss), and questions surrounding the former first lady's immigration status have only fueled the flames of their notoriety. Comments from immigration attorney Michael Wildes not-so-subtly implied that Melania might have been married before Melania and Donald Trump's marriage was finalized. 

Wildes, who worked for Trump when he owned the Miss Universe pageant from 1996 to 2022, told Univision that Melania obtained a green card in 2001 — four years before marrying Trump. "Ms. Trump received citizenship in 2006, and prior to that, she had a green card based on marriage," Wildes said. "Before that, she had a work visa and was in full compliance on her visas and never disrespected any of them. That has been made clear to me." 

Melania worked as a model before becoming the First Lady of the United States, which would explain her need for a work visa. Nevertheless, there are inconsistencies between the U.S. immigration laws, legal records, and Melania's testimony regarding the two.

It's unclear what type of visa Melania had prior to her marriage

According to reporting by The Washington Post, Melania was first sponsored for an H-1B work visa in 1996. A story published by Politico suggested that Melania had done a photoshoot in New York City in 1995 that was later published in the French magazine Max and the New York Post, which wouldn't align with Melania's timeline of arriving to the States. Politico has since corrected these claims, clarifying that the photographs didn't appear in Max until 1997. 

In a 2016 interview with Harper's Bazaar, Melania said she would regularly travel back to Slovenia to renew her work visa — questions around this practice were raised because, per Southern Connecticut State University's H-1B visa guidelines, frequent renewals aren't typically required with an H-1B visa, which is valid for three years at a time. However, Melania told Harper's Bazaar that after several visa renewals, she applied for and got her green card in 2001, after which she applied for U.S. citizenship. 

While green cards can be obtained based on employment and not marriage, it's unclear why Wildes would have claimed Melania received her green card the latter way. When pressed by Univision for more details, Wildes commented, "There are certain parts of the process that remain private. The immigration authorities don't discuss this, nor should we."

Melania stands by her immigration status and marriage history

Privacy laws surrounding immigration status and the Trump administration's tight-lipped approach to Melania's travel history between Slovenia and the U.S. in the late '90s to early 2000s make it difficult to know the exact details of the former model's immigration status. However, Melania tweeted a statement on the issue in 2016. 

"In recent days, there has been a lot of inaccurate reporting and misinformation concerning my immigration status back in 1996. Let me set the record straight: I have at all times been in full compliance with the immigration laws of this country. Period," she wrote. "Any allegation to the contrary is simply untrue. In July 2006, I proudly became a U.S. 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." 

Donald and Melania's complete relationship timeline does include a rocky separation in 2000, though the couple was reunited by 2004. But aside from a few confusing discrepancies regarding Melania's exact type of work visa and her compensation as an up-and-coming model in the late '90s, there seems to be no hard-and-fast evidence that the former first lady was ever married before starting her life with Donald at Mar-A-Lago.