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WASHINGTON — Melania Trump’s former modeling agent says she got a work visa before becoming a professional model in the United States in the mid-1990s. The comments came in response to questions about Trump’s own remarks. Mrs. Trump who seemed inconsistent with US immigration rules.

In an interview with The Associated Press, agent Paolo Zampolli offered the most detailed description yet of how the wife of the Republican presidential candidate entered the country.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has repeatedly refused to clarify his remarks. The campaign also declined to discuss Mrs. Trump’s immigration history in detail or provide copies of any documents that would end the issue.

Donald Trump has made illegal immigration a signature board in his campaign platform, and his wife has often cited his path to US citizenship to defend his hardline, saying she came to the US legally and that other American wannabes should follow his example.

Zampolli said that when he was a partner at the Metropolitan Models modeling agency, he secured a work visa for Mrs. Trump, who in the mid-1990s went by the name Melania Knauss.

“I know she wasn’t gainfully employed before she got the H-1B,” Zampolli said, referring to the type of work visas that American companies can get for “models of merit and ability. distinguished”. H-1B visas generally allow a person to work and live in the United States for three years with the option to renew visas for another three years.

Zampolli said he based the H-1B app on Mrs. Trump’s previous modeling work in Paris and Milan. “We used everything she did before to get her a visa,” he said. “She had enough tear sheets to qualify.”

In interviews earlier this year with MSNBC and for a profile in Harper’s Bazaar, Mrs. Trump’s comments seemed inconsistent with holding a work visa.

“I never thought I would stay here without papers. I had a visa. I used to go back to the country every few months in Slovenia to get the visa stamped,” she said during the MSNBC interview.

US immigration law did not require such trips as Mrs Trump describes for work visa holders at the time. Persons holding visitor visas would be required to leave the country no later than the end date of their authorized stay. US law does not allow someone to use a visitor visa to regularly live and work in the country.

Mrs. Trump released a statement on Twitter on Thursday, disputing that she violated immigration laws. “I have always respected the immigration laws of this country. Period. Any claim to the contrary is simply false,” she wrote.

Mrs Trump said she came to the US in 1996 on a visa, got her green card in 2001 and became a US citizen in 2006, the year after she married Donald Trump.

In her statement, Mrs. Trump did not specify which visa she held at the start of her modeling career in New York.

Zampolli said on Thursday he thought Mrs Trump was confused about her visa requirements, noting that she had traveled to Slovenia to visit family several times.

Zampolli said he did not know if Mrs. Trump had ever held a different visa. He said it was possible she came to the United States on a visitor’s visa to consult with the modeling agency, a practice he said was common when foreign models considered making the jump to New York. York.

“They come and meet with the client to see if they really should come to New York,” he said, noting that the process often includes taking pictures to build a portfolio to attract bigger modeling contracts. .

In her statement, Mrs Trump did not respond to reports from Bloomberg News, Politico and The Washington Post speculating whether nude photos taken of her in New York in 1995 were proof that she had worked illegally in the United States before. to obtain the appropriate visa.

US law allows a person to use a visitor visa to conduct temporary business for a foreign company or explore future career opportunities such as visiting modeling agencies or meeting potential clients.

Zampolli, who did not book the photoshoot, said the photos, which appeared in French magazine Max, were likely a “free shot to build the model’s book. She needed to get her tear sheets “.

The AP left a phone message Thursday with the photographer who took the photos, but he was not immediately returned. The photographer, Jarl Ale de Basseville, told the Washington Post that Trump was not paid for the photo shoot.