What is the ‘Einstein visa’ Melania Trump was issued?

First lady Melania Trump became a U.S. citizen after getting a type of visa that is reserved for immigrants with "extraordinary ability," according to a story in The Washington Post.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says the EB-1, or the so-called “Einstein visa” that Trump was issued, is reserved for individuals who “have an extraordinary ability, are an outstanding professor or researcher, or are a multinational executive or manager.”

The first lady came to the United States in 1996 on a tourist’s visa. Subsequently, she stayed in the country to work as a model from October of that year until 2001 by applying for and being granted an H-1B visa. The H-1B visa is an employment-based, non-immigrant visa. The visa allows foreigners to work in the United States on a temporary basis for up to six years.

In 2000, Trump began applying for the EB-1 visa. She was modeling in the United States under the name Melania Knauss at that time. At the time, she was not yet married to Donald Trump.

Melania Trump was approved for the EB-1 in 2001 and became a U.S. citizen in 2006.

What is an EB-1 visa and how do you get one? Here is what the visa covers and who is eligible for one:

Who is eligible for an EB-1?

The EB-1 visa is not an easy document to get. Those who apply for one must be a member of one of three immigration classifications and must meet three of 10 criteria recognized by the USCIS.

“You may be eligible for an employment-based, first-preference visa if you have an extraordinary ability, are an outstanding professor or researcher, or are a multinational executive or manager. Each occupational category has certain requirements that must be met.”

Extraordinary ability: You must be able to demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim. Your achievements must be recognized in your field through extensive documentation. No offer of employment is required. You must meet three of 10 criteria below or provide evidence of a one-time achievement (i.e. Pulitzer, Oscar, Olympic medal)

Outstanding professors and researchers: You must demonstrate international recognition for your outstanding achievements in a particular academic field. You must have at least three years of experience in teaching or research in that academic area. You must be entering the United States in order to pursue tenure or tenure track teaching or comparable research position at a university or other institution of higher education. You must include documentation of at least two listed below and an offer of employment from the prospective U.S. employer.

Multinational manager or executive: You must have been employed outside the United States in the three years preceding the petition for at least one year by a firm or corporation and you must be seeking to enter the United States to continue service to that firm or organization. Your employment must have been outside the United States in a managerial or executive capacity and with the same employer, an affiliate or a subsidiary of the employer. Your petitioning employer must be a U.S. employer. Your employer must have been doing business for at least one year as an affiliate a subsidiary or as the same corporation or other legal entity that employed you abroad.

You must meet three out of the 10 listed criteria below to prove extraordinary ability in your field:

  • Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence
  • Evidence of your membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members
  • Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media
  • Evidence that you have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel
  • Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field
  • Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media
  • Evidence that your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases
  • Evidence of your performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations
  • Evidence that you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field
  • Evidence of your commercial successes in the performing arts

How did Melania Trump fit into the categories and evidence required?

Melania Trump’s attorney, Michael Wildes told The Post that she “was more than amply qualified and solidly eligible,” for the EB-1 visa, but would not comment on the evidence she presented to be considered for the special visa.

She was a model in Europe and then the United States and was on the cover of British GQ and featured in a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. She had been modeling in New York in the years before she applied for the EB-1 and married Donald Trump.

According to the Post story, State Department records show that Knauss was one of only five people from Slovenia who received permanent residency cards or “green cards” under the EB-1 program in 2001, the year she received hers. A total of 3,376 were granted green cards via the EB-1 system that year. A green card is a permit that allows someone who is not a native to live and work permanently in the United States.

Testimonials are part of the process, and if she received a testimonial from her future husband, a real estate mogul in New York City, that could have gone a long way toward raising her profile, according to Susan McFadden, a lawyer who specializes in visas at the Gudeon and McFadden law firm in London.

"An experienced lawyer knows what the U.S. citizenship and immigration services are looking for, and how to bring out of the client's background things that will be attractive to the agency,” McFadden told the BBC.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, left, greet Franklin Graham and other family members of Rev. Billy Graham, as he lies in honor during a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP)

Credit: Chip Somodevilla

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Credit: Chip Somodevilla