Viktor and Amalija Knavs' lawyer confirms 'they are both lawfully admitted to the United States as permanent residents'
The parents of First Lady Melania Trump have been granted permanent status in the US, a lawyer for the couple has confirmed, although questions remain about how and when they received their green cards.
Donald Trump has railed against so-called chain migration since he launched his bid for the presidency in 2016.
Immigration experts have suggested it is the likeliest way Viktor and Amalija Knavs obtained their residencies.
“I can confirm that Mrs Trump’s parents are both lawfully admitted to the United States as permanent residents,” Michael Wildes, the First Lady’s lawyer, told The Washington Post. “The family, as they are not part of the administration, has asked that their privacy be respected, so I will not comment further on this matter.”
Under family-based immigration rules, adult American citizens can apply for parents, adult married children and siblings to gain residency in the US. In the Knavs’ case, Melania would have been their sponsor.
Alternatively, they could have won the right to live in the US through sponsorship by an employer.
However, they would have to have proved that no US worker could have done their designated job.
Kehrela Hodkinson, US immigration lawyer and founder of Hodkinson Law Group, told The Independent it was “most likely” Mr and Ms Knavs arrived via family-based immigration.
She noted that as a former chauffeur and textile worker respectively, the chances of a work visa were remote.
As to the silence over how they obtained their green cards, Ms Hodkinson said it may be over an “outstanding issue” regarding whether Melania worked illegally when she first arrived in the US.
“Any information regarding the basis on which her parents applied for their green cards could result in the questions regarding Melania’s immigration history resurfacing,” she said.
Mr Wildes has previously claimed Melania arrived in the US from Slovenia in 1996 on a visitor’s visa, in order to do modelling work. Mr Trump has said he sponsored her for a green card due to her “extraordinary ability” as a model.
But a report by The Associated Press suggested Melania was paid for 10 modelling jobs in 1996 before she received permission to work in America.
Ms Hodkinson said the President’s attacks on family-based immigration could be another reason for the reluctance to make clear the Knavs’ immigration status.
In September, Mr Trump said: “CHAIN MIGRATION cannot be allowed to be part of any legislation on immigration!”
The following month, he tweeted: “CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE!”
Mr and Ms Knavs are close to obtaining citizenship and are now waiting on a date for their oath ceremony, which would see them naturalised, according to The Washington Post.
Green card holders typically have to wait five years before they can apply for citizenship.
Though it is unclear when the Knavs’ first moved to the US, Mr Knavs was listed as living in Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida by 2007.