Melania Trump’s Parents Become Naturalized Citizens

Viktor and Amalija Knavs listen as their attorney makes a statement in New York, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. First Lady Melania Trump's parents have been sworn in as U.S. citizens. A lawyer for the Knavs says the Slovenian couple took the citizenship oath on Thursday in New York City. They had been living in the U.S. as permanent residents. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Viktor and Amalija Knavs listen as their attorney makes a statement in New York, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. First Lady Melania Trump’s parents have been sworn in as U.S. citizens. A lawyer for the Knavs says the Slovenian couple took the citizenship oath on Thursday in New York City. They had been living in the U.S. as permanent residents. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

President Donald Trump’s in-laws are officially United States citizens, obtaining their citizenship through the sponsorship of their adult daughter, one of the very categories of family visas that the administration has sought to end. Viktor and Amalija Knavs, the parents of first lady Melania Trump, were granted citizenship Thursday, their immigration attorney, Michael Wildes, announced.

“It went well and they are very grateful and appreciative of this wonderful day for their family,” he said in a statement to CNN.

Viktor and Amalija Knavs, who are from Slovenia, had been living in the United States with green cards and have been frequently spotted in Washington since their son-in-law assumed the presidency. A source with direct knowledge of Melania Trump’s parents and their immigration status told CNN that Melania Trump sponsored her parents for their green cards, a status that allowed them to live and work in the US indefinitely and paved the way for citizenship. That type of family visa is exactly one of the categories that Trump and his allies have tried to repeal, saying they are harmful to the US. The first lady’s office declined to comment.

Wildes criticized the Trump administration’s immigration policies to CNN. There are only a handful of ways that immigrants to the US can obtain green cards, and the largest share of them each year are given out based on familial connections. A smaller number go to immigrants based on their employment, and other categories include refugees and other special cases. Advocates for restricting legal immigration have pointed to the imbalance in favor of family connections as evidence of the need for reform, calling for a “merit-based” system that would choose immigrants based on need in the US.