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First lady Melania Trump's Slovenian-born parents were sworn-in as US citizens Thursday, benefiting from a path to citizenship known as family-based immigration that the president and others have derisively dubbed "chain migration".

President Donald Trump's in-laws, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, took the oath of citizenship, Wildes said.

Viktor and Amalija Knavs, both in their 70s, attending a private swearing-in ceremony in Manhattan, according to their lawyer, Michael Wildes, who said the couple had "travailed a wonderful journey" to become Americans. President Trump has decried the policy that allows US citizens to sponsor their parents and siblings for legal residency.

Their lawyer said the couple had met the five-year requirement, but added, "I can't give further comment".

Trump's in-laws had been living in the U.S. as permanent residents. The Jacob J. Javits Federal Building, at 26 Federal Plaza, also houses immigration court and the local offices of the Department of Homeland Security, and its subsidiary, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"These doors that are in America remain hinged open to lovely people as they have today", Wildes said, adding, "We just thank everybody for their attention to this very important dialogue that we're having on immigration".

That same month, only a day later, he tweeted: "Congress must end chain migration so that we can have a system that is SECURITY BASED!"

He argues instead for a merit-based system prioritising professionals over relatives, and has drawn criticism for his vocal attacks on immigration laws and immigrants.

It is not clear when the Knavs couple obtained their green cards, though their status as permanent residents was first revealed by Wildes in February. When Melania Trump began her modeling career, while still a teenager, the whole family sensed opportunity, according to those who knew them in Slovenia. Under the law, permanent residents must live in the country for at least five years before applying for citizenship.

There are only a handful of ways that immigrants to the U.S. can obtain green cards, and the largest share of them each year are given out based on familial connections.

Melania grew up in a two bedroom apartment in Sevnica, a small city formerly under communist control.

Melania Trump became a USA citizen in 2006 after marrying Trump the year before. Thomas Cioppa, New York district director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, presided over the 20-minute ceremony, Wildes said.