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I am a human trafficking victim and need a T visa

Immigration Laws & Rights

This guide, adapted from material by American Gateways, answers common questions about human trafficking and T Visas.
Overview

Guide Overview

Sometimes referred to as modern-day slavery, human trafficking occurs when there is forced labor, indentured servitude, or commercial sex exploitation, by means of force, fraud, or coercion. 

Common questions about Immigration Laws & Rights

No.

A T visa is a form of immigration relief specifically for people who have been victims of any kind of human trafficking. A U visa is a similar form of immigration relief for people who have been victims of a qualifying crime within the U.S. who have cooperated with law enforcement agencies in the investigation or prosecution of that crime.

Unlike the U Visa, the T Visa does not always require a law enforcement certification. For a U Visa, a law enforcement agency must certify that the victim is cooperating with the investigation and prosecution. In the case of T Visas, the applicant must have complied with any reasonable request from a law enforcement agency for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking. However, cooperation with a law enforcement agency is not required if the applicant was under eighteen years of age at the time of the trafficking or if the applicant is unable to cooperate due to physical or psychological trauma.  

Yes, a T visa grants legal status for four years.

After having lived in the U.S. continuously for three of those four years, T visa holders become eligible to apply to adjust their status to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR or "green card"). Then—as soon as five years after being granted LPR status—the applicant may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.

It depends on each case’s specific facts. An applicant must show that he or she is physically present in the United States or at a port of entry (such as a border) on account of the trafficking. Talk to an immigration attorney for advice. 

Yes, but Congress is only authorized to issue 5,000 T visas each fiscal year. Applicants who are approved for T visa status after those 5,000 T visas have been issued go on a waitlist. Those on the waitlist get priority for the T visas issued the next fiscal year.  

The cap of 5,000 T Visas has never been met. For this reason, T Visas may be more widely available than other forms of immigration relief such as the U Visa and VAWA.  

See T-Visas and Trafficking: Answers to Common Questions, available at TexasLawHelp, prepared by American Gateways.

It depends. Generally, a T visa applicant who is under age 21 may apply on behalf of her spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings who are under age 18. If a principal T visa applicant is over 21 years old, then he or she may apply on behalf of a spouse and children.  

Regardless of applicant’s age, if there is present danger of retaliation to family members due to the trafficking or the survivor’s cooperation with law enforcement, a T visa applicant can include parents, unmarried siblings under 18 years old, and adult or minor children of derivatives. 

Talk to an immigration attorney for more information and case-specific questions. This article answers common questions about T visas and trafficking.

Yes. Once your T visa is approved, you will receive an employment authorization card that allows you to work legally in the U.S. for a period of four years. With your employment authorization card, you may request a social security number, as well as a state ID card or driver’s license.

A person who meets each of the following general requirements may be eligible for a T visa:

  1. Survivor of “severe trafficking” (use of force, fraud, or coercion for sex trafficking; and/or involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery); and
  2. Who is physically present in the U.S. on account of trafficking; and
  3. Who has complied with any reasonable request by federal, state, or local law enforcement to assist in the investigation or prosecution of such trafficking; and
  4. Who would suffer extreme hardship involving severe and unusual harm upon removal.

Talk to an immigration attorney about how your experience meets these requirements. Specific factors such as the age of the victim; location of the trafficking experience; level of trauma; and evidence available affect how each applicant must these requirements.

While there are several ways to gain employment authorization in the U.S., there are relatively few types of work visa. Work visas are documents authorizing a person to come to the United States for the specific purpose of employment. Most employment visas, including the H-1B Visa, are reserved for applicants with advanced technical skills, such as scientists and engineers. These visas typically require that the applicant have an employer “sponsor” in the U.S. who is committed to hiring them, and who has made assertions about the unavailability of similar applicants within the U.S. labor market. Other types of employment visas are available to individuals with special talents, such professional athletes and musicians, and for business owners abroad who are prepared to make a substantial investment in the U.S. economy (such as by opening a new office or factory).

While there are some employment visas available to low-skilled workers, these are primarily for seasonal work in the agricultural sector. They make up a relatively small percentage of the total number of employment visas the government issues each year, and are very difficult to obtain.

A T visa is granted for a period of 4 years. T nonimmigrants who qualify may also be able to adjust their status and become lawful permanent residents. Generally, T visa beneficiaries are eligible to apply for permanent residency after three years starting from the time that they received their T visa. However, if the investigation or prosecution of the trafficking crime has concluded, a T visa beneficiary may be eligible to adjust sooner.   

Instructions & Forms

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not legal advice and are not a substitute for the help of a lawyer.

Gather the following evidence, if possible, before applying for a T Visa.

Checklist Steps

Examples of documentary evidence are police reports, emails confirming interviews, business cards, etc., that show you reported the trafficking experience to the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the trafficking event occurred.

Examples include your birth certificate, ID, passport, marriage and divorce certificates, and any identity documents for your children and spouse.

This is a certification from law enforcement that you were the victim of human trafficking. It is not required, but it is recommended. Talk to an immigration attorney for help.

You will want to produce a sworn declaration about your experience. Talk to an immigration attorney for help.

Gather:

  • Medical reports: Hospital records, rape examinations, etc.
  • Mental assessments for trauma. This can include proof that you are receiving treatment/counseling or have received treatment from a mental health professional for any harm that you have suffered.

Gather secondhand evidence of your experience, such as news articles, letters from witnesses, etc. 

Evidence of Extreme Hardship can be medical reports of mental or physical illness; evidence that U.S. citizen immediate relatives would not be able to seamlessly move to another country; or reports of the condition of the country you would be required to return to. 

Forms Required

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