T Visa for Human Trafficking Victims
Victims of human trafficking who meet a variety of legal requirements are eligible to remain in the U.S. in T visa status for 4 years, and eventually on a permanent basis, in lawful permanent resident status (green card).
In general, to qualify for T visa status, a foreign national must be able to demonstrate they were victims of a trafficking scheme – whether by fraud or coercion, and with the aim of enticing vulnerable individuals to provide labor or services, including commercial sex, against their will. A T visa applicant must also be able to document their support of law enforcement’s efforts to investigate and prosecute those carrying out the trafficking scheme.
A foreign national approved for T visa status is eligible to be issued an employment authorization and to receive various forms of public assistance benefits from local and/or federal agencies.
More specifically, to qualify, the foreign national must have been the victim of a “severe form of trafficking”, defined as:
- Sex trafficking: the foreign national is recruited, transported, solicited and/or otherwise engaged in sexual activity for money, and where the victim is lured to this activity by way of force or deception, including when the lured individual is a minor,
- Labor trafficking: the foreign national is recruited, transported and/or assigned to work, either by way of deception or coercion, and against their will, including where the work is presented as an opportunity to pay off an unconscionable financial obligation.
In terms of location, a T visa applicant must be present in the U.S., American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at an official U.S. entry point, and as result of having been trafficked to one of these locations.
Another key requirement involves the applicant demonstrating that they have cooperated with the government agency or agencies charged with investigating and/or prosecuting the underlying trafficking scheme. This requirement may be waived if the victim is a minor or is otherwise incapacitated due to their having experienced extraordinary physical or emotional trauma as a result of having been trafficked. To meet this requirement, the applicant will generally need to obtain a signed certification from an authorized official of the investigating government agency, although alternative modes of documenting compliance are available.
Additionally, T visa applicants must present proof they would experience extreme hardship involving extraordinary and severe harm in the event they would be forced to depart the U.S.
The T visa application process starts with the completion and submission of Form I-914 along with a list of other requirements, including:
- The applicant’s personal statement outlining in detail all events surrounding how they were trafficked and suffered harm
- Documentation confirming applicant compliance with government agency requests for cooperation, typically by way of an agency executed Form I-914B, although this requirement can also be fulfilled through trial transcripts, agency investigation records, media accounts, court documents, or other credible documentation.
There is no filing fee for a T visa application. Furthermore, spouses, children and even parents of trafficking victims may be eligible to achieve derivative T visa status as a result of a principal applicant’s successful T visa filing.
An applicant’s chances of succeeding with a T visa filing are greatly increased with thorough planning and attention to details, including by way of the guidance and counsel of an experienced immigration lawyer. In this regard, contacting Richard Hanus and the Law Offices of Richard Hanus is a wise next step as you proceed on an informed, successful path toward T visa status, and eventually green card status.