Questions and Answers: Victims of Human Trafficking, T Nonimmigrant Status

T nonimmigrant status (T visa) is available to noncitizens who are or have been victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons and  assist law enforcement in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of acts of trafficking.  Below are Questions and Answers pertaining to T nonimmigrant status. 

Background

In October 2000, Congress created “T” nonimmigrant status by passing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. The TVPA strengthens the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute human trafficking, and also offers immigration protection to noncitizen victims. 

Questions and Answers

Q.   What Is Human Trafficking?
A. 
Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers may lure individuals with false promises of employment and a better life. Trafficking occurs when the trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion to compel forced labor or a commercial sex act, or when a victim induced to perform commercial sex is under age 18. The T visa allows victims to remain in the United States to heal, stabilize, and assist law enforcement agencies in the detection, investigation, and prosecution of human trafficking cases. 

Under Federal law, the term “severe forms of trafficking in persons” can be broken into two categories: 

  • Sex trafficking:  recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or the person being induced to perform such act is under 18 years of age. 

  • Labor trafficking: recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. 

Q.  Do Federal Laws Prohibit Trafficking In Persons?
A.   
Yes. The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude (holding another in service through force or threats of force.) The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) supplements existing laws that apply to human trafficking, including those passed to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment. The TVPA also established tools and resources to combat trafficking in persons, and provides an array of services and protections for victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons.

Q.   What Should I Do If I Believe I Am A Victim of Trafficking? 

A. If you believe you are or have been a victim of trafficking, you should attempt to contact law enforcement when it is safe to do so. To report suspected human trafficking and receive support and services to get help and information on how to stay safe, call 1-888-373-7888. This is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls from anywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 200 languages. The hotline is operated by Polaris, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization. 

Call the Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) Tip Line at 1-866-347-2423 or submit a tip online at www.ice.gov/tips to contact the ICE HSI special agent and victim assistance specialist in your area or to report tips. Highly trained law enforcement specialists are available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to receive human trafficking tips and to quickly disseminate leads to on-duty human trafficking investigators throughout the nation and around the world. Anonymous tips may be reported on the online form and via the toll-free Tip Line. 

Many social service groups and NGOs may also be able to provide assistance to victims. Explore immigration options available to trafficking victims with a legal services provider or NGO. 

Q.   What Forms of Immigration Relief Are Available to Victims of Trafficking? 
A.    Victims of trafficking who meet certain requirements are eligible for a T visa. The T visa provides immigration status to noncitizen victims and allows them to remain in the United States to assist in the detection, investigation or prosecution of acts of trafficking. Once a T visa is granted, a victim may be eligible for permanent residence if they have been continuously physically present in the United States for 3 years after first being lawfully admitted as a T nonimmigrant, or if they have been continuously physically present in the United States during the investigation or prosecution of the trafficking and the investigation or prosecution is complete, whichever occurs earlier, and if they meet other eligibility requirements. For more information T visas, see the Victims of Human Trafficking: T Nonimmigrant Status page. 

Another form of immigration relief available to victims of human trafficking is a U visa. U visas are granted to people who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of certain qualifying criminal activity, including human trafficking, and who meet other eligibility requirements. For more information about U Nonimmigrant Status, see the Victims of Criminal Activity, U Nonimmigrant Status page. 

Victims of trafficking may also qualify for the temporary immigration designation Continued Presence (CP). For more information about Continued Presence (PDF), see the Continued Presence brochure and the Continued Presence Resource Guide. 

Q.   What Are the Requirements for T Nonimmigrant Status? 
A.   To qualify for T nonimmigrant status you must demonstrate that you: 

  • Are or have been a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons. 

  • Are physically present in the United States, American Samoa, or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a port of entry, on account of trafficking. 

  • Have complied with any reasonable request from a law enforcement agency for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking or qualify for an exemption or exception. 

  • Would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if you were removed from the United States. 

If you were under the age of 18 at the time  at least one of the acts of trafficking occurred, or if you are unable to cooperate with a law enforcement request due to physical or psychological trauma, you may qualify for T nonimmigrant status without complying with a request to assist law enforcement. 

You must also be admissible to the United States or obtain a waiver of all relevant grounds of inadmissibility. 

Q.   Are There Fees That I Must Pay to Apply for the T Visa? 
A.   There is no fee to file a Form I-914, Application for T Nonimmigrant Status. You may submit a Request for Fee Waiver, Form I-912 (or a written request), for all other forms associated with filing your Form I-914. 

Q.   Can My Family Members Also Obtain T Nonimmigrant Status? 
A.   Yes. Certain family members are eligible for derivative T nonimmigrant status. Regardless of your age, you may apply for the following family members if they are in present danger of retaliation as a result of your escape from trafficking or cooperation with law enforcement: 

  • Your parents;
  • Your unmarried siblings under 18 years of age; and 
  • The children of any age or marital status of your qualifying family members who have been granted derivative T nonimmigrant status. 

If your family members are not in present danger of retaliation, then follow the chart below:

If you are… 

Then you may apply for your... 

Under 21 years old 

  • Spouse 

  • Unmarried children who are under 21 years old 

  • Parents 

  • Unmarried siblings who are under 18 years old 

21 years old or older 

  • Spouse 

  • Unmarried children who are under 21 years old 

Q.   Are There a Limited Number of T Visas That Can Be Given Each Year? 
A.   Yes.  Congress has limited the number of T nonimmigrant visas available to principal victims of trafficking  to 5,000 visas per fiscal year. The victim’s qualifying family members do not count towards this annual cap. The T visa annual cap has never been reached. 

Q.   Can I Legally Work in the United States if I Have T Nonimmigrant Status? 
A.   Whether you need to file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, depends on whether you are a principal applicant or qualifying family member. 

If your application as a principal T-1 nonimmigrant is approved, you are authorized to work. When USCIS grants T-1 nonimmigrant status to a principal applicant, an Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766/EAD) is issued at the same time. The information for the EAD is generated from the Form I-914. There is no need to file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, along with the application for T-1 nonimmigrant status if you are the principal applicant. 

If you are a qualifying family member of the principal T-1 nonimmigrant residing in the United States, you must file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, to apply for employment authorization and obtain an EAD before you are eligible to work. You may file Form I-765 with your Form I-914, Supplement A, or at a later time. If you live outside the United States, you are not eligible to receive employment authorization until you are lawfully admitted to the United States. Do not file Form I-765 if you are living outside the United States.  

Q.   How Long Am I Allowed to Remain in the United States With T Nonimmigrant Status? 
A.  T nonimmigrant status is valid for up to 4 years. Extensions are available in certain limited circumstances.  T nonimmigrants may be eligible for permanent residence (Green Card) after 3 years of continuous physical presence in the United States after first being lawfully admitted as a T nonimmigrant, or earlier, in certain circumstances, if they meet additional requirements for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence. 

Q.   How Can I Apply For Permanent Residence (Green Card)?
A.
   You may apply for permanent residence by submitting Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. You must have been lawfully admitted to the United States as a T nonimmigrant and must continue to hold such status at the time of application.

To qualify for permanent residence, you must:

  • Be physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least three years in T nonimmigrant status, or a continuous period during the investigation or prosecution of the acts of trafficking, provided that the Attorney General has certified that the investigation or prosecution is complete, whichever time is less.
  • Maintain good moral character during your stay in the United States.
  • Have complied with any reasonable request for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of acts of trafficking demonstrate extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal from the United States or have been under 18 years of age at the time you file this application.
  • Be admissible to the United States, or obtain a waiver of admissibility.

For more information on Green Cards, see the Victims of Human Trafficking: T Nonimmigrant Status page.
 
Q.   Is A Victim of Trafficking Eligible For Any Services And Benefits?
A.   Victims of trafficking may be eligible for a number of federally and state funded benefits and services regardless of immigration status if they have been certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Once a victim has been certified, they are eligible for benefits and services to the same extent as a refugee. If the victim is under the age of 18, they are eligible for certain benefits without the requirement of certification.

Additional information

To report trafficking in persons call: the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.  

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