Victims of Human Trafficking, T Nonimmigrant Status
Questions and Answers: Victims of Human Trafficking, T Nonimmigrant Status
T Nonimmigrant Status (T Visa) is set aside for those who are or have been victims of human trafficking and are willing to assist law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of acts of trafficking. Below are Questions and Answers pertaining to T nonimmigrant status.
In October 2000, Congress created the “T” nonimmigrant status by passing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA). The legislation strengthens the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute human trafficking, and also offer protection to victims.
Questions and Answers
What Is Human Trafficking?
A. Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers lure individuals with false promises of employment and a better life. Traffickers often take advantage of poor, unemployed individuals who lack access to social safety nets. The T nonimmigrant visa allows victims to remain in the United States to assist federal authorities in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases.
To consider a situation ‘trafficking’ depends on the type of work, and the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain or maintain work.
Under Federal law, the term “severe forms of trafficking” 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.
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 Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) supplements existing laws that apply to human trafficking, including those passed to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment. The VTVPA also establishes new tools and resources to combat trafficking in persons, and provides an array of services and protections for victims of severe forms of trafficking.
Is There Any Immigration Relief Available For a Victim of a Severe Form of Trafficking In Persons?
A. Yes. Victims of severe forms of human trafficking are eligible for a T Nonimmigrant status (T visa). The T nonimmigrant visa allows victims to remain in the United States to assist in the investigation or prosecution of human traffickers. Once a T nonimmigrant visa is granted, a victim can apply for permanent residence after three years.
How Do You Become Eligible For T Nonimmigrant Status?
A. To qualify for T nonimmigrant status you must:
Be or have been a victim of severe trafficking in persons.
Be 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.
Comply with any reasonable request from a law enforcement agency for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking.
Demonstrate that you would suffer extreme hardship involving severe and unusual harm if you were removed from the United States.
If under the age of 18 at the time of the victimization, or if you are unable to cooperate with a law enforcement request due to physical or psychological trauma, you may qualify for the T nonimmigrant visa without having to assist in investigation or prosecution.
You must also be admissible to the United States or obtain a waiver of admissibility.
What is the Application Process to Obtain a T Nonimmigrant Visa?
A. If you are a victim of a severe form of trafficking, you must submit a Form I-914, Application for T Nonimmigrant Status. The Form I-914 requests information regarding your eligibility for T nonimmigrant status, as well as admissibility to the United States. You must also include a statement in your own words about your victimization. You may submit a law enforcement agency endorsement using Form I-914, Supplement B, Declaration of Law Enforcement Officer for Victim of Trafficking in Persons. You also have the option to submit secondary evidence of compliance with reasonable requests for assistance. This evidence may include: trial transcripts, court documents; police reports, news articles and affidavits.
Are There Fees That I Must Pay To Apply?
A. There is no fee to file a Form I-914, Application for T Nonimmigrant Status. You may submit a request for a waiver of the filing fees for all other forms associated with filing your Form I-914.
Can My Family Members Also Obtain T Nonimmigrant Status?
A. Yes. Immediate family members are eligible for derivative nonimmigrant status.
If the principle applicant is Under 21 years of age the applicant may apply on behalf of spouse, children, parents and unmarried siblings under age 18.
If the principle applicant is 21 years of age or older the applicant may apply on behalf of spouse and children.
To apply for family members, you must submit a Form I-914 Supplement A, Application for Immediate Family Member of T-1 Recipient. Your family member’s application can be filed at the same time as you or at a later time.
Are There a Limited Number of T Nonimmigrant Visas Given Each Year?
A. Yes. Congress has limited the number of T Nonimmigrant visas granted each year to 5,000. This does not apply for family derivative visas. Once the cap is reached, applicants will be placed on a waiting list. This waiting list allows those applicants who cannot be granted a visa due to the numerical limitation to obtain priority in the following year.
Can I Legally Work in the United States If I Have T Nonimmigrant Status?
A. Yes. When USCIS grants T nonimmigrant status, an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is granted 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 a T Nonimmigrant status.
How Long Am I Allowed to Remain in the United States With My T Nonimmigrant Visa?
A. The T Nonimmigrant visa is valid for 3 years and a visa holder may be eligible to apply for permanent residence (Green Card) after 3 years in T nonimmigrant status.
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 investigation or prosecution or demonstrate extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal from the United States.
Be admissible to the United States, or obtain a waiver of admissibility.
Is A Victim of Trafficking Eligible For Any Services And Benefits?
A. Victims of trafficking may be eligible for a number of federally 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 the same services as a refugee. If the victim is under the age of 18, he or she is eligible for certain benefits without the requirement of certification.
Are There Any Other Forms of Immigration Relief Available to Victims of Trafficking?
A. Yes. Another status granted to victims of human trafficking is U nonimmigrant status (U visa). To apply for a U visa, victims must file a Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. U visas are awarded to people who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of specified criminal activity.
Contributed by Svetlana Prizant, an Award Winning Queens Immigration Lawyer.
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