Stop the Abuse: How the T-Visa Can Help Victims of Human Trafficking

According to the US Department of State, an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States every year. Almost all victims of trafficking in the US are immigrants, and most of those are immigrant women. Traffickers may use deception and force to exploit people who are poor, unemployed, unable to speak English, or unfamiliar with the country and its employment laws, and those who lack access to social services. Following the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA), Congress came up with the T Visa to help protect victims of human trafficking and catch traffickers.

What is the T Visa?

T nonimmigrant status, or the T Visa, was designed to help law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute instances of human trafficking while offering protection to its victims. Described by USCIS as a “form of modern-day slavery,” trafficking can be categorized as sex or labor trafficking, though the distinction is not used for T Visa beneficiaries.

Who is eligible?

A current or former victim of trafficking, under the legal definition, may be eligible for T nonimmigrant status. That person must be located in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a port of entry as a result of trafficking. The applicant must also be considered admissible to the US or have a waiver approved on Form I-192.

What are the requirements?

Because the T Visa is also meant to help law enforcement, the applicant must cooperate with a law enforcement agency as they investigate or prosecute a case of human trafficking. The person must fulfil any reasonable request related to the investigation. A person under the age of 18, or someone who cannot comply because of physical or psychological trauma, may be exempt from that rule. In addition, the beneficiaries must prove they would suffer “extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm” as a result of deportation from the US.

How does someone apply?

Along with Form I-914, applicants will have to submit three passport-size photographs and enough supporting evidence to prove the eligibility requirements. The form includes a “personal statement” section where applicants can explain how they were victims of human trafficking. USCIS strongly recommends filing Supplement B to Form I-914, which proves that you cooperated with law enforcement. There is no fee for the main form, and you may be able to waive filing fees for any associated forms.

How exactly does it help victims?

When victims are trafficked into the United States, the T Visa prevents them from being removed to their home country. Certain family members of the main applicant may also be eligible for a derivative visa. T Visa beneficiaries can avoid any hardship or harm they might experience as a result of their deportation, and they are also legally allowed to work in the US. Because beneficiaries are asked to assist law enforcement agencies, the visa also helps to hold human traffickers accountable for their crimes.

USCIS can issue up to 5,000 T Visas a year. Each one is valid for 3 years, and a visa holder may be able to apply for permanent residence after this period. If you have any questions the T Visa application process or eligibility requirements, you should consult with a knowledgeable lawyer. Feel free to call Sánchez-Roig Law Firm, P.A. to speak with a compassionate attorney with an extensive background in immigration law. We look forward to helping you in your time of need.

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Written by SRS