T Visa for Victims of Trafficking

What is the T visa?

The T visa is a US non-immigrant visa issued to victims of human trafficking. This includes both (minor) children and adults. Since there are many people who are smuggled into the United States illegally and against their will with false claims for work and other benefits, the United States allows them to apply for this type of visa to ease their hardships.

How is human trafficking defined in this case?

Human trafficking in the case of the T visa is defined in detail and includes three elements such as:

  • Trafficking process – which must include recruiting, transferring, transporting, harboring or receiving someone against their will
  • Means of trafficking – which must include coercion, threat, fraud, kidnapping, deception, deception or abuse of power
  • Target of trafficking – which must include pornography, prostitution, violence, forced labor, sexual exploitation, debt bondage, involuntary servitude or slavery

Am I eligible for T nonimmigrant status?

To qualify as a victim of human trafficking, those who are adults must demonstrate at least one element of the three, while children must demonstrate only the Process or Objective of Trafficking elements. In addition to these three elements, the victim must have been trafficked to the United States and be in the country.

The victim does not need to know that they are a victim of trafficking in order to obtain a visa, but they are required to cooperate with law enforcement in their investigations.

To be eligible for the T visa, you must meet several criteria, as follows:

  • You must be a victim of human trafficking as defined above and in the legal documents.
  • You must have been trafficked into the United States and currently be in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or a U.S. port of entry
  • You must be willing to cooperate with law enforcement to assist in their investigation. You are exempt from this obligation to cooperate if:
  • You are a child under the age of 18
  • You have suffered substantial physical or mental trauma
  • You must demonstrate that sending you back from the United States would cause you to suffer extreme hardship or serious harm. This can be done:
  • Demonstrate that you will not be able to get medical care in your home country like in the United States
  • Proving that your government will not offer good protection
  • Demonstrate that you would be stigmatized in your home country as a victim of human trafficking, etc.
  • You must be admissible to the United States and not have broken any immigration rules. If you are not eligible, you may file Form I-129, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant.

What are the benefits of the T visa?

Once the T visa is granted to the victim of human trafficking, they are automatically granted benefits similar to those obtained by refugees. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Refugee Resettlement must certify that the person was a victim to be eligible for these benefits.

Additionally, the T visa holder automatically obtains an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) without needing to apply for one. The EAD grants them the right to work in any legal business, part-time or full-time, and for whatever period of time they choose.

How to apply for a T visa?

The procedure for applying for the T visa is quite simple. In contrast to the U visa application process, where the applicant can be located in the United States or abroad, the applicant must be located within the United States to be eligible for a T visa application. This means that there is no need to pass through a US embassy, but contact the Vermont Service Center or USCIS directly.

To apply for the T visa, the applicant must submit the following:

  • A completed Form I-914, Application for Nonimmigrant Status T.
  • Completed Form I-914, Supplement B, Law Enforcement Officer Declaration for Victim of Human Trafficking. This is a certification that you are a victim of human trafficking, as proven by law enforcement.
  • 3 passport-sized photographs that meet US visa photography requirements.
  • Other evidence to demonstrate that you meet the eligibility criteria.
  • What are the fees for applying for the T visa?
  • When you submit your application package, you will not be charged any application fees. So the T visa is free, but there are charges for filling out the forms. To avoid paying these fees, you can complete the waiver form, Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver.

How long does it take to get a T visa?

The processing time for the T visa varies. USCIS does not provide an estimate or wait time for visa processing after you apply. This means that the processing time varies from person to person and is done based on the evidence provided.

How long does the T visa last?

The T visa, like the U visa, is valid for a maximum of 4 years. During these 4 years, the primary T visa holder can open a bank account, obtain a driver’s license, enroll in academic or professional studies, and find work.

At the end of this period, the person must return to their home country or face legal problems. However, in exceptional circumstances, the person may request an extension or change of status with USCIS.

This is done by submitting Form I-539, Application for Extension/Modification of Nonimmigrant Status, and proof of why the individual should continue to remain in the United States after the T visa expires. USCIS considers requests extension on a case-by-case basis.

Is there a limit for the T visa?

The T visa is designed specifically for these trafficking victims and is capped by the U.S. government. In each fiscal year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can issue a maximum of 5,000 T visas. If there are multiple valid applications that exceed this limit, USCIS has the right to suspend them, grant them EADs so they can work and then grant them T visas once available.

Can I get a Green Card with a T Visa?

As a primary T visa holder, you also have the option to apply for permanent residency and not just extended status. If you are approved, you will get a Green Card and can remain in the United States with all the rights of permanent residents.

To be entitled to the Green Card you must meet these requirements:

  • You must have been in the United States for at least 3 years on a T visa.
  • You must have collaborated in the investigation of the human trafficking crime of which you were a victim.
  • You must pass a good character assessment.
  • You must demonstrate that you would suffer extreme hardship if you returned to your home country
  • You must be eligible to the United States.
  • If you meet the eligibility criteria, you may file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Based on this, your request will be processed and a response will be given to you. During the time you wait for a response about your status, you can continue working.

Can my family and dependents accompany me on a T visa?

As mentioned above, there are different types of T visas and most of them are for family members and dependents. Your spouse, children, parents and siblings can accompany you to the United States on a T visa.

However, to apply for this visa, they can be outside the United States or inside. To apply, you must complete Form I-914, Supplement A, Application for T-1 Recipient’s Immediate Family Member. The form can be submitted at the same time as your application or after you, as the primary T-1 visa holder, have obtained your visa.

Family members have the same rights as you, but must present an EAD in order to work. Additionally, if you request an extension of your status, they will be able to request one as well. Plus, if you apply for a Green Card, they can apply for one too.

Which visas are accessible to the dependents of those who have been trafficked?

When the T visa was created, several scenarios were devised as to who could be the victim of human trafficking. Based on this, a main type of T visa and several derivative visas were created. Derivative visas are for dependents and family members, while the main visa is for the victim.

  • The T-2 visa is for the spouse of the T-1 visa holder. The United States only recognizes marriages that can be proven by a valid marriage certificate and no longer accepts spouses.
  • The T-3 visa is for children of the T-1 visa holder, which can be proven with a valid birth certificate.
  • The T-4 visa is for the parents of the T-1 visa holder. The T-1 visa holder must be under 21 years of age for parents to be eligible for a T-4 visa.
  • The T-5 visa is for unmarried siblings of the T-1 visa holder. Siblings must be under 18 years old, while the T-1 visa holder must be under 21 years old.
  • What is the difference with the U visa?
  • Unlike the T visa, the U visa is issued to victims of serious crimes that occurred to the victim while he or she was in the United States.

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