For foreign nationals who have suffered as a result of human trafficking, America offers the promise of a brighter future. Each year, the U.S. government issues roughly 5,000 visas for qualifying victims of this horrible crime. This page was designed to offer some basic information on the human trafficking visa, also known as a T visa, and help those interested in applying decide if they should contact an attorney. The following topics are covered on this page:
- T Visa Basics
- Lawful Permanent Residence
- Applying for a T Visa, And Adjusting Status
- Can My Family Join Me?
- Consulting an Immigration Lawyer
T Visa Basics
The T visa is what is known as a temporary, nonimmigrant visa. While it is temporary in nature, this visa provides an opportunity for foreign nationals who have been victimized by human trafficking to apply for more permanent status in order to live and work in the U.S.
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 makes available 5,000 visas each year to foreign nationals who have been subject to “severe trafficking.”
This type of trafficking is defined by 22 USC §7102(9)(a) as sex acts induced by force, fraud or coercion, or cases in which the person who has been induced to perform such acts has not reached the age of 18. Severe trafficking can also occur in cases involving involuntary servitude, slavery and debt bondage.
In order to qualify for the T visa, a victim of human trafficking must be physically present in the U.S, and must have complied with any reasonable request for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of the human trafficking case. Persons who are under 18 years of age, or who would suffer extreme hardship as the result of cooperating with law enforcement, might be excused from this requirement.
The amount of time a foreign national is allowed to stay in the U.S. under T visa status is generally four years. The visa is not renewable, however, extensions must be granted in cases where law enforcement certifies that the trafficking victim’s presence is necessary to assist in the investigation or prosecution.
After the T visa holder has been in the U.S. for a continuous period of three years, he or she becomes eligible to apply for a green card. This is known as adjusting status. To learn more about the green card process and lawful permanent residence, continue reading.
Lawful Permanent Residence
When a foreign national is granted lawful permanent residence, they are given permission to live and work in the U.S., in some cases for 10 years or longer. The document commonly associated with lawful permanent resident status is the green card.
Although green card holders have many rights and privileges, they don’t have the same rights as persons with full citizenship, such as the right to vote, or run for office. However, an important step in becoming a full citizen includes first becoming a lawful permanent resident.
A T visa recipient who has held his or her status for three continuous years, can become eligible to adjust to permanent resident status. To learn more about applying for a T visa, and adjusting status, continue reading.
Applying for a T Visa, and Adjusting Status
The process of applying for a T visa begins with the foreign national, who is physically present in the U.S., filing an Application for T Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-914). This form is filed through US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In addition to this document, applicants will also have to file a personal statement explaining how they were victims of human trafficking.
Those granted T Visa status will be authorized to seek employment. In some cases, victims of human trafficking may also be eligible for government assistance.
As mentioned earlier on this page, a T visa recipient who has held T status for three continuous years can become eligible to apply for a green card. This process is known as adjusting status, and is done by filing an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485). Federal law allows for the adjustment of up to 5,000 T visas each year. If the annual cap is reached at the time of application, the eligible foreign national will be placed on a waiting list.
Can My Family Join Me?
In many cases, yes. Spouses, unmarried children (less than 21 years old), parents and siblings of T visa recipients are eligible to apply for a visa. In many cases, these family members will also be eligible to adjust status when the primary visa holder adjusts status. For more information on who can apply for a T visa, contact our office.
Consulting an Immigration Lawyer
While a human trafficking victim applying for a T visa is not required to hire an attorney, it is recommended they do. Filing for a visa can be a tedious and trying process involving multiple federal agencies and bureaucrats. The difficulty of this experience is compounded when the applicant is fleeing human trafficking criminals and dealing with criminal investigators and prosecutors. It’s important to keep in mind that simple filing errors while applying for a T visa can result in a denial of application. It is the job of the immigration attorney to help the client navigate the visa application process and avoid time-consuming mistakes in the process. If you have questions about the T visa and application process, contact our office to see how we can help.