Human trafficking is happening in the United States. People who survive being trafficked may be eligible to stay in the U.S. using T nonimmigrant status (usually referred to as a “T visa”). In order to qualify for a T visa, you must cooperate with reasonable requests by the police.
What is a T visa?
A T visa is a temporary visa that allows a survivor to stay in the U.S. for an initial period of four years. Sometimes, T visa holders can extend their stay.
A T visa allows you to work in the U.S.
T visa holders are eligible for public benefits such as SNAP (food stamps), health care, English language training and housing assistance.
You can get visas for your family members if they are generally admissible to the U.S. and face a present threat of retaliation due to your escape from trafficking or cooperation with law enforcement.
After three years, if you meet all the qualifications, you can get a green card (lawful permanent residency in the U.S.). This can later lead to U.S. citizenship.
What counts as human trafficking?
People applying for T visas must be survivors of a “severe form of trafficking in persons.” This means:
- Sex trafficking: Forced prostitution and commercial sex as a minor
- Labor trafficking: Forced labor, including debt bondage
Who is eligible for a T visa?
In addition to being a survivor of a sex or labor trafficking, you must meet these qualifications:
- Are physically present in the U.S. or its territories, or at a U.S. port of entry
- Have complied with all reasonable requests by law enforcement during the investigation and prosecution of your trafficking OR you were under 18 OR you could not cooperate due to psychological trauma
- Would suffer extreme hardship, involving unusual and severe harm, if removed from the U.S.
- Are generally admissible to the U.S. (you have no significant criminal history and are not a threat to the U.S.) OR you obtain a waiver of admissibility
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) charges no fee to apply for a T visa.
Applying for your relatives who are at risk of retaliation
If you qualify for a T visa, some of your relatives may also qualify for T visas.
In order to qualify, these relatives must be in present danger of retaliation as a result of your escape or cooperation with law enforcement. They must also be generally admissible to the U.S.
- If you are under 21, you may apply for your spouse, any unmarried children under 21, your parents and any unmarried siblings who are under 18 who meet the qualifications.
- If you are 21 years old or older, you may apply for your spouse and any unmarried children under age 21 who meet the qualifications.
If you want to apply for a T visa, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. Alison Yew is certified as an immigration law specialist by the State Bar of California.