If you or someone you know is being forced to work or provide sex, you should know that immigration help is available in many cases. You may be eligible for T nonimmigrant status, a special status given to certain victims of severe trafficking who cooperate with the police or have an acceptable reason not to.

To qualify for T nonimmigrant status, you must prove:

  • You are or have been a victim of a severe form of sex or labor trafficking
  • You are in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands or a U.S. port of entry due to this trafficking
  • If you are 18 or older, you have complied with any reasonable police request to forward the investigation or prosecution of the people trafficking you; or you are unable to cooperate due to psychological trauma
  • You would suffer extreme hardship if you were removed from the U.S.
  • You are either admissible to the U.S. or have a waiver allowing you to enter despite grounds of inadmissibility

Proving these things requires making a case on many points. For example, you will need to show that the sex or labor trafficking you are experiencing is “severe.” You will need to show that removing you from the U.S. would cause extreme hardship. You may have to justify your decisions about cooperating with the police.

Therefore, you should strongly consider working with a quality immigration law attorney before applying. Your immigration lawyer can help you write your personal statement and help you present all the evidence your case requires.

Will I be able to work? What about my family?

If you qualify for T nonimmigrant status, you can also apply for an employment authorization. This will allow you to legally work in the U.S.

If your immediate family members are in immediate danger of retaliation if you escape from trafficking, they may also be eligible for T nonimmigrant status. This includes your parents and your unmarried minor siblings (under 18) and, if they qualify, their children. These people could also be eligible to work in the U.S.

If your immediate family members are not in immediate danger of retaliation, there is a different process. However, your spouse, parents, unmarried minor siblings and unmarried children may be eligible for T nonimmigrant status and a work authorization.

How long does this status last?

T nonimmigrant status lasts 4 years initially and can sometimes be extended. Also, T nonimmigrants may become eligible for lawful permanent residence (a green card) after three years or when the police investigation and prosecution are complete.

For help, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. Attorney Alison Yew is certified as an immigration law specialist by the State Bar of California.