In October 2000, Congress created the “T” nonimmigrant status (T Visa) by passing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA). The T Visa allows victims to remain in the United States and assist law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of severe human trafficking cases. Preying on underprivileged, unemployed individuals, human traffickers often take advantage of those most vulnerable by luring them with false promises of employment and a better life.
Under Federal law, the term “severe forms of trafficking” can be broken into two categories:
- Sex trafficking: recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or the person being induced to perform such act is under 18 years of age.
- Labor trafficking: recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
T Nonimmigrant Eligibility
You may be eligible for a T visa if you:
- Are or were a victim of trafficking, as defined by law
- Are in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a port of entry due to trafficking·
- Comply with any reasonable request from a law enforcement agency for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking (or you are under the age of 18, or you are unable to cooperate due to physical or psychological trauma)
- Demonstrate that you would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if you were removed from the United States
- Are admissible to the United States. If not admissible, you may apply for a waiver on a Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant
Applying for T Nonimmigrant Status
To apply for a T visa, submit:
- Form I-914, Application for T Nonimmigrant Status
- Three passport size photographs
- A personal statement explaining how you were a victim of trafficking (on the Form I-914)
- Evidence to show you meet the eligibility requirements
Note: It is recommended that you submit Form I-914, Supplement B, Declaration of Law Enforcement Officer for Victim of Trafficking in Persons, to show law enforcement agency support. Other evidence of cooperation with human trafficking investigation and prosecution include: trial transcripts, court documents, police reports, news articles, and affidavits.
There is no fee to file Form I-914, and you may request a fee waiver for other forms associated with applying for T nonimmigrant status.
An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is granted at the same time as a T Visa, and there is no need to file a separate Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. The T Visa is valid for 4 years, and the victim can apply for permanent residence after three years in T nonimmigrant status by submitting Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Filing for Qualifying Family Members
Immediate family members are eligible for a derivative T visa. Human trafficking victims under 21 years of age may apply on behalf of a spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings under 18 years of age. Those 21 years of age or older may apply on behalf of a spouse and children.
To apply for a qualified family member, you must file a Form I-914, Supplement A, Application for Immediate Family Member of T-1 Recipient, at the same time as your application or at a later time.
Attorney Sharon Liu received her Juris Doctorate from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where she was actively involved in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, Workers’ Rights Clinic, and Civil Justice Clinic. She received UC Hastings’ Outstanding Achievement in Pro Bono Award and was a member of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association. Prior to working at Lipman & Wolf, LLP, she was a Law Fellow at the International Institute of the Bay Area and Bay Area Legal Aid. She is fluent in Chinese (Mandarin).