T visa - Human Trafficking Victim
The T visa was created by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. The T visa helps alien victims of human trafficking gain immigration status in the United States. The T visa classification's goals are to ensure access to US civil and criminal courts for the victimized alien, allow the alien to assist the government and the victim's civil advocates, and to provide a path to lawful permanent residence in the United States.
To qualify for a T visa, the applicant must satisfy four elements. First, the alien must be a victim of a severe form of human trafficking. Second, the alien must be physically present in the United States as a consequence of the trafficking. Third, the victim has cooperated with law enforcement in the investigation and/or prosecution. Fourth, the victim would suffer extreme, severe and unusual hardship if removed from the United States.
A severe form of human trafficking is defined by the government as sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or the 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 subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
Similar to the U visa requirement, the T visa applicant must have cooperated with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution. However, unlike the U visa process, the T visa applicant is not required to obtain a law enforcement agency endorsement or certification. Of course, obtaining a law enforcement agency endorsement makes proving cooperation much easier. Without the law enforcement agency endorsement, the applicant can prove cooperation by providing emails and correspondence with law enforcement officers confirming an open investigation. Incident reports may also be helpful. For the T visa, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are authorized to sign the law enforcement agency endorsement.
Although some might think that the fourth requirement of extreme hardship is obvious in any case involving a victim of human trafficking, it is necessary to document and argue the extreme hardship requirement thoroughly. USCIS officers considering the extreme hardship element are likely to consider many aspects including physical and psychological damage resulting from the trafficking and whether the victim can be sufficiently treated in the home country. USCIS will consider the age and personal circumstance of the victim. Whether the victim will be punished or shunned in the home country either by law, custom or social mores. The reviewing officer should consider the possibility of revictimization and whether the trafficker will seek revenge against the victim. The victim's general safety if returned home due to civil unrest or armed conflict is also important.
The T Visa application is made using Form I-914. The I-914 should be submitted to the Vermont Service Center along with supporting evidence proving the requirements for T visa status. Spouses, children, parents and sibling under 18 years of age may obtain derivative status and may join the victim in the United States if the T visa is approved. After the T visa is approved, the victim cannot return to the home country without first obtaining permission from USCIS.
If you or someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, contact The Nuñez Firm today to discuss your situation. The Nuñez Firm offers confidential consultations to help you understand your immigration rights and whether you can benefit from a T visa.