Human trafficking can be found in all countries. This illegal act of deceiving and using children or adults for various purposes against their will and smuggling them into other countries causes problems to many countries and people. In 2000, the U.S Congress in order to assist victims of criminal activities and human trafficking passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act and the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act.
The U.S created two types of visas for non-US citizens who suffered from such crimes based on these legal acts:
- U visa – Victims of criminal activity who have suffered mental and physical abuse
- T visa – Victims of human trafficking
In the further part of this article, we will focus on the T visa and provide details about how to apply and obtain it.
What is the T Visa?
The T visa is a U.S non-immigrant visa that can be obtained by victims of human trafficking. The visa applies to both children (minors) and adults. In order to assist people that are smuggled into the U.S illegally and against their will on false claims for employment or any other benefits, the U.S will allow them to obtain this type of visa which will help their case.
In order to obtain the T visa, you have to match one of the definitions of Human trafficking such as:
- The goal of trafficking – which must include either pornography, prostitution, violence, forced labor, sexual exploitation, debt bondage, involuntary servitude, or slavery
- Means of trafficking – which must include either coercion, threat, fraud, abduction, deception, deceit, or abuse of power
- Process of trafficking – which must include either recruitment, transferring, transportation, harboring, or receiving someone against their will
As we mentioned, to qualify for the T visa adults must prove one of the three elements, in case of the children, they must show the only Process of Goal of trafficking elements. It is necessary for the victims to cooperate with law enforcement. The victim which suffered some of the elements mentioned above, must have been trafficked into the U.S and be in the country. It is not necessary that the victim has knowledge that they were being trafficked to qualify for the T visa.
Once they obtain the T visa the victims of human trafficking are automatically given benefits that are similar to those that refugees get. Clarification from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services and Office of Refugee Resettlement is also needed in order to qualify for those benefits.
The T visa holders can enjoy a couple of benefits including automatically getting an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) without applying. With the possession of EAD, they have the right to work in any legal activity, both part time and full time whatever period they choose to.
Just because there are many people who are suffering from human trafficking, the U.S government limited the number of T visas issued annually. U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can issue a maximum of 5,000 T visas per one fiscal year. The USCIS has the right to put applications on hold if there are more applicants, they will be granted EAD document and grant them visa as soon as they become available.
What Are the Types of T Visas?
Since the T visa was created, there have been several scenarios of who the victim of human trafficking could be were devised. Based on this fact they created the principal type of T visa alongside several derivate visas. Dependents and family members can obtain the derivative visas, as for the victims they can obtain the principal type of visa.
- T-1 visa is for the victim of the trafficking so the principal visa holder
- T-2 visa is for the spouse of the T-1 visa holder. The U.S only recognized marriages that can be proven through a valid marriage certificate and does not accept multiple spouses.
- T-3 visa is for the children of the T-1 visa holder, which can be proven with a valid birth certificate.
- T-4 visa is for the parents of the T-1 visa holder. The T-1 visa holder must be under 21 years old for the parents to qualify for a T-4 visa.
- T-5 visa is for the unmarried siblings of the T-1 visa holder. The siblings must be under 18 years old, while the T-1 visa holder must be under 21 years old.
In the following article, we will focus more on information about the T-1 visa as well as give more information about the dependents and family members.
What Are the Requirements of the T Visa?
In order to be allowed to obtain a T visa, you must fulfill several requirements such as:
- You must have been trafficked into the U.S and currently be within the U.S, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a U.S port of entry
- You must be a victim of human trafficking as defined above and in legal documents.
- You must show that sending you back from the U.S would make you suffer extreme hardship or severe harm. This can be done by:
- Proving that you will not be able to get medical assistance in your home country as in the U.S
- Proving that your government will not offer good protection
- Proving that you would be stigmatized in your home country as a victim of human trafficking, etc.
- You must be willing to cooperate with law enforcement agencies to help in their investigation. You are released from this requirement of cooperation if:
- You are a child under the age of 18
- You have suffered substantial physical or mental trauma
- You must be admissible in the U.S and not have broken any immigration rules. If you are inadmissible, then you can file Form I-129, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant
How to Apply for a T Visa?
The application process for the T visa is very simple. Contrary to the U visa application procedure, where the applicant can be either in the U.S or outside, the T visa has different requirements. Firstly the applicant must be inside the U.S in order to be eligible for the application. The applicant does not need to go through a U.S Embassy, the application process can start at the Vermont Service Center or USCIS.
For the application, the applicant for a T visa must submit the following:
- A completed Form I-914, Application for T Nonimmigrant Status
- Completed Form I-914, Supplement B, Declaration of Law Enforcement Officer for Victim of Trafficking in Persons. This is a certification that you are a victim of human trafficking as proven by law enforcement agencies.
- 3 passport sized photographs meeting the Photo Requirements
- Other evidence to show proof that you meet the eligibility criteria
It is important to know that you will not be charged with any applicable fees when you submit your application package. So, the T visa is free, however, there are some fees for filing the forms. In order to avoid paying these fees, you can always file the form to waive them, Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver.
What Is the T Visa Processing Time?
The processing time for the T visa depends on many factors. You will have to wait for processing once you applied, just because the USCIS will not give an estimated time for processing. The process of approving or denying your visa varies from person to person based on the evidence they submit.
How Long Is the T Visa Valid?
The T visa type is similar to the U visa in terms of validity and it can stretch to a maximum of 4 years. The primary T visa holder, during these years, is allowed to open a bank account, enroll in the academic or vocational study, find employment and get a driver’s license.
The person must return to their home country once their visa expires or face legal issues. However, they are given the right to apply for an extension on their visa or apply for status change with USCIS, but only at certain circumstances
This can be done by filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and evidence as to why the person should continue remaining in the U.S after their visa expires. USCIS will examine your case and decide if the extension of your visa will be approved.
Can I Get a Green Card on a T Visa?
The primary T visa holder has the right to apply for permanent residence in the U.S and not just an extension of status. You can remain in the U.S as long as you are approved for your Green Card.
In order to be eligible for the Green Card, it is necessary to meet some requirements, such as:
- You must pass a good character assessment;
- You must prove that you would suffer extreme hardship if you were returned to your home country;
- You must be admissible in the U.S;
- You must have been in the U.S for at least 3 years on a T visa;
- You must have assisted with the investigation for the human trafficking crime you were a victim of.
After you meet the eligibility criteria, you can apply for Green Card by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Your application will be processed and you will receive the response based on the form you submit. You can continue working while you wait for the response.
Can My Family and Dependents Accompany Me With a T Visa?
There are different types of T visas as we mentioned above, and most of them are for family members and dependents. With a T visa, you can be accompanied to the U.S with your spouse, children, parents, and siblings.
They are not affected by their current position before they start the application. They can either be inside or outside the U.S. In order to apply, you must file Form I-914, Supplement A, Application for Immediate Family Member of T-1 Recipient. This form can be filed alongside your application or since you obtain the T-1 visa.
Your family members will have the same rights as you, however, their EAD will not be granted automatically so they will have to apply in order to be allowed to work. Additionally, if you apply for an extension of status, they will be able to do that as well. Furthermore, if you file for a Green Card, they are allowed to apply as well.