Human trafficking is one of the gravest problems that society faces in any part of the world, due to the physical and/or psychological aftermath that it causes. Even though this situation may seem surreal in the third millennium, the truth is that human trafficking is considered modern slavery, which unfortunately is very real not only in the United States, but also in other countries throughout the region and the world. That’s why the US government issues the T Visa.
According to the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), the criminals that traffic individuals for sexual or employment purposes do so in the conflict zones of North America, Central America, and the Caribbean since the situation those regions face make it simpler for criminals to trick people or take them by force.
It is estimated that annually between 700,000 and 4 million people are tricked or kidnapped by traffickers. The situation is even more worrisome for women and children. Women make up 49% of victims of human trafficking, with a 23% of them being underage. Women are usually victims of sexual abuse meanwhile children are mostly used as child soldiers or cheap labor. T Visa is how the US government commits to help trafficking victims.
In 2018 this social problem passed to the forefront when Nadia Murad received the Nobel Peace Prize and became the ambassador for the UNODC against human trafficking.
The United States Position against Human Trafficking
The United States government is aware of human trafficking and for this reason plays an active role through different measures to erradicate this situation. T Visa is one of these measures.
According to Romy Hawat, author of the 2018 Global Slavery Index, it is estimated that every year in the United States around 400,000 people are victims of human trafficking after being exposed to a multitude of sexually transmitted diseases, or being obligated to work under poor conditions in labor camps, factories, or sweatshops.
The United States Congress defines human trafficking victims as individuals who are:
The United States government also investigates complaints from possible victims who reported presumed traffickers and their intentions although they were not forced to work nor suffered sexual abuse (for example; those that escaped before this could happen to them).
It is important to note that in the United States, the conditions that a victim was subject to are not as important as the existence of an element of force, fraud or coercion. In fact, in T Visa cases, this is fundamental.
The United States government has zero tolerance policy for this difficult situation and one of the solutions that is offered to foreign nationals that suffer this modern slavery is the T Visa.
What is the T Visa?
In Fall of 2000, Congress created a non immigrant “T” status (more popularly known as the T Visa) to fight against the human trafficking that happens frequently in the United States (especially at the southern border).
The T Visa is a type of humanitarian migratorial visa that allows individuals that have been victims of human trafficking and their families to stay and work temporarily in the United States. This visa can be a path to legal permanent residency (Green Card).
Benefits of the T Visa
It is possible to apply for family reunification with relatives that live within the United States or on foreign soil. For example:
Who Can Apply for the T Visa
Advantages of the T Visa in Comparison to Other Visas
It is common that survivors of human trafficking would have an aversion to reliving their past traumas by cooperating with law enforcement. In T Visa cases, cooperation with law enforcement is not required if the applicant is under age or if the request for cooperation is unreasonable. There are also exceptions when applicants have suffered physical and psychological abuse that prevents adequate collaboration with investigators. In this sense, if we compare it with the U Visa, it is more advantageous.
The T Visa doesn’t necessarily require certification from law enforcement. This means that the applicant can show evidence and documentation during the investigation, not necessarily the official certification. This is another notable difference from the U-Visa that does require this certification.
In comparison with other similar visas, processing times for the T Visa is faster. Each year, there is a cap of 5,000 visas, which normally is not exhausted.
Even If the applicant has a criminal record or a history of immigration violations, it is still possible to apply for the T Visa. This would not be permitted with some other benefits.
Although T Visa applicants cannot receive federal benefits, they can receive the same benefits as refugees such as cash assistance, food stamps and job training.
The T Visa and the U-Visa under the Trump Administration
Generally speaking, since Donald Trump assumed the presidency of the United States, immigration laws have become stricter for many case types. As a matter of fact, it is not a coincidence that immigration was one of the campaign pillars for the 2016 presidential elections.
The T Visa vs. the U Visa
The United States Congress created the T and U Visas in order to have victims cooperate with law enforcement to convict criminals. There are many differences between the two.
The United States law approaches human trafficking according to the United Nations Protocol of 2000 to prevent, suppress and punish based on three categories:
To obtain the T Visa, adult victims of human trafficking must demonstrate that the crime included at least one element from each of the three categories. In the case of underage victims of human trafficking, only one aspect is required from the categories of Process and Objective.
To be eligible for a T Visa the individual must have traveled to the United States because they were recruited, forced, kidnapped or tricked by a trafficker, and would not have come to the United States otherwise.
It is important to note that it is unnecessary to demonstrate that the individual “knew” they would be enslaved or obligated to engage in prostitution. For example, a person that came into the United States convinced they would be working in a certain field who came to find out that they would be working as cheap or even unpaid labor.
The same as with the U-Visa, applicants of the T Visa must cooperate reasonably with the investigators of the crime, although there are exceptions as earlier explained.
Just like the U-Visa, applicants must demonstrate that they suffered physical or mental abuse as a result of a qualifying crime; even though they do not have to provide documentation about the abuse (if they have proof, it will help the case be more convincing). If it is required for a T Visa applicant to leave the United States they must demonstrate extreme difficulties that involve extreme and unusual harm such as:
Previously we mentioned that the T Visa has an annual visa cap of 5,000 (not including family members of victims). In the case of the U-Visa, this cap doubles to give a 10,000 visa per year limit.
It is possible that the applicant of the U or T visa could receive their approval and not have a visa immediately available due to the legal limit that USCIS establishes. In this case the applicant must receive a letter notifying them of the situation, and communicating that the visa will be received as soon as possible. In the meantime, the applicant can apply for employment authorization.
Examples of T Visa Applicants
An adult woman who was promised a job as an assistant and an employment visa in the United States. Once arriving to the country, her passport was taken from her and she was forced to work for a minimum wage. This person qualifies for the T Visa because she was brought to the U.S. by use of fraud, scam and abuse of power with the objective of realizing forced labor and services against her will.
A child who was brought to the United States by their father to appear in sexually explicit photographs (child pornography).
Frequently Asked Questions
This all depends on the specification of each particular case, but normally the process takes between 6 months to 1 year. However, this period of time could be less in exceptional cases if applied directly through USCIS.
To verify the status of a case (after receipt of the USCIS “Notice of Action”) one can log on to the USCIS official website and enter the 13 digit receipt number that each case has. If there are any further questions, they can be resolved telephonically or via email.
- A district attorney, judge or other federal, state, or local authority in charge of the investigation of activity related to human trafficking certifies that is is necessary for the applicant to continue living in the United States to assist with the investigation or trial.
- In the case of a minor, the applicant must comply with the specifications of INA § 245(I)8 U.S.C § 1255(I).
- The Secretary of National Security indicated that due to exceptional circumstances, it is necessary to extend the T Visa
Usually, the T Visa has a maximum duration of four years from the time of approval. However, an extension is possible if some of the following criteria are met:
- Form I-914, Application for T Nonimmigrant Status, along with all additional documentation necessary
- Form I-914 Supplement A for each family member included in the T Visa application
- Form I-914 Supplement B for each LEA endorsement
- 3 current passport style photographs
- Payment for digital fingerprints (if applicable)
- Evidence that the applicant meets the eligibility requirements for the T Visa
- If necessary, the Waiver of Inadmissibility I-601. The fee waiver is also accepts for T Visa applicants
- If necessary, the Application for Advanced Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant, I-192
- Any other application or necessary documentation.