There are many visas available for those needing to enter the United States. In this article, you will learn more about the T visa and who can apply. If you have questions about immigration or the T visa, contact Michael Brooks-Jimenez, P.C., to schedule a consultation

What Is a T Visa?

In October 2000, the T visa was created as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. It is a humanitarian visa designed to protect victims of human trafficking. If granted, it allows the victim and their eligible family members to remain in the United States for up to four years as long as they cooperate with law enforcement to aid in the investigation and, if possible, the prosecution of the person or persons responsible. There is an exception for those under the age of 18 years old, those with certain disabilities, or those with certain physical or mental injuries as a result of the trafficking. 

If you receive a T visa, you can decide whether you would like to apply for an adjustment of status to become a permanent resident. With a T visa, you are eligible to receive social services benefits if you meet the requirements to receive them. You may also be eligible to apply for them if you meet the requirements while waiting for your T visa if you receive a Continued Presence Status or receive a letter of certification of eligibility. As a T visa recipient, you will also receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD, better known as a work permit). 

To learn more about T visas, read our comprehensive post.

What Constitutes Human Trafficking?

Federal law defines human trafficking as it relates to the T visa. This is important because many people consider human trafficking as sex trafficking. While sex trafficking is one form of human trafficking, it is not the only form of trafficking that occurs that makes a person eligible to apply for a T visa. 

Human trafficking is categorized as including both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Federal law states that both are a "severe form of trafficking." Those are defined as:

  • Sex trafficking - When a person is recruited, harbored, transported, provided, solicited, patronized, or obtained by another purpose 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 the act is under the age of 18 years. 
  • Labor trafficking - When a person is recruited, harbored, transported, provided, or obtained 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 Visa Requirements

To apply, you must meet the T visa requirements:

You Are or Were a Victim of a Severe Form of Human Trafficking

As you learned in the last section, a "severe form of trafficking" is defined by federal law as either sex trafficking or labor trafficking. You do not necessarily need to know that leaving your home country to come to the United States would result in either sex trafficking or labor trafficking. In fact, it is likely that you didn't know what would happen to you. Like most who came to the US, you thought you would come to work and maybe work off the money you owed. Then, you learn the ugly truth: you're a prisoner. H2A and H2B visas are commonly abused in this way. Undocumented workers are also often abused in this way. It doesn't matter how you arrived. If you are a victim of sex trafficking or labor trafficking, you've met the first T visa requirement. 

You're in the US, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a Port of Entry Because of Trafficking

With a T visa, you must be in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a port of entry because of sex trafficking or labor trafficking. This is an important component when we look closer at it. Initially, you may not know that you're a victim of human trafficking.

You may find out during the trip. If you find out and have a safe way to notify law enforcement at a port of entry, you may do so at that time. As long as you are on American soil of some kind, you satisfy this T visa requirement. 

Cooperate with Reasonable Requests from Law Enforcement Regarding the Investigation or Prosecution of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking violates federal law. As a victim, the purpose of a T visa helps do two things. It helps protect you from the perpetrator or perpetrators. It also helps law enforcement identify people who may be breaking federal law. As someone applying for a T visa, it is your job to cooperate with any reasonable request from law enforcement involved in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking. There are exceptions in place. For example, if you are a victim who is under the age of 18 years old, have certain disabilities, or have physical or psychological trauma, you may be exempt from this requirement. There may be some evidence required to meet the exception. 

Demonstrate That You’ll Suffer Extreme Hardship and Suffer Severe Harm If You Leave the US

Even if you were to leave the United States and return to the country of your birth, that doesn't mean you would be safe. Unfortunately, the fact that you reported a crime, especially a serious federal crime, could put you in danger if you leave the United States. Whomever you worked with to come to the United States will undoubtedly be upset and angry about having their illegal activities exposed. You must be able to show that returning to your country could expose you to severe harm or hardship if you are made to return. 

Be Admissible to the United States

Although you can apply for a T visa even if you are here illegally, you must be eligible to be admitted to the United States to remain. If you are not eligible to be admitted, you can apply for a waiver using Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant.

Eligible Family Members

If you are applying for a T visa (also known as T-1 visa), you may be able to enter an application for immediate family members if they are in danger of retaliation because of your escape. Your age only matters to determine which members qualify as eligible for your T visa status. The key, however, is that the eligible family members are exposed to a "present danger of retaliation" because of your ability to escape or because you are cooperating with law enforcement. Those family members include:

  • Your parents
  • Your unmarried siblings who are under 18 years old
  • The children of any age and of any marital status of your eligible family members who are granted derivative T nonimmigrant status.

If your eligible family members do not face a present danger of retaliation, eligibility depends on your age. If you are under 21 years old, your eligible family members include:

  • Your spouse
  • Your unmarried children who are under 21 years old
  • Your unmarried siblings who are under 18 years old
  • Your parents.

If you are 21 years old or older, your eligible family members include:

  • Your spouse
  • Unmarried children who are under 21 years old. 

A certain form must be completed if you wish to enter a visa application on behalf of an eligible family member. The forms can be completed when you apply for the T visa, while your T visa status is pending, or while you are a T nonimmigrant. You must complete Form I-914, Supplement A, Application for Family Member of T-1 Recipient.

Your family member must be admissible to the United States. Otherwise, you can apply for a waiver using Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant

If your eligible family member would like to work in the United States, Form I-765 must be filed. It can be filed together with Form I-914, Supplement A. It can also be filed at a later time. However, if your eligible family member resides outside of the United States at the time you apply for the T visa, you cannot apply for the Employment Authorization Document on their behalf. They must be in the United States at the time Form I-765 is filed. 

How to Learn More About Who Can Apply for a T Visa

T visas are an important part of our immigration system. They help victims of human trafficking find their way to safety and get justice. If you want to learn more about who can apply for a T visa, Michael Brooks-Jiminez P.C., is here to help. We want to help answer your questions about the T visa process and the immigration process. Our immigration lawyers are ready to answer your questions. Call, text, or use our form to schedule your consultation with our immigration lawyers. 

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Natalia Riveros-Jacobsen

Written by Natalia Riveros-Jacobsen

Natalia Riveros-Jacobsen, originally from Bogotá Colombia, serves as an associate at Michael Brooks-Jimenez, P.C where she focuses her immigration law practice on deportation, family and employment based immigrant petitions at the firm’s Oklahoma City law office.