Humanitarian Law

Immigration Help for Victims of Trafficking

Victims of human trafficking often live in fear of their traffickers. The people exploiting victims of sex trafficking or labor trafficking use threats of violence, violence to family members, and psychological abuse for control. Many fear speaking out to local law enforcement because they fear arrest and deportation.

Victims of human trafficking in the U.S. have protections that the abusers don’t want them to know about. It’s even possible for many victims to legally stay in the country if they cooperate with law enforcement to prosecute human traffickers.

However, U.S. immigration law is complex. A lawyer familiar with trafficking immigration cases can explain the process and help you understand your legal rights.

Can Victims of Human Trafficking Stay in the U.S.?

Victims of labor trafficking and sex trafficking often feel like they have limited options when taken from their home country and forced to work in illegal jobs for little or no pay. You may want to come to the U.S. to send money back to your family, but after having your identification documents taken, the fear of deportation is intense.

Contrary to the threats, people in trafficking situations may be able to legally stay in the U.S. even if they don’t have work authorization or legal immigrant status. The U.S. government has declared it a priority to end human trafficking and helps protect victims by providing immigration relief.

Immigration Resources for Trafficking Victims

Human traffickers know how to exploit people with false promises to maintain control. They use the promise of legitimate jobs to force people into commercial sex work or grueling physical labor. They threaten victims with violence, turning them over to the police, or reporting what they are doing to family members.

There is help to escape sexual exploitation and modern-day slavery. If you believe someone is a potential victim of trafficking, you can report it to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

The hotline can put you in contact with service providers, including shelters, legal aid, law enforcement, health care, youth services, and human rights organizations.

What Is a Trafficking Victim T-Visa?

A T visa is a humanitarian nonimmigrant visa for survivors of human trafficking. The T visa protects victims and also helps combat human trafficking by helping law enforcement prosecute traffickers.

A T visa can give you eligibility for permanent residence after being continuously present in the U.S. for three years or until the trafficking investigation or prosecution is complete.

There are up to 5,000 T visas available each year. In 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved 3,020 T visa applications.

How Can I Apply for a T-Visa?

To apply for a T visa, use Form I-914, Application for T Nonimmigrant Status. There are no fees for applying. To qualify for a T visa, you have to show the following:

  • You are or have been a victim of a severe form of trafficking
  • You are in the United States or U.S. territory because of trafficking
  • You are cooperating with law enforcement in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking
  • You would suffer extreme hardship and harm if deported to your home country

Can I Work in the U.S. With a T-Visa?

A T visa authorizes you to legally work in the U.S. You should receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) when you received your T visa. Certain family members can also gain work authorization in the U.S. if they file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

Can I Bring My Children to the U.S. With a T-Visa?

Under federal law, if you receive a T visa, your children can be eligible for a derivative T visa, along with your spouse, parents, and any unmarried siblings younger than 18 years old.

While it is possible to stay in the U.S., navigating the system is tricky, and a mistake could mean deportation or lengthy delays. To get help, find an immigration attorney who has experience helping trafficking victims or reach out to a legal aid group that helps immigrants, refugees, and victims of trafficking.

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