The T visa, also known as the T nonimmigrant visa, is a type of visa that is available to victims of human trafficking. The T visa was created as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (VTVPA) and is designed to provide immigration relief to victims of human trafficking who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the trafficking and who are willing to assist in the investigation or prosecution of their traffickers.
The T visa is intended for victims of severe forms of human trafficking which includes both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Sex trafficking involves the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act; 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. Labor trafficking includes 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.
To be eligible for a T visa, an individual must have been a victim of a severe form of trafficking and must be physically present in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a port of entry due to trafficking. The individual must also demonstrate that they would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if they were removed from the United States.
The process of applying for a T visa begins with the individual contacting law enforcement to report the trafficking and to request assistance in the investigation or prosecution of their traffickers. Law enforcement will then provide the individual with a certification or a letter of law enforcement support which the individual can use to apply for a T visa. The individual must then complete the T visa application and submit it to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with the certification or letter of law enforcement support. In addition, the individual must provide evidence of psychological harm by providing a psychological or mental health evaluation conducted by a mental health professional or psychologist.
After the T visa application is submitted, USCIS will review the application and determine whether the individual is eligible for a T visa. If the application is approved, the individual will be granted a T visa which will allow them to temporarily remain in the United States and to work or study while they assist in the investigation or prosecution of their traffickers. The T visa is initially valid for up to four years and T visa holders may apply for a three-year extension, for a total maximum stay of seven years. T visa holders may also be eligible to apply for a change of status to another immigration category if they qualify such as Permanent Residence.
The T visa program has been praised for providing immigration relief to victims of human trafficking. However, the T visa program has also been criticized for being difficult to navigate and for having long processing times. Despite this, the T visa program remains an important resource for victims of human trafficking who are seeking immigration relief. Overall, the T visa is a valuable program that allows victims of human trafficking to temporarily remain in the United States and to work or study while they assist in the investigation or prosecution of their traffickers.