T Visa Guide for Victims of Human Trafficking

In a significant move to enhance protections for victims of human trafficking and streamline the T nonimmigrant status (T visa) process, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a final rule on April 29, 2024. This update aims to clarify eligibility requirements, simplify application procedures, and strengthen collaboration between victims and law enforcement agencies.

This guide will examine the fundamental changes introduced by the final rule and explore how they impact T visa eligibility, application requirements, and the overall process for obtaining this crucial form of immigration relief. Whether you’re a potential applicant or an advocate for trafficking survivors, this guide will provide valuable insights into the updated T visa program and its implications for those seeking protection and stability in the United States.

What Is the T Visa?

The T nonimmigrant status, commonly known as the T visa, is a temporary immigration benefit designed to protect and empower survivors of severe forms of human trafficking. This unique status allows eligible individuals to remain and work in the United States for up to four years, offering them a chance to rebuild their lives while aiding law enforcement in combating this heinous crime.

Established by Congress in 2000 as a Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act component, the T visa recognizes the vulnerability of trafficking survivors. It aims to break the cycle of exploitation. By providing a haven and essential resources, the T visa program supports victims in their recovery and empowers them to cooperate with law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting traffickers.

What constitutes a "severe form of trafficking in persons"?

U.S. law defines two categories of severe forms of human trafficking:

  1. Sex trafficking: This encompasses “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for commercial sex acts” induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in cases where the victim is under 18 years old.
  2. Labor trafficking: This encompasses the “recruitment, sheltering, transport, provision, or procuring of a person for labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion,” with the intent to subject them to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

In addition to the victim, certain qualifying family members of trafficking survivors may also be eligible for T visas. Depending on the victim’s age and the case’s specific circumstances, this includes spouses, children, parents, and siblings.

Who Is Eligible for T Nonimmigrant Status?

To qualify for T nonimmigrant status (T visa), you must meet specific criteria established to ensure that those who have suffered from severe forms of human trafficking are protected and supported:

1. Proven Victim of Severe Trafficking

You must demonstrate that you are or were a victim of severe trafficking in persons, as defined by U.S. law. This includes sex and labor trafficking, where force, fraud, or coercion was used to exploit you for commercial sex or labor/services.

2. Established Physical Presence

You need to be physically present in the U.S., Samoa (American), the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a U.S. port of entry because of the trafficking. This requirement ensures that the trafficking directly led to your presence in these locations.

3. Cooperation with Law Enforcement

Generally, you are expected to have complied with any reasonable requests from law enforcement agencies for assistance in investigating or prosecuting human trafficking cases. However, exceptions exist if you were under 18 when the trafficking occurred or if you are unable to collaborate due to physical or psychological trauma. In such cases, you may not need to prove cooperation.

4. Facing Extreme Hardship

You must establish that your removal from the United States would result in extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm. This demonstrates the significant negative consequences you would face if forced to return to your country of origin.

5. Admissibility to the U.S.

You must be admissible to the United States, meaning you meet the general requirements for entering the country. If you have inadmissibility issues, you might get a waiver by filing Form I-192. This allows for exceptions in certain circumstances.

Eligibility for T Visa Family Members: Extending Protection to Loved Ones

The T visa program recognizes that the trauma of human trafficking often extends beyond the immediate victim. Certain family members of T visa applicants may also be eligible for this protective status to address this. However, the eligibility criteria for family members differ based on the principal applicant’s age and the case’s specific circumstances.

Family Members Facing Retaliation

Suppose your loved ones are currently in danger of retaliation due to your escape from trafficking or cooperation with law enforcement. In that case, you can apply for their T visas regardless of age. This provision ensures that those who have supported your journey to safety are not left vulnerable to further harm. The following family members may qualify under this scenario:

  • Your parents: This includes biological and adoptive parents who have played a significant role in your life.
  • Your unmarried siblings under 18: Younger siblings who rely on you for support and protection are also eligible.
  • Children of qualifying family members: If your spouse, parents, or siblings are already granted T visas, their children of any age or marital status may also be eligible.

Family Members Not Facing Retaliation

In situations where your family members are not facing immediate danger, their eligibility for T visas depends on your age:

Your Age Eligible Family Members
Under 21 years old
Spouse, unmarried children under 21, unmarried siblings under 18, parents.
21 years old or older
Spouse, unmarried children under 21.

How to Apply for T Visas for Your Family Members

To include your family members in your T visa application, you must file Form I-914 for yourself and Form I-914 Supplement A, Application for Family Member of T-1 Recipient. This form allows you to provide details about each family member and their relationship to you. You can submit this form concurrently with your own T visa application while your application is being processed or even after you’ve been granted T nonimmigrant status.

T Visa Application Process: A Step-by-step Guide

The following section of our T visa guide breaks down the application into manageable, easy-to-follow stages, ensuring you have the confidence and knowledge needed to proceed. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Filing Form I-914 with USCIS (For the Primary Applicant - Trafficking Victim)

This is the foundational step in the process. The person who has been trafficked (the primary applicant) must submit Form I-914 to USCIS. This form requires detailed information and supporting evidence, so follow this through.

Required Initial Evidence for Form I-914 for the Main Applicant

Document Explanation
Personal statement
A detailed account of your experiences as a victim of human trafficking. Include specific dates, locations, and descriptions of the trafficking situation. Describe the nature of the trafficking, the tactics used by the traffickers, and any physical or psychological harm suffered. The more specific and detailed this statement is the stronger the application.
Evidence of trafficking victimization
Documents that prove you were subjected to a severe form of trafficking, such as police reports, medical records, restraining orders, or statements from social workers, counselors, or other professionals.
Evidence of physical presence in the U.S. due to trafficking
Proof that you are currently in the U.S. as a direct result of being trafficked. This could include travel documents, entry records, or statements from immigration officials.
Evidence of cooperation with law enforcement (if applicable)
Documentation showing you assisted law enforcement in investigating or prosecuting trafficking crimes. This might include official letters, witness statements, or court transcripts. (Not required if you were under 18 or unable to cooperate due to trauma.) Try to include police reports, court documents, or a declaration from a law enforcement officer (Form I-914, Supplement B). If you could not cooperate, you must explain why and potentially request an exception.
Evidence of extreme hardship upon removal
Proof that leaving the U.S. would cause you extreme and unusual harm. This could involve medical records, psychological evaluations, or documentation of threats you face in your home country.
Evidence of meeting eligibility requirements
You must provide evidence to support all other eligibility factors, such as proof of your identity and nationality and that you are physically present in the U.S. due to trafficking.
Form I-192 (if inadmissible)
If you are ineligible to enter the U.S. for specific reasons, you must file Form I-192 to request a waiver of inadmissibility.

IMPORTANT! Do NOT include original papers in your application unless specifically requested; provide complete English translations of any foreign language documents.

Additional Documents for Eligible T Visa Family Members (if applicable)

Document Explanation
Proof of relationship
Documents establishing your relationship to the family member(s) you include on the I-914, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, or adoption papers.
Description of the danger of retaliation (if applicable)
If applying for certain family members who could face retaliation due to your escape or cooperation, explain the specific dangers they face and how those dangers are linked to your situation. Provide any supporting evidence, such as police reports or affidavits.

Documentation of previous advance parole (if applicable)

Include this documentation if a family member has previously been granted advance parole (permission to re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad).
Any other evidence of danger of retaliation
Submit any other relevant documents supporting the claim of retaliation, such as signed statements from law enforcement, court documents, news articles, or affidavits.
Form I-192 for family members (if inadmissible)
If the family member is inadmissible to the U.S., they must also file Form I-192 to request a waiver of inadmissibility.

What I-914 Form Edition Must You Submit to USCIS?

There are two situations here you must consider. If you’re applying for a T visa:

  • Before August 28, 2024: You can use either the December 2, 2021 edition or the April 1, 2024 edition of Form I-914 and its supplements (A and B). Just make sure all the forms you submit use the same edition date.
  • Starting August 28, 2024: You must use the April 1, 2024 edition of all forms (I-914, Supplement A, and Supplement B). Older versions will not be accepted.

Where to File Form I-914 to Get Your T Visa Status

Send your full T visa submission package to the following address:

Vermont Service Center

38 River Rd. Essex Junction, VT 05479-0001

If you’re worried about your safety, you can provide a safe address on your T visa application instead of your home address. You don’t have to live there for USCIS to mail you there. To change this address later, see the USCIS instructions for VAWA/T/U cases and Form I-751. Your application information is strictly confidential and protected by law.

IMPORTANT! It is crucial to complete your application forms completely and accurately and follow all T visa requirements and instructions. This helps USCIS verify your information, determine your eligibility for a T visa, and avoid unnecessary delays in processing your application!

How Much Does the T Visa Cost?

If you’re applying for a T visa, you don’t have to pay any filing fees for USCIS forms throughout the process of getting a green card (adjustment of status).

However, your family members may still have to pay their application fees. While you, as the primary T visa holder, are exempt, your family members applying for derivative T visas might be subject to standard filing fees. It’s best to check the current USCIS fee schedule or consult an immigration attorney for the most up-to-date information.

What Is the T Visa Processing Time?

The Vermont Service Center typically takes about 16.5 months to process 80% of T visa applications (Form I-914). However, remember that this is just an average, and your processing time could be shorter or longer.

Step 2: Qualifying Family Members File Form I-914, Supplement A (if applicable)

If you have family members who were also affected by the trafficking and wish to apply for T visas, they will need to complete Form I-914, Supplement A. This form allows them to be included in your application as derivative beneficiaries. The eligible family members include:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried children under 21
  • Parents (if the primary applicant is under 21)
  • Unmarried siblings under 18 (if the primary applicant is under 21)

Step 3: Your Eligible Family Member Applies for a T Visa at a U.S. Embassy (If outside the U.S.)

If USCIS approves your Form I-914 and any accompanying Supplement A forms, and your family members are residing outside the U.S., they will need to apply for T visas at the U.S. consulate in their country. Here’s the process:

  1. Complete Form DS-160: This is the online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. It collects personal information and details about the applicant’s travel plans.
  2. Pay the application fee: The fee will depend on the visa category, but the budget is $185 when you prepare to file for the T nonimmigrant status.
  3. Schedule an interview: Your T visa family member must typically attend an interview with a consular officer. They can schedule this online or by phone.
  4. Gather required documents: Your family member may be asked to provide additional evidence to establish their eligibility for a T visa.
  5. Attend the interview: Your family member must be ready to answer some questions about their relationship to you, the primary applicant, the trafficking situation, and their intentions in the U.S. Their fingerprints will also be taken.

If your family member’s visa application is approved, they will pay a visa issuance fee (if applicable). After the T visa is affixed, their passport will be returned to them.

When they arrive in the U.S., they must present their passport and visa to the CBP representative at the port of entry. They will determine whether they are admissible to the U.S. and, if so, will issue an admission stamp and Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record).

What Happens After You Submit Your T Visa Application?

After submitting Form I-914 (and any applicable supplements) as a T visa applicant, the following generally happens:

  1. Receipt notice: You’ll receive a notice confirming that USCIS received your application. It will contain a receipt number to track the status of your case online.
  2. Biometrics appointment: You’ll be scheduled for a biometrics check, during which your fingerprints and photo will be taken for background checks.
  3. Background and security checks: USCIS will thoroughly review your application, including background and security checks.
  4. Interview (if required): Sometimes, USCIS requests an interview to gather additional information or clarify details in your application.
  5. Decision: After the review process, USCIS will decide on your application.

What Happens While Waiting for a Decision on Your T Visa

While your T visa application is pending:

  • You cannot leave the U.S.: If you leave America, the authorities will consider your application abandoned.
  • You can apply for work authorization: You may file Form I-765 to request an EAD while your application is pending.
  • You might be eligible for certain benefits: In some states, you may access certain benefits and services while your application is pending, like healthcare or housing assistance.

Can USCIS Deny Your T Visa Application?

Yes, USCIS can deny your T visa application if you don’t meet the eligibility requirements or haven’t provided enough evidence to support your case. 

There are three main scenarios when you file I-914 to get your T nonimmigrant status:

  • Approval: If your application is accepted, USCIS will send you an approval notice and grant you T nonimmigrant visa. You’ll also receive an Employment Authorization Document allowing you to work in the U.S.
  • Request for Evidence (RFE): If USCIS needs additional information or documentation, they will send an RFE. You’ll have a specific timeframe to respond.
  • Denial: USCIS will provide a written explanation if your application is denied. You may have options to appeal or refile the application.

What Is the Validity of the T Visa?

If you are wondering about the duration of the T Visa, let’s clear some things up. 

Your T visa typically lasts for four years. In exceptional cases, you can extend it by filing Form I-539.

After three years of living in the U.S. with a T visa, you could apply for a green card. This is also possible if the investigation or prosecution of your trafficking case ends before those three years are up.

Can You Get Employment Authorization as a T Visa Recipient?

Yes. Whether you need to submit an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) depends on your role in the T visa application:

Main Applicant (Filing Form I-914): If your T visa application is approved, you’ll automatically receive a work permit along with the approval. You won’t need to file a separate Form I-765.

Family Member (Included on Form I-914, Supplement A):

  • If they live in the U.S., they must file Form I-765 to apply for an EAD to work legally. They can submit it alongside the I-914, Supplement A, or later.
  • If they live outside the U.S., they aren’t eligible for an EAD until they’ve been legally admitted to the United States. They must not file Form I-765 until then.

What Benefits Does the T Nonimmigrant Visa Status Grant the Beneficiaries?

Besides the work permit and the chance to obtain a green card – and later, become a U.S. citizen – the U.S. authorities grant trafficking victims certain federally funded benefits. 

If you have a T visa, you qualify for several federally funded benefits and services. Even if you don’t have the visa yet but are a victim of trafficking, you might still be eligible for these benefits under two conditions:

  1. Continued Presence: The Department of Homeland Security can grant you Continued Presence, which temporarily protects you from being deported for up to 2 years. This allows you to apply for work authorization and access federal benefits.
  2. HHS certification or eligibility: If the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services certifies or determines you are eligible as a trafficking victim, you also become eligible for the same benefits.

Remember that Continued Presence can only be requested by a federal law enforcement agency. If you qualify for these benefits, contact an immigration attorney or a victim services organization.

T Visa to Green Card: What You Need to Know

To qualify for a green card as a T visa holder, you need to meet specific requirements:

Green Card Requirements for T Nonimmigrants

  • You must have lived continuously in the U.S. for at least 3 years since receiving your T visa, OR during the entire time the trafficking investigation or prosecution was ongoing, whichever is shorter.
  • You can’t have been outside the U.S. for more than 90 days at a time or 180 days during this period unless your absence was to help with the investigation/prosecution or was otherwise justified by an official involved in the case.
  • You were legally admitted to the U.S. on a T visa.
  • You still hold T visa status when you apply for the green card.
  • You’ve maintained a continuous physical presence, as described above.
  • You’ve been of good moral character since getting your T visa and throughout the green card application process.
  • You meet at least one of these conditions:
    • You’ve cooperated with law enforcement in the trafficking investigation or prosecution.
    • You would face extreme hardship if deported from the U.S.
    • You were under 18 years old at the time of the trafficking.
  • You are admissible to the U.S. or have obtained a waiver for any grounds of inadmissibility.

How to Get a Green Card with T Nonimmigrant Status

Suppose you’ve had your T visa for 3 years and meet the continuous physical presence requirement. In that case, you can apply for a green card by submitting Form I-485 and providing evidence that you meet all eligibility criteria.

If you haven’t reached the 3-year mark, your application will be denied unless you provide a certification from the U.S. Attorney General stating that the trafficking investigation or prosecution is complete.

T Visa Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions about the T nonimmigrant status? This FAQ section is your go-to resource for answering the most common T visa questions. We’ve compiled information to help you understand your rights as a human trafficking survivor.

Is there a cap on T Visas?

Yes. Each year, the U.S. government can grant up to 5,000 T visas to individuals who are primary victims of human trafficking. This limit doesn’t apply to family members accompanying the principal applicant on a T visa.

Both the T visa and U visa provide a path to legal status in the U.S. for victims of crime, but they serve different purposes and have distinct requirements.

  • T visas are explicitly for victims of human trafficking who have been brought to the U.S. or exploited within the country due to trafficking.
  • U visas are for victims of broader crimes, like domestic violence, sexual assault, and other violent offenses (including human trafficking), who have suffered severe mental or physical abuse and collaborate with the law to investigate or prosecute the crimes

While both visa programs are valuable tools for protecting victims, the U visa program is more well-known and faces a significant backlog of applications, leading to longer processing times. The T visa program, with a smaller annual cap and less publicity, often has faster processing times for trafficking victims.

If you have a T visa, you can typically apply for permission to travel outside the U.S. and return. To do so, you must fill out and submit Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document) and receive approval before your trip.

If You Are a Trafficking Victim, We Are Here to Help!

Are you a survivor of human trafficking seeking a path to safety and stability in the U.S.? Our experienced immigration experts specialized in T visas can guide you through every step, from applying for your visa to pursuing a green card. We understand your unique challenges and offer compassionate, confidential support tailored to your needs. Don’t face this journey alone. Contact ImmigrationDirect today to schedule a consultation and explore your options for a brighter future!

Scroll to Top
immigration direct logo