It is estimated that up to 20,000 men, women and children are smuggled into the United States for purposes of enslaved labor of one kind of another. Usually, victims are lured here with promises of work and better living conditions. As you might expect, the countries of origin are usually poor, where traffickers are able to prey on the unemployed and uneducated. To help get justice for victims, USCIS now offers a special visa called the T Visa, which allows victims of human trafficking to remain in the United States in exchange for cooperation with law enforcement in the conviction of their traffickers.
To be eligible for a T Visa, an individual must show that they are victims of “severe forms of trafficking.” In order to qualify, you must demonstrate that you are a person who has been recruited, harbored, transported, provided, or obtained by fraud, force, or coercion, for purposes of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, slavery, or a commercial sex act.
Recipients of a T Visa will qualify for many of the rights offered to other non-immigrant persons, including the right to work. This visa is a four year temporary visa. If granted, the applicant may later apply for their lawful permanent residence.
The Department of Justice takes all forms of human trafficking seriously, and has made it a top priority to jail the guilty, but the reality is that few victims use the resources available. Because fear is a significant inhibitor for those seeking justice, law enforcement have a difficult time persuading victims to come forward. When victims hear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will be involved, they fear they will be deported, which could mean retribution against them or their families in their country of origin. For this reason, a recipient of a T Visa may also apply for certain immediate family members along with their application.
If you or anyone you know is a victim of human trafficking, it is highly recommended that you speak with an Immigration attorney regarding this type of case.