T Visa

What is the T Visa?

The T visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa that allows victims of human trafficking to enter and stay in the United States in order to protect the victim and provide law enforcement agencies a greater opportunity to detect, investigate, and prosecute human trafficking.

Who Qualifies for the T Visa?

In order to be eligible for a T visa, an individual must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a victim of a severe form of human trafficking;
  • 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 or participation in investigative or judicial processes associated with an act or perpetrator of trafficking;
  • Be compliant with all reasonable requests from law enforcement to assist them in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking, unless the human trafficking victim is under the age 18 at any instance of trafficking or has physical or psychological trauma caused by the trafficking that makes them unable to cooperate;
  • Be admissible to the United States, or receive a waiver to admissibility by filing Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant;
  • Be able to demonstrate that they would suffer extreme hardship resulting in unusual and severe harm if they were removed from the United States.

What is Human Trafficking?

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), human trafficking occurs when victims are compelled to provide labor or services, such as commercial sex, through the application of force, fraud, or coercion by the traffickers. Vulnerable individuals, such as children or those lacking lawful immigration status, are common victims of human trafficking. According to the U.S. State Department, traffickers often lure vulnerable individuals with false promises of employment and a better life.

U.S. federal law includes two forms of severe human trafficking that qualify under the T visa: sex trafficking and labor trafficking.

Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking occurs when someone recruits, harbors, transports, provides, solicits, patronizes, or obtains a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or when the person being induced to perform commercial sex act(s) is under the age of 18.

Labor Trafficking

Labor trafficking occurs when someone recruits, harbors, transports, provides, or obtains 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.

What is the Process to Obtain a T Visa?

The process to apply for a T visa involves submitting an application and required documentation with the USCIS. Individuals who are eligible for the T visa must apply for the visa from within the United States. U.S. Embassies or Consulates abroad are not involved in issuing T visas or reviewing T visa applications.

Step One: Applicant files Form I-914, Application for T Nonimmigrant Status

The first step to receiving a T nonimmigrant visa requires the applicant to submit Form I-914, Application for T Nonimmigrant Status with the USCIS Vermont Service Center. Applications submitted to U.S. Consulates or Embassies will not be accepted.

When submitting Form I-914, the applicant must include a personal statement that describes the trafficking the applicant was or is being subjected to. The applicant may additionally provide a statement from a law enforcement agency that confirms the applicant was or is a victim of human trafficking, though this is not a requirement.

Step Two: Applicant Submits Evidence of Cooperation with Law Enforcement

As part of the eligibility for the T visa, the applicant must submit evidence to prove that they have complied with all reasonable requests from law enforcement to assist them in their investigation or prosecution of those involved in trafficking the applicant.

The applicant can submit Form I-914, Supplement B, Declaration of Law Enforcement Officer for Victim of Trafficking in Persons to demonstrate the applicant’s cooperation and compliance with law enforcement. In addition to or instead of submitting Supplement B, the applicant may submit other evidence that proves compliance with reasonable requests from law enforcement, such as communication records with law enforcement, trial transcripts, police reports, or other relevant evidence.

If the applicant is unable to comply with the reasonable requests of law enforcement due to physical or physiological trauma caused by the trafficking, or if the victim is under 18 years old at the time they were trafficked, the applicant must submit evidence of their trauma or their age as the reason they are unable to comply.

Step Three: Applicant Submits Other Evidence Proving Eligibility

In addition to providing evidence of complying with the reasonable requests of law enforcement, the applicant must establish that they meet the other eligibility requirements for the T visa, including that:

  • The applicant is physically present in the United States;

Can Family Members Accompany or Join a T Visa Holder in the United States?

T visa holders may apply to have their immediate family members accompany them to the United States, or join them at a later date. The application for immediate family members can be submitted in conjunction with the T visa application.

T Visa Holder is Under Age 21

T visa holders who are under the age of 21 are eligible to have the following family members join or accompany them in the United States:

  • Their spouse (using a T-2 visa)
  • Their children (using a T-3 visa)
  • Their parents (using a T-4 visa)
  • Their unmarried siblings under the age of 18 (using a T-5 visa)

T Visa Holder is Over Age 21

T visa holders who are over the age of 21 are eligible to have the following family members join or accompany them in the United States:

  • Their spouse (using a T-2 visa)
  • Their children (using a T-3 visa)

T Visa Holder is Any Age

T visa holders of any age are eligible to have the following family members join or accompany them in the United States, so long as the family member faces a present danger of retaliation as a result of the T visa holders escape from trafficking or cooperation with law enforcement:

  • Their parents (using a T-4 visa)
  • Their unmarried siblings under the age of 18 (using a T-5 visa)

How to Apply for Immediate Family Members to Accompany or Join the T Visa Holder in the U.S

In order for a T visa applicant to have his or her family member accompany them or join them in the United States, the T visa applicant must submit Form I-914, Supplement A, Application for Immediate Family Member of T-1 Recipient to the USCIS Vermont Service Center directly.

After Form I-914 Supplement A is submitted to the USCIS, but before it is approved, the family member(s) who seek to join or accompany the T visa applicant will receive a Notice of Action from the USCIS instructing them to visit the nearest USCIS office for fingerprinting. Family members who are outside the United States must go to a U.S. Consulate or Embassy for fingerprinting. It is the family member’s responsibility to contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy to schedule the fingerprinting.

Can T Visa Holders Work in the United States?

T visa holders who are the actual victim of human trafficking will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), otherwise known as a work permit, at the same time their visa is approved. There is no need for T visa holders to apply for an Employment Authorization Document.

Family members of T visa holders, however, must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization in order to receive a work permit. Family members must be living in the United States in order to qualify for the employment authorization application. A work permit will not be issued to family members who are not in the United States.

For How Long is a T Visa Valid?

Generally, the T visa is valid for 4 years. The T visa holder may apply for an extension of the visa before the end of the 4 year period by filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.

Can T Visa Holders Receive a Green Card?

T visa holders may apply for lawful permanent residence in the United States, otherwise known as a Green Card, after they have lived in the United States continuously for 3 years. Additionally, a T visa holder may qualify for a Green Card if they have lived continuously in the United States during the time it takes to complete the investigation or prosecution of their trafficking case, even if this occurs in under 3 years.

How Much Does it Cost to Obtain a T Visa?

There is no fee to file Form I-914, Application for T Nonimmigrant Status or Form I-914, Supplement A, Application for Immediate Family Member of T-1 Recipient.

Other required or necessary forms listed below generally require a fee be paid. However, T visa applicants can apply to have the fee waived for these forms based on an inability to pay:

  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization;
  • Form I-131, Application for Travel Document;
  • Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a nonimmigrant; and
  • Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.