Non-immigrant T visas are a special benefit available to those who have been victims of human trafficking and who have been of help to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of that trafficking. A T visa can allow you to stay in the United States for up to four years, and you may also be able to adjust your status to get a green card and become a lawful permanent resident. Victims’ immediate families can also be eligible for T visas.
Most people associate T visas with sex trafficking. USCIS defines sex trafficking as “When someone recruits, harbors, transports, provides, solicits, patronizes, or obtains a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, where the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or the person being induced to perform such act is under 18 years of age.”
Sex trafficking can certainly qualify you for a T visa, but it’s actually only one of two categories.
The other category of human trafficking covered by a T visa is labor trafficking. USCIS defines labor trafficking as “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.”
Many people are victims of labor trafficking without even realizing it. If you’ve been brought to the United States to work, then subjected to involuntary servitude and inhumane working conditions, and threatened with deportation if you speak out, you may in fact qualify for a T visa.
Take for example a worker who is recruited to come to the United States to work for a company on an H-2B temporary worker visa. The worker begins the job, but soon he finds out that the job duties are not what he was told. When it’s time for payday, the worker doesn’t get paid and his boss tells him he will get it next week. But next week it’s the same story. The worker says he will quit but the boss has kept all of the workers passport and immigration documents. The worker is told that if he quits, he will lose his visa and be deported. The worker is ashamed of falling for this scam and is embarrassed to tell his family back home what is going on, so he keeps on working for very little pay. The worker is living in arranged housing by the employer and his boss threatens him constantly with deportation if he leaves the job. This worker is a victim of labor trafficking.
Victims of both sex trafficking and labor trafficking are often afraid to come forward because the people victimizing them have said that if they do, they will be arrested and deported. The truth is, coming forward and reporting what is going on to authorities can actually help you. It may help you escape to safety as well as move you towards securing your status in the United States.
If you think you may qualify for a T visa or if you know someone who you think may have been a victim, the Heitz Immigration Law team is here to help. We can help you get a clearer understanding of your rights and the ways the law can protect you. If you are in this situation, please contact us today. We are here to help!