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T Visa: Overlooked Remedy For Many Wrongs

Author: New York Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

The United Nations defines human trafficking in the UN Trafficking in Person Protocol, which supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime as “the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud or deception for exploitation.”

Human trafficking is a global crime, where the individual or group of people deceive victims by fake promises of giving education, job offers, etc. A victim of human trafficking may qualify for special status in the US protecting them and their family members, and opening a path to a green card or permanent residency. But there are misconceptions as to what situations would fall under the definition of “human trafficking” for the purposes of a T visa in the US. One common misconception consists of belief that one must be smuggled through the border by an organized crime cartel in order to qualify for the T visa. But this is not the case. The US law defined human trafficking broadly, and allows those who were mistreated by their abusive partners in certain situations to qualify for the relief of a T visa, as well as victims of severe labor violations! So, if you found yourself in the US without status due to abuse by a partner, a parent, a “coyote”, an employer, you should check if you may apply for the T visa in the US.

T Visa Qualifications

Victims can come from any background, but they tend to be disproportionately women and children. The most common forms of exploitation include forced labor, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, and organ harvesting. To qualify for the status, a person has to demonstrate that they:

  • Have been a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons;
  • Are physically present in the United States (or American Samoa or CNMI), or at a port of entry, on account of such trafficking, including having been allowed entry into the United States for participation in investigative or judicial processes associated with the trafficking; and
  • Are either under 18 or have complied with any reasonable request for assistance from a law enforcement agency (unless they were so traumatized that they could not do so); and
  • They would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(T).

Now, let’s discuss the “technicalities”. To win their case, victims have to show that they have been trafficked into the US and forced to perform labor or services against their will in order to gain economic benefit from their exploitation, OR they were subject to other forms of severe trafficking-related abuse or exploitation contained within one of five specific categories listed in 8 U.S.C § 1101(a)(15)(T). Note that false promises, threats, coercion by threats of revealing one’s immigration status, for example, may qualify for “human trafficking”.

***Consider M: her boyfriend transported her to the US and thereafter, forced her to engage in unwanted intimate relationships threatening with revealing her immigration status to the authorities if she does not comply.

The victim also must be willing to cooperate with law enforcement when it comes to investigating any human traffickers that may be involved in the case. In other words, one will have to file the police report, report the crime to a prosecutor’s office, and comply with requests to participate in the proceedings if such requests would be placed.

In addition, the victim must prove that there would be extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if he/she were removed form the US.

Perhaps, the hardest first step for the victims is to come forward and report the abuse. Such reports also will serve as necessary evidence for one’s T visa case.

Typical evidence in one’s case would consist of:

  1. Personal statement: An in-depth account of experience being recruited, transported, or held against their will as a victim of human trafficking. Give specific information about traffickers and the conditions endured, as well as an explanation of the methods of coercion, fraud, or force that were employed.
  2. Reports from the police: If a person contacted the police about the trafficking then copies of any reports or other evidence that was collected during the investigation.
  3. Include medical records that contain detailed injuries, psychological trauma, or any health issues resulting from the trafficking situation or if received medical treatment or underwent any examinations as a result of the trafficking.
  4. Letters of support: Collect letters of support from people who can attest to a person’s involvement in human trafficking, such as social workers, therapists, or organizations that have helped. These letters should detail their understanding of the circumstances and the assistance they have offered.
  5. Witness testimony: If there are any people who have a person being trafficked or who can attest to the situation. These claims ought to be specific about what they saw and how they learned about involvement in human trafficking.
  6. Records of employment: If a person were a victim of labor trafficking, please submit any records of employment, contracts, pay stubs, or other proof of unfavorable working conditions that attest to the abuse experienced.
  7. Financial records: Provide any proof of forced debts, withheld wages, or other financial transactions that demonstrate a lack of control over finances, if, were financially controlled by the traffickers.
  8. h. Include any additional supporting documentation, such as images, emails, text messages, or other records of communications that illustrate the existence of the trafficking situation.

Furthermore, the T Visa offers access to a wide range of social services and benefits. These include access to healthcare, counseling, and educational opportunities, which are crucial for survivors who may have suffered physical and emotional trauma during their ordeal. The T Visa also provides victims with the ability to reunite with their immediate family members, helping to restore fractured relationships and providing support networks during the recovery process.

In summary, the T Visa not only offers legal status but also provides a multitude of benefits that are vital for human trafficking survivors to recover and move forward. By recognizing and addressing the unique needs of these victims, the T Visa plays a crucial role in empowering survivors and offering them the opportunity for a brighter future.

27 July 2023
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