Human Trafficking is a crime that affects almost every nation in the world and is a grave violation of human rights. United States immigration law defines human trafficking as:
The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor, sex, or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
As part of its effort to combat trafficking and assist victims, in the year 2000, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which allows victims of human trafficking to receive lawful immigration status in the United States through the “T Visa.” Victims of human trafficking who qualify for a T Visa may receive the following benefits:
- Work authorization for four years
- Lawful immigration status for four years
- The opportunity to request advance permission to travel abroad and return
- The opportunity to request a waiver/pardon for many criminal and immigration-related violations
- The opportunity to apply for lawful permanent resident status after three years with the T visa.
Many individuals who are victims of human trafficking do not know that they may qualify for a T Visa. For instance, persons who have been held hostage, sexually assaulted, and/or forced to work by “coyotes” may qualify for a T visa. Persons who have worked for an employer who did not pay wages owed may qualify for a T visa. The fact that a person is working “illegally” or is “illegally” entering the United States does NOT disqualify him or her from receiving T Visa benefits if he or she is or was a victim of human trafficking.
The T Visa is a critical tool for law enforcement in the battle to stop human trafficking. If you or a loved one believe that you may have been the victim of human trafficking, contact Walker Gates Vela immediately for a full assessment of eligibility for T Visa benefits.