Trafficking Victims Eligible for Green Card

Human trafficking in the U.S. is on the rise. For the first time, the U.S. has been ranked in the Annual Trafficking Report released in June 2010. The report stated that the U.S. is not just a destination country for trafficking but is a “source country for people held in servitude.”

Human trafficking may be sex trafficking or labor trafficking. Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring and transporting of a person for commercial sex by force, fraud or coercion.

Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, and transporting of a person for forced labor. About a third of the forced laborers in the U.S. are domestic servants, according to the National Human Rights Center in Berkeley, California.

To help law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute human trafficking, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in October 2000. This legislation provides for immigration relief and protection to victims that include continued presence and continuation of presence, T nonimmigrant visa and adjustment to lawful permanent resident status. A T visa holder may be granted employment authorization.

To qualify for T visa, the victim must prove that he/she is a victim of severe trafficking in persons, is physically present in the U.S. on account of trafficking, and complies with any reasonable request from law enforcement agency for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking. The victim must also demonstrate extreme hardship involving severe and unusual harm if removed from the U.S.

The application is submitted on Form I-914 Application for T Nonimmigrant Status. It should include a statement about the victimization and a law enforcement agency endorsement or evidence of compliance with reasonable request for assistance.

If the applicant is under 18 at the time of victimization, or is unable to cooperate with the enforcement agency due to physical or psychological trauma, a T visa may still be obtained even without aiding in the investigation or prosecution.

Immediate family members may be eligible for derivative nonimmigrant status. If under 21, the victim may apply on behalf of the spouse, children, parents and unmarried sibling under 18 years of age. If 21 or older, the victim may apply on behalf of the spouse and children.

There is a limit of 5000 T visas per year but the limit does not apply to family members. If the cap is reached, the applicant is placed on the waiting list in the following year.

A T nonimmigrant may apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence after being physically present in the U.S. continuously for at least 3 years or for a continuous period during the investigation or prosecution provided the investigation or prosecution is complete, whichever time is less.

The applicant must also maintain good moral character, has complied with any reasonable request for assistance in the investigation or prosecution and must demonstrate extreme hardship if removed from the U.S.