There are two types of immigration relief that are provided to victims of human trafficking and other crimes:
T Nonimmigrant Status (T Visa)
T nonimmigrant status provides immigration protection to victims of trafficking. The T Visa allows victims to remain in the United States and assist law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking cases.
In October 2000, Congress created the “T” nonimmigrant status by passing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA). The legislation strengthens the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute human trafficking, and also offer protection to victims.
Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers lure individuals with false promises of employment and a better life. Traffickers often take advantage of poor, unemployed individuals who lack access to social services. The T Nonimmigrant Status (T visa) is a set aside for those who are or have been victims of human trafficking, protects victims of human trafficking and allows victims to remain in the United States to assist in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking.
U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa)
U nonimmigrant status provides immigration protection to crime victims who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of the crime. The U visa allows victims to remain in the United States and assist law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.
The U Visa – A Path to Residency for Some Crime Victims and Their Families. For many undocumented immigrants in the U.S., living in the shadows entails living with a fear of the police due to the possibility that a law enforcement officer may refer an immigrant to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Indeed, fear of law enforcement authorities all too often results in immigrants being victimized by criminals who go unpunished because their crimes are not reported.
In 2000 the U.S. Congress determined that an incentive should be created to encourage immigrants to report crimes to the police without fear. In that year, Congress enacted the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act which created a path to legalization called the U Visa for immigrant victims of certain crimes. To qualify for a U Visa, an immigrant must first prove that she was the victim of one of the qualifying crimes enumerated in the law. This is typically accomplished by presenting the report that was created by the police department or district attorney’s office that investigated or prosecuted the crime. Second, the immigrant must prove that she suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been the victim of the crime perpetrated against her. Third, the immigrant must have information concerning the criminal activity that took place. Fourth, the immigrant must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. This step requires that the immigrant obtain a certification directly from the law enforcement agency or district attorney’s office that investigated or prosecuted the crime which certifies the immigrant’s cooperation. Fifth, the criminal activity must have occurred in the U.S. or violated U. laws. Additionally, a U Visa applicant must prove that she is a person of good moral character. Indeed, an applicant who has been convicted of a crime will likely have to also apply for what is called a waiver as part of her U Visa application.
In addition to being able to apply for her own legalization, a U Visa applicant can include certain family members in her application as derivative beneficiaries. Specifically, U Visa applicants who are 21 years of age or older can include their spouses and children in their applications. Applicants who are under 21 years of age can include their spouses, children, parents and unmarried siblings under the age of 18. An immigrant who is granted a U Visa as a principal applicant or derivative beneficiary will receive lawful status and work authorization for a period of four years. However, after three years of continuous physical presence in the U.S. as a U Visa recipient, the immigrant will be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence, or a green card.