THE ABC'S OF IMMIGRATION - T VISAS FOR VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING
This week Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that the INS would soon begin issuing T visas. The visa was created by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, and allows people who have been trafficked into the US to remain in the US while the case against their trafficker is pursued. It is believed that as many as 50,000 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked into the US each year and are often forced to live in slavery-like conditions. The visa was created in the hope that by offering victims a way to remain in the US lawfully, they would be more willing to contact authorities with information about traffickers.
To qualify for a T visa, the applicant must show that they will suffer “extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm” if deported. The basic cost of the application, which is filed at the INS Vermont Service Center, is 0, with per additional family member, up to a total of 0. There is also an additional fingerprinting fee. While in T visa status, the person is eligible for work authorization, for which a separate application and fee must be provided. The application must also include three photographs of each applicant. After three years, the victim would be eligible to apply for permanent residency.
In addition to creating the T visa, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act increased the possible sentence for trafficking humans from 10 to 20 years. The bill also called for the creation of a task force to prevent and investigate trafficking. This task force, called the Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force (TPWETF), will coordinate law enforcement efforts and assist in the prosecution of traffickers.