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New rules may benefit trafficking victims who qualify for T visas

Human trafficking is a terrible criminal offense. Some forms of human trafficking involve illegally smuggling people across the border to do low-paid work. Others involve treating people or their bodies like commodities for personal financial gain. Such enterprises can lead to severe injury and trauma for the people affected.

The United States of America takes human trafficking claims very seriously, and those accused of human trafficking offenses often face federal charges with substantial criminal penalties attached. The tragic reality is that every convicted human trafficker has likely had a negative impact on dozens of individuals.

Those affected directly by human trafficking are potentially eligible for a special non-immigrant visa program. The T visa program exists specifically to help stabilize those victimized by a human trafficking scheme. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced a new final rule that might help those who need a T visa after experiencing human trafficking.

What does the new rule achieve?

A T non-immigrant visa can help those victimized by either sex trafficking or labor trafficking. Those who secure a T visa can also request employment authorization from the USCIS and can eventually become lawful permanent residents. In some cases, family members can also qualify for T visas because family members could be at risk of retaliation. People can seek T visas for their parents, unmarried siblings, spouses and unmarried minor children.

T visas have been an option for certain immigrants for quite some time, but the courts often handled every case differently. The new USCIS rules help standardize the approach to T visa requests across the country. For example, there are now standard definitions of terms like serious harm and abuse. The new rule also clarifies what evidence applicants need to meet. The new rule may even facilitate better law enforcement of anti-trafficking laws by clarifying reporting rules for victims.

Those familiar with the different visa programs protecting those who have experienced criminal activity can potentially seek support as they try to improve their lives while recovering from a traumatic criminal incident. Having the right assistance can help those who might be eligible for a T visa navigate this complex and often confusing non-immigrant visa program.