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Legal Information: Federal

Immigration

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Updated: 
June 7, 2019

How long does my T-visa last and what happens when it expires?

A T-visa lasts for four years.1 You are required to leave the United States at the end of the four years unless:

  • A law enforcement authority certifies that an extended stay is necessary for an ongoing investigation;
  • There are exceptional circumstances; or
  • Between the third and fourth year, you have applied to become a legal permanent resident and are granted permanent resident status or that application is pending. Note: You can apply after you have lived in the US for three years with T-visa status but before the end of the fourth year that the T-visa is in effect.2 For more information, see Now that I have my T-visa, can I apply for permanent resident status?

1 8 C.F.R. § 214.11(c)(1)
2 8 C.F.R. § 214.11(l)

I have a T-visa. Can I work legally in the US?

If the government grants you a T-visa, you are automatically granted an employment authorization document (EAD) and you can legally work in the U.S. You do not need to fill out separate paperwork to get employment authorization; your T-visa application also acts as an application for employment authorization.1

Note: If you are applying for derivative T-visa status (T-visa status for your immediate family members), you must apply for employment authorization for them separately by filling out Form I-765.2

1 8 C.F.R. § 214.11(d)(11)
2 8 C.F.R. § 214.11(k)(10)

Now that I have my T-visa, can I apply for permanent resident status?

Someone granted T-visa status (also known as a T-1 nonimmigrant), may apply for permanent residence if s/he:

  1. has been in the United States for:
    • a continuous period of at least three years after T-visa status is granted; or
    • a continuous period during the investigation / prosecution of trafficking and once the investigation / prosecution is complete (whichever amount of time is shorter);
  2. has been a person of good moral character1 since first being granted T-visa status;
  3. has complied with reasonable requests for assistance in the investigation / prosecution of acts of trafficking since first being granted T-visa status or s/he would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if s/he were removed from the United States; and
  4. is otherwise admissible to the United States as a lawful permanent resident (in other words, s/he is not inadmissible for any reason listed under INA Sec. 212).2

To apply for permanent residence you must complete and submit an “application to register permanent residence or adjust status,” known as Form I-485, available at the USCIS website here.

Note: When a T-visa holder applies for permanent residence, it may also be called applying for adjustment of status.

1 "Good moral character" (as mentioned above) is defined under Section 101(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, available by clicking here. If you have committed any of the acts listed in section 101(f), you might not qualify as a person of good moral character. The list includes but it not limited to the following: criminal possession of narcotics (except simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana), habitual drunkenness, repeated gambling offenses, a conviction of an aggravated felony, imprisonment for a total of 180 days or more, and lying under oath (giving false testimony) to get benefits available through the Immigration and Nationality Act. Note: The USCIS may make a negative finding based on criteria not listed in Section 101(f) (in other words, the list is “non-exhaustive”).
2 8 C.F.R. § 245.23

What specific federally-funded benefits are available to me?

Once you have obtained certification (or a letter of eligibility if you are under 18), you may receive benefits from any federal program or federally-funded state program. We have listed possible benefits you may be eligible for below. To apply for any of these benefits, be sure to bring your certification or letter of eligibility with you. (The service provider will verify your certification or eligibility letter by calling the Trafficking Victim Verification line at (866) 401-5510). You can find additional information in HHS's Resource Guide. In addition, the National Immigrant Women's Advocacy Project created a "map" where you can look up each type of benefit to see if an immigrant is eligible for that particular benefit in a particular state. The map includes cash assistance (TANF), child care, housing, driver's licenses, and more. You can access this map feature on the NIWAP website. Also, they offer this information about all of the benefits that an immigrant can qualify for in every state displayed in a state-by-state list.

1. Financial Help
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
– TANF provides assistance and work opportunities to needy families with children under 18 years of age. State agencies implement the program. Certified victims of human trafficking (and victims under 18 years old who have obtained letters of eligibility) should apply through their local social services agency.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as “SNAP” or food stamps) – You use food stamps like cash to pay for food at most grocery stores. Certified victims of human trafficking (and victims under 18 years old who have obtained letters of eligibility) can apply through their local Social Security offices. Here you can find your closest Social Security office.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) – WIC provides nutrition assistance and education to pregnant women and families with children under five years of age. You can use WIC checks to purchase certain types of food and infant formula. You are automatically eligible for WIC if you are eligible for TANF, food stamps, or Medicaid.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – SSI provides benefits for people who are blind, have severe disabilities, or are at least 65 years old and have limited income and resources. Certified victims of human trafficking can apply through their local Social Security offices. Here you can find your closest Social Security office.

Refugee Cash and Medical Assistance (RCA & RMA) – If you are ineligible for TANF, SSI, and Medicaid, you may be eligible for RCA and RMA, which provide cash and medical assistance for the first eight months following certification or eligibility.

Matching Grant Program – Volunteer Agencies (called VOLAGs) administer the Matching Grant Program as an alternative to refugee cash assistance. It provides employment services, living assistance (including food or food subsidies, housing assistance, and transportation), and cash allowance.

2. Health Care
Torture Treatment Program – HHS-funded social, legal, health, and psychological services for victims of torture. Here you can find survivor resources.

State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) – SCHIP (also called CHIP) is a public health insurance program available to low-income, uninsured children under 18 years of age who do not qualify for Medicaid. Because state agencies administer the program, you will need to contact your state’s local social services agency for more information. Note: There is a five-year waiting period after receiving "qualified" immigration status before T-Visa recipients can access SCHIP.1

Medicaid – Medicaid is a government-funded health insurance program for people with low income and limited resources. Because state agencies administer the program, you will need to contact your state’s local social services agency for more information. Note: There is a five-year waiting period after receiving "qualified" immigration status before T-Visa recipients can access Medicaid.1

3. Social Services
Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program – This program provides resettlement and foster care services for unaccompanied minor refugees and trafficking victims. For more information, click here.

4. Employment
One-Stop Career Center System
- If you are looking for employment, Career One-Stop may be able to assist you. Local centers provide information and assistance for finding employment and obtaining education and training. To locate a One-Stop career service center near you, click here.

Job Corps – The Department of Labor oversees this free job training and education program for youths between the ages of 16 and 24. Here you can learn more about Job Corps.

5. Housing
Certified victims of human trafficking may be eligible for public housing assistance. Your local social services agency may be able to assist you in locating the proper public housing authority.

6. Other
State-Specific Programs
– States may have additional programs for certified victims of human trafficking. Your local social services agency may be able to assist you in figuring out what may be available to you.

Note: The above information is adapted from the HHS’s Administration for Children and Families Victim Assistance Fact Sheet. The fact sheet is also available in the following languages:

1 U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

What steps do I need to take in order to get federal benefits that I am entitled to?

If you are an adult victim of human trafficking (18 years of age and over), you can get “certified” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in order to be eligible for certain federally-funded benefits.1

“Certification” is available to victims of human trafficking (as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act) who are willing to assist law enforcement in the prosecution of trafficking crimes and either:

  1. have completed a bona fide application for a T-visa; or
  2. have received continued presence status from the Department of Homeland Security.2 Note: “Continued presence” status is requested by law enforcement officials for victims of human trafficking who are potential witnesses for trafficking-related prosecution. Only a law enforcement agency can petition the USCIS for continued presence status.

Child victims are automatically eligible for benefits once the HHS receives proof that the child is a victim of human trafficking (so they do not have to prove either of the two requirements above). The HHS will then provide the child victim or the child victim’s representative with a “letter of eligibility,” which can be used to prove to social service providers that the child is eligible for benefits.3

If you have not yet been certified by the HHS (but you have reported the trafficking crime), you may still be eligible for certain federally-funded services and benefits including crisis counseling and short term shelter or housing assistance. To locate service providers for uncertified victims of human trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or you can send a text to 233733, which corresponds with the letters BeFree on your phone.

1 22 U.S.C. § 7105(b)(1)
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Trafficking in Persons, Certification Letters
3 22 U.S.C. § 7105(b)(1)(C)(ii)(l); Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Victim Assistance Fact Sheet