After I apply for a T-visa, what are the first documents that I will receive?
When U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives your application, they will send you a receipt notice. Once USCIS has looked at your evidence and decided whether you qualify for T visa status, they will send a “notice” that they have approved or denied your case.1 If they give you T visa status, they will also give you a work authorization card.2
1 8 C.F.R. § 214.11(c)(3), (d)(8)
2 8 C.F.R. § 214.11(d)(11)
What needs to be included in my T visa application?
**Please note that reading this section is not enough to be sure you are filing everything you need. We strongly encourage you to find an attorney with experience working with trafficking victims to help you.***
The first step is to get a lawyer, if possible, with experience doing T visas. Next, you will fill out, with the attorney’s help, an “Application for T Nonimmigrant Status,” which is called Form I-914. You can find the necessary forms including the I-914 and I-914 Supplement B at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Along with the completed Form I-914, you must send USCIS a personal statement describing how you were a victim of trafficking; and supporting evidence (“corroboration”) to show that you meet the eligibility requirements.1
You are also encouraged to submit a “Declaration of Law Enforcement Officer for Victim of Trafficking in Persons,” which is Form I-914 Supplement B. This form is also known as a law enforcement agency (LEA) endorsement.
In addition, there are other forms and T visa requirements that require an expert in immigration law to do correctly.
Note: Your personal statement and other documents must show that you are in the U.S. because of the trafficking. This means that you must show: (1) you are here in the U.S.; and (2) the circumstances of your entry. If you weren’t physically trafficked into the U.S., you must explain how the trafficking caused you to be here (the “because of” requirement). Some questions that USCIS will be looking for in your T visa application are:
- If you had the chance to leave the U.S. already, why didn’t you?
- What acts or threats or other circumstances related to the trafficking prevented you from leaving the U.S.?
All of your reasons must be related to the trafficking experience or threats and acts by the trafficker. For example, you may have been prevented from leaving due to trauma, injury, lack of resources, or because your travel documents were seized by the traffickers. If you did leave the U.S. and come back, your return to the U.S. must be because of ongoing victimization or a new incident of severe trafficking. If not, USCIS will deny your application.
What do I need to know about the personal statement and corroboration included in my application?
The personal statement is very important. It is the only opportunity you have to tell your story in your own words and for USCIS to hear your “voice.” Your attorney or a crime victim advocate can help you organize your story but it should be in your own words. If you can’t get a law enforcement endorsement, you must explain in your statement how you tried to be helpful and what response, if any, you got back from law enforcement. You should also use your statement to explain why you meet the other eligibility requirements, especially if you don’t have a lot of other documents to support your case.
Similarly, if you are seeing a mental health therapist or other counselor to deal with the consequences of the trafficking, a statement from that therapist or counselor may be very helpful. S/he can describe both the facts of the trafficking, as you told them to him/her, and how the trafficking affected you. You may not be able to, or may not want to, explain all of this again in your personal statement and so having the therapist or counselor to do that for you may be easier. Trafficking victims are often raped or tortured, and it is reasonable for victims to prefer to supply details of that experience through their therapist or counselor. The goal of the law is to help trafficking victims, not re-traumatize them.
Other evidence that may support your case (“corroboration”) includes any documents or evidence from medical, legal, or social service systems that supports your own story and shows that you meet the T visa requirements. USCIS likes evidence from other “systems” because those systems are assumed to have expertise in their areas. They will, however, look at evidence from other sources too, especially if you and your lawyer explain why you couldn’t get “systems” evidence and why this source (your counselor, for instance) is believable, trustworthy and knowledgeable.
What do I need to know about the law enforcement agency (LEA) endorsement included in my application?
Although it is not required, you are encouraged to submit a “Declaration of Law Enforcement Officer for Victim of Trafficking in Persons,” which is Form I-914 Supplement B. This form is also known as a law enforcement agency (LEA) endorsement. A federal, state, or local law enforcement authority can fill out a Form I-914 Supplement B. A completed Form I-914 Supplement B acts as proof that you:
- are a victim of a severe form of trafficking; and
- have complied with reasonable requests for assistance in the investigation or prosecution.1
If you were previously granted “continued presence status” as a survivor of human trafficking, you should include the documents you have showing that.2
Law enforcement may decide not to investigate a significant number of trafficking victims’ reports for a variety of reasons. If you can’t get a law enforcement endorsement, you must explain in your personal statement the details of your attempts to help law enforcement. Also you must submit any medical, legal, or social systems evidence of your attempts to cooperate.3 For instance, if you called a law enforcement agency and they took down a report, work with your lawyer to get a copy of that report, even if law enforcement did nothing with it afterwards.
1 See Instructions for Form I-914, “Application for T Nonimmigrant Status”
2 8 C.F.R. § 214.11(d)(3)(iii)
3 8 C.F.R. § 214.11(f)(1)(iii)
What do I need to know about the other forms and requirements included in my application?
There are other forms and T visa requirements that require an expert in immigration law to do correctly. It is easy to lose your case just because you didn’t know you had to send in a particular form, you didn’t understand the “lawyer-speak” questions on the forms you did send in, or you didn’t know that past behavior unrelated to your trafficking experience came under one of the “grounds of inadmissibility.” An experienced immigration lawyer will help you avoid these pitfalls and help you address all of these barriers before you file. Again, remember that reading this description of what you need to file is not enough to file a successful T visa application. To avoid USCIS denying your case and possibly putting you or your family members into immigration court proceedings, it is safer for you and your family to work with an attorney with experience in T visa cases.
To locate a local attorney, please visit our Finding a Lawyer page and enter your state. For national immigration organizations, go to our National Organizations - Immigration page.
How much does it cost to apply for a T visa? Can I get a fee waiver?
The basic application forms for victims of trafficking, which are called Form I-914, and Form I-914 Supplements A or B, are free. However, there are some significant fees for both trafficking victims and their family members who will be applying as derivatives. The biggest fees are:
- $930 fee for the form required to overcome the general barriers to getting status (“grounds of inadmissibility”); and
- $410 fee for each family member (derivative) applicant who wants work authorization.1
Note: These costs are accurate as of September 1, 2019.
Since USCIS sometimes changes its fees and forms, make sure that you and your lawyer double check that you have the latest information and are using the latest forms.
It’s possible that you can get a fee waiver so you don’t have to pay the fees. Whether USCIS will grant a fee waiver depends on the family’s economic circumstances. If USCIS decides not to waive the fee, they will deny the case unless the fee is paid in a short period of time.
When I apply for a T visa, can I include my family members?
If requested, the government may also give T-visas to close relatives of trafficking victims.1 If the trafficking victim is over 21, s/he can ask for T visa status for his/her:
- spouse; and
If the trafficking victim is under 21, s/he can ask for T visa status for his/her:
- unmarried sisters and brothers under 18; and
- spouse; and
Under immigration law, “children” includes step-children who were under 18 years old at the time of the marriage between the parent and step-parent.3
Unlike the main T visa applicant (“principal applicant”), family members must ask for and pay for work authorization; they do not get it automatically when USCIS gives them T visa status.4 There is a hefty fee for this application, although fee “waivers” are available. There also are separate forms for family member (“derivative”) T visa applications and they must meet eligibility requirements themselves.5 For instance, like all T visa applicants, family members may have to explain why USCIS should give them a T visa status even if they committed prior acts that Congress has said are barriers to getting status in the U.S. (“grounds of inadmissibility”). Overcoming these grounds of inadmissibility is complicated and very difficult to do without help from an attorney with experience in immigration law.
To avoid USCIS denying your case and possibly putting you or your family members into immigration court proceedings, it is important to work with an attorney with experience in T visa cases. You can go to our Finding a Lawyer page to find a lawyer in your state. You can also ask one of the national immigration organizations on our National Organizations - Immigration page to help find you a lawyer.
1 8 C.F.R. § 214.11(k)(1)
2 8 C.F.R. § 214.11(k)(1)(i)
3 8 C.F.R. § 214.11(k)(1)(ii); INA § 101(b)(1)
4 8 C.F.R. § 214.11(k)(10)
5 8 C.F.R. § 214.11(k)(2)
Do I need a lawyer to apply for a T visa or can I find the forms online?
You can download the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services application forms from the USCIS website. However, we strongly encourage you to contact an immigration attorney to assist you in completing and submitting an application for a T-visa to the USCIS.
It is very important that you work with an attorney (or initially with an advocate) familiar with T visas. The forms and laws are confusing and you may make a mistake or leave something out that results in USCIS denying your application.
It is important to know that starting in the summer of 2019, USCIS started putting some denied T visa applicants into immigration proceedings (known as “removal” or deportation proceedings). Immigration judges have no power to give people T visa status, so once you are in removal proceedings, you may be deported quickly, especially if you don’t have an attorney with experience in immigration law and human trafficking. Because of the risks of being deported if your T visa application is denied, it is more important than ever that you contact an immigration attorney before filing an application. To find an immigration attorney, see our Immigration listings under National Organizations and / or our Finding a Lawyer page for a lawyer near you.
Where do I send my T visa application?
According to the Instructions for Form I-914, you can send your T-visa application to:
Vermont Service Center
ATTN: VAWA / T-Visa Unit
75 Lower Welden St.
Saint Albans, Vermont 05479-0001
Again, we strongly suggest that it is your lawyer, not you, sending in your application for all of the reasons mentioned throughout this section. In addition, USCIS cannot communicate with you, the trafficking victim, directly. They will only speak to your legal representative.