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:
- have completed a bona fide application for a T-visa; or
- 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