Immigration Options

Construction worker (Photo Credit - Pexels)

DHS provides immigration options specifically for victims of trafficking through Continued Presence, which is a temporary immigration designation, and T nonimmigrant status, which is a temporary immigration benefit (commonly referred to as the T visa). Both immigration options strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute human trafficking by encouraging victims to engage and cooperate with law enforcement regardless of their immigration status. Another immigration benefit available to certain human trafficking victims is U nonimmigrant status (commonly referred to as the U visa) for victims of certain qualifying crimes, including human trafficking, who are helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying criminal activity and who meet other specific eligibility requirements.

  • Continued Presence  is a temporary immigration designation provided to individuals identified by law enforcement as victims of “severe forms of trafficking in persons” who may be potential witnesses. Continued Presence allows trafficking victims to lawfully remain in the U.S. temporarily and work during the investigation into the human trafficking-related crimes committed against them and during any civil action under 18 U.S.C. § 1595 filed by the victims against their traffickers. Continued Presence is initially granted for two years and may be renewed in up to two-year increments. Continued Presence recipients also receive federal benefits and services.
  • T Nonimmigrant Status (T Visa)  is a temporary immigration benefit that enables certain victims of a severe form of human trafficking to remain in the United States for up to 4 years if they have assisted law enforcement in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking. To qualify for a T visa, an applicant must demonstrate that they (1) are a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons; (2) are physically present in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a port of entry on account of trafficking; (3) have complied with reasonable requests from law enforcement, unless they are younger than the age of 18 or unable to cooperate due to trauma suffered; and (4) would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal from the United States. T nonimmigrant status is also available for certain qualifying family members of trafficking victims. T nonimmigrants are eligible for employment authorization and certain federal and state benefits and services. T nonimmigrants who qualify may also be able to adjust their status and become lawful permanent residents (obtain a Green Card) and eventually may be eligible for citizenship.
  • U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa ) is an immigration benefit that is available to victims of certain qualifying crimes, including human trafficking, who are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity and meet other requirements. The U visa is a tool intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute certain types of crimes, while also protecting crime victims and encouraging them to come forward and assist law enforcement. U nonimmigrant status is valid for 4 years and can be extended in limited circumstances; U nonimmigrants may be able to adjust their status and become lawful permanent residents if they qualify.

Certification and Eligibility Letters

Children walking in a field (Photo Credit – Lance Cheung)

Foreign national adults and minors in the United States who have been subjected to a severe form of trafficking in persons are eligible for certain benefits and services under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issues Certification Letters, to foreign national adults, and Eligibility Letters, to foreign national minors, in the United States.

  • Certification Letters : HHS issues Certification Letters to foreign national adults who have experienced trafficking after receiving notice from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security granting a person Continued Presence, or a T visa, or that a bona fide T visa application has not been denied. Certification Letters let individuals who have experienced trafficking and meet certain eligibility rules apply for the same benefits and services  as refugees.
  • Eligibility Letters : HHS issues Interim Assistance and Eligibility Letters to foreign national minors to allow minors who may have or have experienced human trafficking, and meet certain eligibility rules, to apply for the same benefits and services  as refugees.

Employment Assistance

Women watching a training video (Photo Credit – USAID East Africa Trade and Investment Hub 2)

A key component of supporting human trafficking survivors includes access to job training and employment assistance. The following examples include agency-specific initiatives that provide employment assistance and resources:

  • DOL’s American Job Centers , also known as One Stop Career Centers, offer training referrals, career counseling, job listings, and similar employment-related services at over 2,400 centers nationwide.
  • DOL’s Job Corps  program helps eligible young people ages 16 through 24 complete their high school education, trains them for meaningful careers, and assists them with obtaining employment.

Agency Human Trafficking Tip Lines

Woman holding phone (Pexels, Daria Shevtosova)

In addition to the National Human Trafficking Hotline , which is operated by a nongovernmental organization and funded by the federal government, the U.S. government operates human trafficking tip lines that receive calls or messages related to suspected human trafficking cases.

Call federal law enforcement directly to report suspected human trafficking activity and get help:
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security at 1-866-347-2423 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, or submit a tip online at www.ice.gov/tips . Individuals across the world can report suspicious criminal activity to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tip Line. The Tip Line is accessible internationally by calling 1-802-872-6199. Highly trained specialists take reports from both the public and law enforcement agencies on more than 400 laws enforced by ICE HSI, including those related to human trafficking.
Call the following federal government lines for other assistance:
  • U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division at 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243) for cases where labor exploitation may be present but does not rise to the threshold of trafficking.
  • U.S. Department of Labor OIG Hotline at 1-202-693-6999 or 1-800-347-3756, hotline@oig.dol.gov, or http://www.oig.dol.gov/hotlinemain.htm , 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to report allegations of trafficking committed through fraud in DOL programs, including, but not limited to, the H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, and PERM. When filing an OIG Hotline complaint, it is not necessary to provide names or any other identifying information.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at 1-800-669-4000 from 7:00am to 8:00pm (EST) for information about how workers, including trafficking victims, can file a charge of employment discrimination.
Report suspected online exploitation of children to the CyberTipline:
  • The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, at 1-800-THE-LOST or www.cybertipline.com , 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Congressionally-authorized CyberTipline is operated by a nongovernmental organization and provides a means for reporting crimes against children.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future