DHS Strengthens T Nonimmigrant Visa Program and Protections for Trafficking Victims

The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, on April 29, announced a final rule to strengthen the integrity of the T nonimmigrant status (T visa) and ensure eligible victims of human trafficking can access protections and stabilizing benefits in a timely manner. T nonimmigrant status enables certain victims of human trafficking to remain in the United States for an initial period of up to four years.

T nonimmigrant status offers protection to victims and strengthens the ability of law enforcement agencies to detect, investigate, and prosecute human trafficking. This final rule clarifies T nonimmigrant status eligibility and application requirements and includes provisions to reduce potential barriers to victims and enable USCIS officers to adjudicate victims’ applications more efficiently. The final rule also improves the program’s integrity by clarifying the reporting and evidentiary requirements for victims of trafficking, which will better help law enforcement act on reports of trafficking.

Key Elements of the Final Rule
  • Updating and clarifying definitions – including serious harm, abuse, and law enforcement agency – to ensure consistency and standards as described in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, as amended;
  • Improving program efficiency by clarifying reporting and evidentiary requirements on the outset to decrease requests for additional evidence;
  • Streamlining law enforcement agencies’ ability to act on reports of trafficking by requiring victims to report instances of trafficking to the correct law enforcement of jurisdiction; and
  • Simplifying the bona fide determination and adjudication process, while continuing to uphold fraud prevention measures.
T Visa Changes and Background

In 2016, DHS published an interim rule to respond to public feedback on the T visa program, clarify requirements based on statutory changes, formalize the experience gained from operating the program for more than 14 years, and amend provisions as required by intervening legislation. In July 2021, DHS reopened the public comment period for this interim rule for 30 days and subsequently extended the deadline for comments. This final rule adopts the changes in effect from the 2016 interim rule, clarifies the existing regulatory framework, and substantively addresses the public comments received.

Erickson Insights and Analysis

Erickson Immigration Group will continue to monitor developments and share updates as more news is available. Please contact your employer or EIG attorney if you have questions about anything we’re reporting above or case-specific questions.