Skip to main content

I want help on an issue involving human trafficking.

Human Trafficking

This guide can help you better understand human trafficking issues—and what help is available.

Guide Overview

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not legal advice and are not a substitute for the help of a lawyer.

This guide is designed to help you understand what you can do when dealing with human trafficking issues—and what help is available. This guide was written by American Gateways (and contains information from other organizations, too). 

Common questions about Human Trafficking

Sometimes referred to as modern-day slavery, human trafficking occurs when there is forced labor, indentured servitude, or commercial sex exploitation, by means of force, fraud, or coercion.

The most targeted populations for trafficking are homeless and runaway youths. This includes immigrants smuggled into the U.S., or currently residing in the U.S., who are vulnerable to exploitation due to their undocumented status. Some survivors of human trafficking in the U.S. may be eligible for a type of humanitarian relief called a “T visa” if they meet certain requirements.

No. A T Visa is a form of immigration relief specifically for people who have been victims of any kind of human trafficking. A U Visa is a similar form of immigration relief. But a U Visa is for people who have been victims of a qualifying crime within the U.S.; have cooperated with law enforcement agencies in the investigation/prosecution of that crime; and have been certified by law enforcement of same.

A person who meets each of the following general requirements may be eligible for a T visa upon application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:

  1. Survivor of “severe trafficking” (use of force, fraud, or coercion for sex  trafficking and/or involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery); and
  2. Who is physically present in the U.S. on account of trafficking; and
  3. Who has complied with any reasonable request by federal, state, or local law enforcement to assist in the investigation or prosecution of such trafficking; and
  4. Who would “suffer extreme hardship involving severe and unusual harm upon removal.”

Talk to an experienced immigration attorney about whether your experience meets these requirements. Specific factors—such as the age of the victim, location of the trafficking experience, level of trauma, and evidence available—affect how these requirements must be met by each applicant.

The elements of force, fraud, or coercion are found in situations where a person is not free to leave a situation, or is forced to act in a particularly harmful manner which the person would not normally choose. Persons who act based on threats of physical violence to themselves, their families, or others; threats of reporting to police or immigration; lies; and other such actions may be considered to be acting under threats of force, fraud, or coercion.

The United States upholds a humanitarian standard when weighing an immigrant’s reasons for fleeing her country for the U.S. The U.S. generally will not return a person to their home country or another country if doing so will bring immediate harm, torture, or death upon the person.

The government will consider factors such as:

  1. Serious physical or mental illness of the applicant that necessitates medical or psychological attention not reasonably available in the foreign country;
  2. The nature and extent of the physical and psychological consequences of severe forms of trafficking; and
  3. The likelihood that the trafficker or another acting on behalf of the trafficker in a foreign country to which the applicant may be removed would severely harm the Applicant.  

Additionally, if a person came to the U.S. escaping any form of persecution that could otherwise qualify the applicant for asylum, the applicant needs only cite the past harm to show extreme hardship.

Typical timeline for getting a T Visa:

  1. Report trafficking experience to LEA (Law Enforcement Agency)
  2. Gather evidence 
  3. Application 
  4. Decision

The USCIS estimates that the processing time for adjudication of a T visa is approximately 812 months.

This time is separate from the time that it may take to report the trafficking experience, gather evidence, and prepare the application.

Talk to an experienced immigration attorney who understands this process in order to move the application along faster.

Instructions & Forms

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not legal advice and are not a substitute for the help of a lawyer.

Gather the following evidence, if possible, before applying for a T Visa.

Checklist Steps

Examples of documentary evidence are police reports, emails confirming interviews, business cards, etc., that show you reported the trafficking experience to the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the trafficking event occurred.

Examples include your birth certificate, ID, passport, marriage and divorce certificates, and any identity documents for your children and spouse.

This is a certification from law enforcement that you were the victim of human trafficking. It is not required, but it is recommended. Talk to an immigration attorney for help.

You will want to produce a sworn declaration about your experience. Talk to an immigration attorney for help.


  • Medical reports: Hospital records, rape examinations, etc.
  • Mental assessments for trauma. This can include proof that you are receiving treatment/counseling or have received treatment from a mental health professional for any harm that you have suffered.

Gather secondhand evidence of your experience, such as news articles, letters from witnesses, etc. 

Evidence of Extreme Hardship can be medical reports of mental or physical illness; evidence that U.S. citizen immediate relatives would not be able to seamlessly move to another country; or reports of the condition of the country you would be required to return to. 

Forms Required

Articles in this guide