Trafficking in Persons
and Worker Exploitation Task
Force Complaint Line:
Trafficking in Persons
- Immigration Remedies for Trafficking Victims (PDF, 2 pages - 324 KB)
Trafficking in persons – also known as "human trafficking" – is a form of modern-day slavery. Traffickers often prey on individuals who are poor, frequently unemployed or underemployed, and who may lack access to social safety nets, predominantly women and children in certain countries.Victims are often lured with false promises of good jobs and better lives, and then forced to work under brutal and inhuman conditions.
Under federal law, the technical term for modern-day slavery or coerced labor is "severe forms of trafficking in persons." A severe form of trafficking in persons is defined as:
- Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under 18 years of age; or
- The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of subjecting that person to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
Trafficking can also take place in labor situations such as domestic servitude, labor in a prison-like factory, or migrant agricultural work. Whether or not an activity falls under the definition of trafficking depends not only on the type of work victims are made to do, but also on the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain or maintain that work. There is one exception – trafficking covers the use of minors for commercial sexual activity even if there is no force, fraud, or coercion.
Trafficking also covers people who are held against their will to pay off a debt; this is known as peonage. A victim's initial agreement to travel or perform the labor does not allow an employer to later restrict that person's freedom or to use force or threats to obtain repayment.
Federal Laws Prohibiting Trafficking
The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude.The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (VTVPA) supplements existing laws that apply to human trafficking including those passed to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment. It also establishes tools and resources to combat trafficking in persons, and requires an array of services and protections for victims of severe forms of trafficking.
Immigration relief is available for victims of severe forms of trafficking who lack immigration status in the United States. This is determined by the individual circumstances surrounding the victimization and the specific eligibility requirements of the type of relief sought. The victim (or someone acting on the victim's behalf) may be eligible to apply for a T or U nonimmigrant visa.
T Nonimmigrant Status (T visa)
- alllows eligible victims to remain in the U.S. for up to 4 years
- may be available to victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons who have complied with any reasonable requests for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of acts of trafficking
- minors under the age of 18 do not have to comply with such requests in order to be eligible
- a victim must be physically present in the U.S. or a port of entry thereto on account of trafficking, and must demonstrate he or she would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal
U Nonimmigrant Status (U visa)
- may be available to aliens who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been the victim of certain criminal activity, including trafficking
- to be eligible victims must demonstrate that the crime occurred in the U.S. or violated U.S. law, and that they possess information about the crime
- victims must also include a certification from a law enforcement official stating that the victim has assisted, is assisting or will assist in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity
Family members of T or U visa holders
- T or U visa holders may apply for certain family members to also become visa holders
- T or U visa holders under the age of 21 may apply for their parent(s) and/or sibling(s) under the age of 18 years
Employment eligibility of T or U visa holders
- T and U visa holders are eligible for employment authorization and may be eligible to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent resident
Applying for T or U nonimmigrant visas
Victims of a severe form of trafficking who wish to apply for a T nonimmigrant visa should complete Form I-914, Application for T Nonimmigrant Status. Victims of certain criminal activity who wish to apply for a U visa should complete Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status.
Mail both forms to:
USCIS Vermont Service Center
75 Lower Welden St.
St. Albans, Vt. 05479-0001