Question: I have a friend that has been in a most unfortunate circumstance. She was actually kidnapped from her home and sold into the underground world of sex slaves. Somehow, she escaped and fled to the U.S. She has no higher education or any job skills and no other family in the U.S. Is there anything she can do to stay here in the U.S.?
Answer: Yes, there is a new visa named the T Visa. To qualify, the person must be a victim of severe trafficking in persons. This can be a sex slave as you have mentioned, or it can be other forms of trafficking in persons such as slaves or involuntary servitude of any kind. The services provided must have been done under coercion or force.
Question: What must my friend do to avail herself of this T Visa?
Answer: First, she must be a victim of severe trafficking of persons. Next, she must be physically in the U.S. on account of such trafficking. If she is older than 15 years old, she must have tried to get the law enforcement officials in her home country to try to stop the acts. She must also show that if removed, she will suffer extreme hardship and harm. The application must be filed at the INS Service Center where she is present.
Question: My friend is too young to make it by herself, even if she gets the T Visa. Can her parents come and help and live with her?
Answer: Yes, the family members of a T Visa holder can get what is known as derivative status. This means that the parents and children (if they exist) can apply for the derivative T Visa. This is unique in visas. Normally, the parents do not derive any benefits from a visa obtained by their child. However, in this case, because of the nature of the visa, Congress has sought to allow parents to avail of this relief. The derivative applications must be sent along with the original application by the primary applicant.
Question: How long will my friend be able to stay on T status?
Answer: It can be issued for up to three years. There is no renewing this visa. However, after the three years, your friend can apply for Lawful Permanent Residency. Additionally, as long as the principal applicant (your friend) remains eligible, the family members also on T Visa can apply for Lawful Permanent Residency themselves.
Question: Assuming my friend gets the visa, is she guaranteed to get the Green Card?
Answer: Unfortunately, there is never a guarantee when it comes to immigration. However, in this case, there are specific provisions that allow INS to revoke or take away the visa status. The regulations do not specifically state how or why INS would revoke it, but assumably if the threat no longer exists, or they found out that it was obtained through fraud or misrepresentation, they could decide to revoke the visa. If this happens, they could be removed from the U.S. However, on the whole, this T Visa appears to benefit people who suffer extreme and outrageous conduct by other people. This is the United States stating to the world that anyone who is subjected to this cruelty will be welcome and allowed inside the U.S.