New T Visa Regulation Includes FNUSA Recommendations that Protect Survivors

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New T Visa Regulation Includes FNUSA Recommendations that Protect Survivors

On April 30, 2024, the Department of Homeland Security released the long-awaited Final T Visa Rule. For many years, FNUSA has advocated for the regulation to include more protections for survivors waiting for their visa decision and clarity around visa requirements for applicants. This new rule includes many FNUSA recommendations that will allow survivors to safely work and rebuild their lives during the growing wait times for a visa.

The T Visa allows trafficking survivors to stay in the United States for up to 4 years, access public benefits, and receive work authorization. The T Visa Rule determines how the Department of Homeland Security implements the visa process and provides protections to survivors during the application process. The regulation has been updated multiple times since the first iteration in 2002 but has failed to fully implement the protections provided by the law. 

The Final T Visa Rule includes many improvements recommended by FNUSA that will protect survivors applying for the T Visa and improve access to the visa for qualified applicants, including:

  • An improved bona fide determination process, which provides survivors with protection from deportation, work authorization, and access to public benefits while they await their final visa decision. A large influx in T Visa applications over the last year has created a backlog, making bona fide determination even more crucial to help survivors with economic stability during the potentially years-long wait for their T Visa.
  • Adding Tribal authorities, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the National Labor Relations Board to the list of agencies that can provide declarations that survivors can use in their T Visa applications.
  • Clarifying that all survivors who were under the age of 18 during their victimization are exempt from law enforcement reporting. This brings the rule in line with the intent of the law: that all survivors who experienced trafficking as children should be eligible for the exemption, even if they are over the age of 18 when they apply for the visa. Many survivors are unable to apply for a T Visa immediately after their trafficking experience and instead need time to discover they are eligible for the visa, find an attorney, and seek services before applying.
  • Clarifying the requirement to demonstrate physical presence in the US “on account of” trafficking. New language and examples show that there are many ways to meet this requirement, even for survivors who left their trafficking experience many years ago, may have left and then returned to the US, or learned they were a survivor later on. The ability to prove an applicant meets this standard is essential to receiving a T Visa. 
  • Removing references to “aliens” and instead uses survivor-centered language like “victim,” “applicant,” “survivor,” or “noncitizen.”

This new rule allows survivors to access safe jobs and public benefits while they await their visa decision, which acts as a protective measure to prevent them from becoming vulnerable to trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Survivors deserve access to substantial protections and appropriate victim services throughout the visa application process and beyond. 

Regulatory advocacy is a key component of FNUSA’s policy work. We work to change policies from federal law to agency guidance, to ensure survivors are protected at all policy levels. FNUSA celebrates this final rule and appreciates the inclusion of many of our recommendations.