Yesterday Secretary Perez announced that the Labor Department is taking important steps to fulfill its commitment to protect vulnerable workers. Specifically, the Wage and Hour Division will begin certifying applications for trafficking victims seeking T visas. In addition, the division will now certify U visa requests when it detects three new qualifying criminal activities in the course of its workplace investigations: extortion, forced labor, and fraud in foreign labor contracting.
The Wage and Hour Division enforces several critical federal workplace laws — including the federal minimum wage and overtime laws. Because many wage and hour investigations take place in industries that employ vulnerable workers, the Wage and Hour Division is often the first federal agency to make contact with these workers and detect exploitation in the workplace. These new efforts on the part of the Wage and Hour Division will help qualifying victims of these crimes receive immigration relief from the Department of Homeland Security and access the victim services that they need to recover and rebuild their lives. Here are three things you should know about U and T visas:
- What are U and T visas?
U and T Visas were created by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 for certain victims of crimes.
U visas provide legal status to victims of “qualifying criminal activity” who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse, possess information concerning that crime, and who have been, are being, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement or government officials.
T visas provide legal status to certain victims of human trafficking who assist law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of trafficking crimes.Law enforcement certification that is completed by an agency like the Wage and Hour Division is required for U visa eligibility. While not required for a T visa, when available, a law enforcement agency certification is given significant weight as evidence that the applicant complied with reasonable requests for assistance from a law enforcement agency.
- Who grants U and T visas?
The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services grants petitions for U or T visas.
- How can an individual apply for a U or T visa certification from the Labor Department?
The Department of Labor has developed protocols to ensure that the U and T visa certification process is efficient and effective. To request a certification, contact a Wage and Hour Division Regional Office. Some individuals may be eligible for both U and T visas, depending on their circumstances. Individuals and their representatives have the discretion to request the preferred certification(s) from the Wage and Hour Division.
More information on U and T visa certifications:
Laura Fortman is the Deputy Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division.