The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, makes adults eligible for benefits and services to the same extent as refugees, if they have been certified by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Victims of severe forms of trafficking who are under 18 years of age are also eligible for benefits to the same extent as refugees, but do not need to be certified.
Trafficking victims have been forced into the international sex trade, prostitution, slavery and forced labor through coercion, threats of physical violence, psychological abuse, torture and imprisonment.
HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has been delegated the authority to conduct certifications. At this time, ORR will issue certification letters to victims of trafficking who meet the certification requirements. ORR also will issue similar letters for children who have been subjected to trafficking.
To receive a certification, a victim of trafficking must be willing to assist with the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases AND either (1) have made a bona fide application for a T visa OR (2) be an individual whose continued presence the Attorney General is ensuring to effectuate a trafficking prosecution.
DSS will not conduct any certification activities.
Applications for Benefits
When a victim of trafficking applies for benefits follow the normal procedures for refugees except:
- Accept the original certification letter or letter for children in place of INS documentation. Victims of severe forms of trafficking are not required to provide any documentation of their immigration status.
- Call the trafficking verification line at (202) 401-5510 to confirm the validity of the certification letter or letter for children and to notify ORR of the benefits for which the individual has applied. (Note: At this time, INS Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) does not contain information about victims of severe forms of trafficking. Until further notice, do not contact SAVE concerning victims of severe forms of trafficking).
- Note the “entry date” for refugee benefits purposes. The individual’s “entry date” is the certification date which is in the body of the certification letter or letter for children. These letters also have an expiration date.
- Issue benefits to the same extent as a refugee, provided the victim of a severe form of trafficking meets other program eligibility criteria, such as income levels.
- Record the expiration dates of the certification letter or letters for children so those caseworkers will be prepared to conduct redeterminations of eligibility at that time.
Victims of trafficking may not possess standard identity documents, such as driver’s licenses or social security cards. Do not automatically deny the applications but call the trafficking verification line at (202) 401-5510.