U & T Visa Certifications

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Introduction

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces and administers occupational health and safety laws that allow workers to perform jobs in a safe and healthful manner and that provide workers with recourse when subject to workplace retaliation. Many OSHA investigations take place in industries that employ vulnerable workers, and immigration status often emerges as a powerful retaliation tool or threat against workers without permanent status when they try to assert their legal rights. Noncitizen workers therefore often remain vulnerable and reluctant to speak out about life-threatening workplace violations or otherwise exercise their rights under the laws that OSHA enforces. In becoming a U and T visa certifying agency, OSHA can better protect these workers and further the mission of the agency.

On March 30, 2023, OSHA began exercising authority to complete U and T visa certifications for certain victims of crimes and trafficking. This OSHA program builds on the work the Department of Labor (DOL) began in 2011 and 2015, when the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) first began completing U visa certifications and then T visa declarations ("U or T visa certifications"), respectively. By expanding DOL's U and T visa certification authority to OSHA, DOL is able to provide additional support to workers who are victims of human trafficking and other crimes.

Overview

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 created two types of immigration benefits available for certain victims of crimes:

The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) provides temporary immigration status to victims of an enumerated list of "qualifying criminal activities" (QCAs) who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the criminal activity; possess specific, credible, and reliable information about the criminal activity; and who have been, are being, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of the criminal activity.

The T nonimmigrant status (T visa) provides temporary immigration status to certain victims of human trafficking who have or are willing to assist law enforcement authorities in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of trafficking crimes, and would suffer extreme hardship if they were removed from the United States. OSHA has authority to complete T and U visa certifications based on OSHA's role as a law enforcement agency that has detected the qualifying criminal activity or trafficking crime.

OSHA’s Certification Criteria

  1. U Visa Certifications

    OSHA will consider exercising its authority to complete U visa certification requests when the following conditions are met:

    1. OSHA has detected one of the following QCAs, or an attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit one of the following QCAs: murder, manslaughter, felonious assault, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, perjury, extortion, blackmail, involuntary servitude, peonage, or trafficking;
    2. The QCA arises in the context of a work environment or an employment relationship;
    3. There is a credible allegation of a violation of a law that OSHA enforces related to the work environment or employment relationship; and
    4. The victim has demonstrated that they have been, are being, or are likely to be helpful to OSHA and/or any other law enforcement officials in the detection, and any investigation or prosecution, of the QCA.
  2. T Visa Declarations

    OSHA will consider exercising its authority to complete T visa declaration requests when the following conditions are met:

    1. OSHA has identified a victim of trafficking;
    2. The trafficking activity arises in the context of a work environment or an employment relationship;
    3. There is a credible allegation of a violation of a law that OSHA enforces related to the work environment or employment relationship; and
    4. The victim has complied with any reasonable requests for assistance (unless the victim qualifies for an exemption due to age or trauma suffered).

Additional Information for Filing

If OSHA agrees to provide a victim with a U or T visa certification, OSHA will return the completed certification or declaration form to the victim and/or their representative. The victim is then responsible for submitting the signed and completed U or T visa certification to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as part of the entire U or T visa application package. The victim must demonstrate to USCIS that they meet all eligibility requirements for the requested visa. USCIS, not OSHA, is responsible for the adjudication of U visa petitions and T visa applications. For information on USCIS's process for determining eligibility for a U or T visa, visit its website.

How to Request a U or T Visa Certification from OSHA

If you would like to request a U and/or T visa certification from OSHA, please email your request to: OSHA-UTV-Certification@dol.gov. To aid in the timely processing of your certification request, please include with your request as much detail as possible about the trafficking or other qualifying crime that you believe you have been the victim of, and any other facts necessary for OSHA to determine whether to provide you with a certification.

Disclaimers

The U or T visa certification completed by OSHA does not guarantee that USCIS will approve your request for a U or T visa. USCIS determines eligibility for the U or T visa on a case-by-case basis by evaluating all evidence submitted by the victim, including a U or T visa certification. You should consider seeking immigration counsel to better understand the individual implications of submitting a request to USCIS for a U or T visa.

FAQs

The U nonimmigrant status (“U visa”) was created by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-386). Victims of qualifying criminal activities who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse may apply for a U visa if they possess information about the criminal activity and are willing to assist law enforcement or other government officials in the investigation or prosecution of those crimes. Individuals who receive U visas may remain in the United States for up to four years, and may eventually be eligible to apply for permanent residency. Among other requirements, a U visa petitioner must submit a law enforcement certification asserting that the U visa petitioner “has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful” in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of the criminal activity. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, has the sole authority to decide whether the petitioner meets these requirements and whether to grant or deny a U visa petition. For information about the U visas, please visit Victims of Human Trafficking and Other Crimes.

The T nonimmigrant status ("T visa") was established by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-386). Victims of "severe forms of trafficking in persons" may qualify for a T visa if they are physically present in the United States on account of such trafficking, comply with any reasonable request for assistance in the Federal, State, or local investigation or prosecution of acts of trafficking, and demonstrate that they would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, has the sole authority to decide whether the applicant meets these requirements and whether to grant or deny a T visa application. For information about the T visas, please visit Victims of Human Trafficking and Other Crimes.

QCAs are defined by statute as any activity involving one or more of the following or any similar activity in violation of Federal, State, or local criminal law: rape; torture; trafficking; incest; domestic violence; sexual assault; abusive sexual contact; prostitution; sexual exploitation; stalking; female genital mutilation; hostage; peonage; involuntary servitude; slave trade; kidnapping; abduction; unlawful criminal restraint; false imprisonment; blackmail; extortion; manslaughter; murder; felonious assault; witness tampering; obstruction of justice; perjury; fraud in foreign labor contracting (as defined in section 1351 of Title 18); or attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes. 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(U)(iii); see also 8 C.F.R. 214.14(a)(9).

As of March 30, 2023, when the conditions described above are met, OSHA will consider completing U visa certifications, Form I-918, Supplement B, if any of the following QCAs are detected, or if any attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit one of the following QCAs is detected: murder, manslaughter, felonious assault, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, perjury, extortion, blackmail, involuntary servitude, peonage, or trafficking.

"Severe forms of trafficking in persons," also known as human trafficking, is defined by statute as "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 subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery" or "sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age." 22 U.S.C. 7102(11); 8 C.F.R. 214.11(a). This definition encompasses trafficking crimes that OSHA considers as eligible QCAs for U visa purposes. Requests for a law enforcement certification of trafficking in persons should specify whether the certification is being requested as part of a U visa petition, which would be a request for Form I-918, Supplement B, or for a T visa application, which would be a request for Form I-914, Supplement B, or both.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification (or “U visa certification”) is the specific form that a victim asks OSHA or another law enforcement agency to complete and sign as part of the victim’s petition for a U visa. The Form I-918, Supplement B certifies that the individual was the victim of certain qualifying criminal activity (QCA) and was helpful, is currently being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of the QCA. Similarly, the USCIS Form I-914, Supplement B, Declaration of Law Enforcement Officer for Victim of Trafficking in Persons (or “T visa declaration”) is the specific form that a victim asks OSHA or another law enforcement agency to complete and sign as part of the victim’s application for a T visa. The USCIS Form I-914, Supplement B certifies that the individual was a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons and has complied with any reasonable request to assist law enforcement. Neither the U visa certification nor the T visa declaration provides victims with a U or T visa or guarantees that they will receive a U or T visa. Rather, the certification form is a required element in a U visa petition to USCIS, and the declaration is an optional element in a T visa application to USCIS.

Yes. Some victims may be eligible for both a U visa and a T visa, depending on their circumstances. Victims and their representatives have the discretion to request their preferred certification from OSHA or to request both certifications from OSHA.

All requests for completion of a U or T visa certification will be directed to the regional coordinator. In most cases, the regional coordinator will interview the victim regarding their allegations to determine whether or not the request meets the requisite factors identified to consider completing a certification. The victim's underlying health and safety and/or whistleblower complaint will be addressed according to OSHA's standard complaint policy. The regional coordinator will work as appropriate with colleagues in the Regional Solicitor of Labor's office in consideration of the request. OSHA recognizes the importance of expeditious processing and timely responses and intends to notify the victim and/or their representative of its decision in writing as soon as possible.

Should OSHA determine a certification is appropriate, it will only complete the Form I-918, Supplement B certification for a U visa or the Form I-914, Supplement B declaration for a T visa. The victim and/or their representative will be responsible for completing the remainder of the U visa petition or T visa application and submitting required information to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once the U or T visa certification is completed, it will be returned to the victim, who is responsible for submitting it to USCIS as part of the entire U visa petition or T visa application. The victim must demonstrate to USCIS that they meet all eligibility requirements of the specific visa for which they are applying. For information on USCIS' process for determining eligibility for a U or T visa, visit its website.

No. OSHA, like other federal and state law enforcement agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), has the authority to complete the Form I-918, Supplement B (U visa certification) and Form I-914, Supplement B (T visa declaration). OSHA does not have the authority to issue a U or T visa. The decision whether to approve or deny a request for a U or T visa rests solely with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The presence of a completed U or T visa certification from a certifying agency does not guarantee the victim will be granted a U or T visa. The victim must demonstrate to USCIS that they meet all eligibility requirements for the U or T visa. For information on USCIS’ process for determining eligibility for a U or T visa, visit its website.

As of March 30, 2023, the authority to complete U or T visa certifications has been delegated to two agencies within the Department of Labor: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Wage and Hour Division (WHD). Because many OSHA and WHD investigations take place in industries that employ vulnerable workers, these agencies are often the first federal agencies to make contact with these workers and detect human trafficking or other criminal activity in the workplace. Additional agencies may be delegated authority where appropriate. For more information on the WHD U and T visa certification process please visit its webpage.

The certification authority has been delegated to the OSHA Regional Administrators located in each of OSHA’s ten regions, as well as to the Deputy Assistant Secretaries and the Director of the Directorate of Whistleblower Protection Programs located in OSHA’s national office. These senior agency officials will have the resources and training needed to make ultimate decisions about certification. Each official will be assisted by a regional coordinator, who will have additional training to ensure that requests for certification will be handled efficiently, effectively, and with a victim-centered approach. OSHA officials will work closely with the appropriate Regional Solicitor of Labor offices in the consideration of certification.

If a decision is made not to provide a U or T visa certification, the victim and/or their representative will be informed of the decision in writing as soon as possible, along with information as to other law enforcement agencies that may be able to certify, where available.

No. Completion of a U or T visa certification is entirely discretionary. Moreover, OSHA will only provide a U or T visa certification when the agency has made a determination that the required criteria are satisfied. Among other criteria OSHA considers, the U visa certification requires OSHA to attest that the individual is a victim of certain qualifying criminal activity, and is, has been, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of that activity; and the T visa declaration requires OSHA to attest that the individual is a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons and has complied with reasonable requests for assistance from law enforcement.

Yes, OSHA will accept certification requests from certain family members applying for a U visa as indirect victims who meet all other OSHA criteria for completing a U visa certification. For more information on which family members may be considered indirect victims, see Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations at 8 C.F.R. 214.14(a)(14)(1).

OSHA will consider U or T visa certification requests from workers in states covered by OSHA-approved State Plans when the worker raises a credible allegation of a violation of a law that federal OSHA enforces in that state, e.g., violations of whistleblower statutes other than section 11(c) of the OSH Act, or violations of the OSH Act that arise on federal establishments, Indian reservations, or other federal jurisdictions. At this time, workers raising allegations of a violation of a law enforced by the State Plan should consider whether they can obtain a U or T visa certification from the State Plan, rather than from federal OSHA. OSHA is encouraging OSHA-approved State Plans to explore adopting their own state-specific U and T visa certification programs. To determine if you live in a state with an OSHA-approved State Plan see OSHA’s State Plans webpage.

No. The Department of Labor (DOL) has a separate process for requesting DOL support for immigration-related prosecutorial discretion (including deferred action) for workers involved in labor disputes. For more information about that process, see the Process for Requesting Department of Labor Support for Requests to the Department of Homeland Security for Immigration-Related Prosecutorial Discretion During Labor Disputes FAQs.

OSHA recognizes the importance of expeditious processing and timely responses. The agency anticipates that the timeframe for review and completion will vary, however, depending upon the complexity of the case and the overall volume of U or T visa certification requests OSHA's regional representatives are handling at any one time. OSHA intends to notify the victim and/or their representative of its decision in writing as soon as possible.

If a victim has previously received a signed U or T visa certification from OSHA and they need a new or re-signed certification, they should submit their request to OSHA-UTV-Certification@dol.gov. In their submission, the victim should explain why they are seeking a new or re-signed certification, and they should provide a copy of the previous certification provided by OSHA. If a copy of the previous certification is unavailable, the request to OSHA should include: the victim’s name; the date the previous certification was provided; the name of the certifying official who signed it; and any other details that will aide OSHA in locating the prior certification. OSHA has discretion whether to complete another certification, and will consider each request for a new or re-signed certification on a case-by-case basis.