Initial T Visa Declaration Rubric

Target Audience

This toolkit is for use by attorneys and legal representatives who are drafting client declarations in support of the T Visa application. If you are a survivor pursuing a T visa or a non-legal service provider, please connect with an attorney for assistance with the T visa.

Prior to Using this Rubric

This rubric is to be utilized after an attorney or representative has completed their first draft of a declaration following an interview with their clients. Client declarations should be in the T visa applicant’s voice.

Before utilizing this rubric, it is strongly recommended that users have completed training on the legal definition of “severe form of trafficking” and the T visa eligibility requirements. CAST’s Training and Technical Assistance team offers in-depth training on the definition of trafficking and the T visa eligibility requirements in free e-learning courses, which can be accessed here:

For more tips specific to T Visa Declarations and peer support, keep an eye out for Intensive T Visa Declaration Workshops. Sign up for notifications for future trainings here.

 

What is the T Visa Declaration Rubric and Why Should I Use it?

Rubrics are used to provide a framework for shared standards of review that strive to be objective. A rubric can help to put a reader and writer on the same page before providing feedback and facilitates constructive feedback.

The T Visa Rubric provides attorneys with a framework to help review declarations and assess where it may need to be strengthened.  The goal of the rubric is to minimize instances where the declaration could be misinterpreted and result in a negative outcome for the T visa application. 

This rubric helps attorneys to assess:

  • The grasp of understanding of the T visa requirements;
  • Ability to create a logical argument; and
  • Ability to focus on legally relevant facts.

Download a fillable version of the rubric here.

How do I Use It?

 

In this rubric, there are seven specific sections the reviewer will be assessing:

  • Introduction/background
  • Severe form of trafficking
  • Physical presence
  • Law enforcement cooperation
  • Extreme hardship
  • Overall structure

Using a rubric allows the writer to know what is expected of them and allows the reviewer to have a set of clear guidelines to use when assessing. There is a specific level of assessment to evaluate each section in this rubric: Proficient, Developing, and Beginning. These levels are defined as follows:

  • PROFICIENT – The writer has a strong grasp of the T visa eligibility requirements and the work needs little revision.
  • DEVELOPING – The writer has an intermediate grasp of the T visa eligibility requirements and some work would need to be done prior to submission.
  • BEGINNING – Entry level of understanding of the T visa eligibility requirements and the work would need substantial revision prior to submission.

 

If the writer has done a proficient job, all the listed items in the "proficient" box of that section will be evident. This applies also to the developing and beginning levels of assessment. The reviewer will do this for each of the sections and decide whether the writer is proficient, developing, or beginning.

The goal of this tool is to provide feedback on what needs improvement and what sections have been done well.

Client Drafting v. Attorney Drafting

CAST recommends that attorneys draft the client declaration through the interview approach using the client’s voice. Declarations written by the client may be subject to discovery in both criminal and civil proceedings. Thus, while having declaration drafts written by clients may be considered attorney work-product, the privilege may not be sufficient to keep a draft from being discovered in future litigation. Because of this, CAST has chosen to have the attorney draft the declaration after the interview. Having an attorney draft the declaration can avoid potential inconsistencies and other issues of privilege in the criminal and civil context if the draft declarations are successfully subpoenaed. This process is a choice in legal strategy. If an attorney decides to have the client draft their own declaration, the attorney can still use the rubric to ensure that all the eligibility requirements of the T visa are included.

Sometimes the interview process can take many hours or take multiple appointments depending on the client’s level of trauma and memory. CAST’s Training and Technical Assistance Team has created a sample interview outline for the declaration interviews. Download the outline here. Attorneys can use this outline to gather essential information.

For a sample declaration, click here.

Additional Tips for T Visa Declarations

  • Avoid over-sensationalism to describe victimization
    • Attorneys who are newer to working with crime victims may overly rely on the egregiousness of the abuse experienced by a trafficking survivor rather than focusing on facts that align with legal regiments. Egregious facts may distract from how the factual scenario is severe form of trafficking. For example, in a domestic violence/human trafficking crossover case, the physical abuse can be very brutal, but if the focus of the declaration is primarily on the brutality of the abuse rather than how the abuse was used to put the person in a condition of servitude, the case can be misinterpreted as a domestic violence case rather than a trafficking case.
  • Always review facts for ambiguity or potential misinterpretation
    • Don’t assume that the facts speak for themselves.
    • Don’t assume the reviewing USCIS officer will see the case the way that the victims’ attorney sees it. It’s better to help the officer follow along the case in a step-by-step manner.
  • Always use headers to separate the eligibility requirements within the declaration and number paragraphs
    • These headers can serve as a quick checklist for USCIS officers to make sure all the requirements are addressed in the declaration.
    • Numbering paragraphs will make it easy to reference the declaration in cover letters or motions.
  • Consider consistency to other evidence submitted in support of the T visa
    • The T visa does not require secondary evidence to be submitted outside of the declaration. However, if additional evidence is submitted, consider whether the client’s declaration will compete with that supporting evidence. For example, if a psychological evaluation that contains a factual summary of the applicant's victimization is submitted, the attorney should check whether the facts contradict the declaration.