What is Physical Presence?

Important Update: The T Final Rule was released on April 30, 2024, updating regulations impacting T and T AOS applicants. These changes will be effective starting August 28, 2024. As a result, our resources may be temporarily out of date.

CAST is actively working on updating our trainings, advisories, and other materials to reflect the new regulations. We appreciate your patience during this transition period and encourage you to review the new regulations and our advisory, Overview of the 2024 T Visa Final Rulewhile we update our resources.

Thank you for your understanding.


USCIS has historically interpreted the “physical presence” requirement for the T visa to mean that (1) the trafficking occurred in the U.S. and (2) the victim has not left the U.S. since the trafficking occurred (with limited exceptions). In other words, USCIS wants to know why the applicant is still in the U.S. after they escaped their victimization. Physical presence for T visa purposes does not simply involve showing that the victim was brought to the U.S. by their traffickers. Additionally, T visa applicants are not required to demonstrate that their initial entry was connected to trafficking at all! 

The T visa regulations require that an applicant demonstrate that they are physically present in the U.S. on account of trafficking which means articulating how the client’s current presence in the U.S. is connected to the trafficking. 8 CFR § 214.11(g) USCIS's Policy Manual provides helpful context to the physical presence requirement in Volume 3, Part B, Ch. 2.C & Ch. 3.C.6

Sample physical presence arguments or explanations include that the survivor:

  • is currently receiving trafficking-specific victim services;
  • is currently cooperating with law enforcement;
  • is experiencing trafficking-related trauma that delayed their ability to come forward; and
  • lacked an opportunity to depart due to barriers related to the trafficking.

The strongest physical presence arguments are those that are directly related to the trafficking experience. Presenting explanations that are unrelated to the trafficking victimization can minimize or undermine the strength of the argument. 

For more information, check out these additional resources: