SEATTLE — U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez today announced that the labor department's Wage and Hour Division will begin to exercise its authority to certify applications for trafficking victims seeking "T" visas. The division will also certify "U" visa requests when it detects three additional qualifying criminal activities in the course of its workplace investigations: extortion, forced labor, and fraud in foreign labor contracting. The announcement was made at a roundtable on new American integration in Seattle hosted by OneAmerica.
"The Labor Department is taking important steps to provide more support for workers who have been exploited significantly because of their immigrant status," said Perez. "These actions will protect workers, and help law enforcement protect our communities and public safety."
These efforts build on the work the department began 2011, when it started to certify U visa applications for victims of five qualifying crimes found in its workplace investigations: involuntary servitude, peonage, trafficking, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. By expanding its U visa certifications to include extortion, forced labor, and fraud in foreign labor contracting and by completing T visa certifications, the department is providing additional support to workers it believes are victims of the relevant crimes and are willing to cooperate with law enforcement.
The Wage and Hour Division enforces several critical federal workplace laws, including the federal minimum wage and overtime laws. Many Wage and Hour investigations take place in industries that employ vulnerable workers so the division is often the first federal agency to make contact with these workers and detect workplace exploitation. Such activities may then be referred to the other appropriate authorities.
These efforts will assist significantly the victims of these crimes who qualify, and who are seeking immigration relief from the Department of Homeland Security and access to the range of victim services they need to recover and rebuild their lives.
The Wage and Hour Divisions' protocols and procedures for U and T visas and frequently asked questions and answers can be found at http://www.dol.gov/whd/immigration/UTCert.htm. To request a certification contact your local WHD regional office. Contact information can be found at: http://www.dol.gov/whd/immigration/utvisacoordinators.htm.