Washington Public Assistance for Victims of Trafficking

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project

Read this to find out what benefits you may be eligible for if you are an immigrant and a victim of trafficking. If you have a different immigration status, please read one of our other publications on this topic. #7933EN

Please Note

Read this only if you live in Washington State.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines sex trafficking as a commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or where the person made to perform such act is not yet 18 years old. Coercion can mean pressure or intimidation.

  • Your intimate partner (boyfriend or spouse) or a relative may have recruited you into commercial sex acts.

Traffickers often:

  • Control your finances
  • Control when and where you can sleep
  • Control what and how much you can eat (controlling you through starvation)
  • Isolate you from your friends, family, children
  • Constantly monitor you (watch and follow you, keep track of all your movements)
  • Threaten to expose you and ruin your reputation
  • Threaten violence or commit acts of violence against your loved ones
  • Threaten violence or commit acts of violence against you
  • Take away your passport and ID
  • Physically lock you in the building where they are holding you

You may be eligible to get a T visa if you can show all these:

  • You are in the U.S. because of trafficking.
  • You have not refused unreasonably to cooperate in investigation of the trafficking (if you are at least 15 years old).
  • You would suffer unusual and severe harm if deported.

If granted a T visa, you can apply for lawful permanent resident (“green card”) status after 3 years of continuous presence in the U.S.

You also may be eligible to get other types of immigration relief, including a U visa for crime victims. U visa holders can apply for lawful permanent residence after 3 years of continuous presence in the U.S.

If you have questions about your eligibility for immigration relief, contact the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project at their office nearest you:

  • Seattle: (800) 445-5771
  • Tacoma: (206) 816-3893
  • Asotin, Benton, Columbia, Franklin, Garfield, Kittitas, Klickitat, Walla Walla Whitman & Yakima counties: (888) 756-3641
  • Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Grant, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane & Stevens counties: (866) 271-2084

Yes, if you are over age 18 and you get a letter from a “certifying agency” certifying you as a trafficking victim to be eligible to get public assistance.

A “certifying agency” can be:

  • The prosecuting attorney
  • Law enforcement
  • State patrol
  • An Office of Administrative Hearings office
  • Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I)
  • Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)

No. You do not need a letter from a certifying agency to be eligible to get public assistance.

You just need a child eligibility letter from U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) showing you are eligible to get benefits. If you do not have a certification letter or child eligibility letter, talk to a legal aid lawyer.

You may be eligible to get federal benefits, including:

* New in 2021: If you are getting Apple Health postpartum care (coverage for after the birth of your child) on or up to a year after the end of the COVID-19 federal health emergency, you will get that care for one year after the birth of your child.

You may also be eligible to get state benefits, including cash assistance during pregnancy from the Pregnant Women Assistance program (effective July 1, 2022) or through Aged Blind & Disabled (ABD): Cash and medical coverage for persons 65 and older, disabled, or blind, who meet other requirements. Read Help for People Unable to Work: ABD and HEN.

The welfare office must provide you with a free interpreter right away. You should put on the application form if you have a hard time reading, speaking, or understanding English.

  • The office should also send you translated notices about your benefits so you can read about your rights and responsibilities in your own language. Keep a copy of the letters the welfare office sends you. If you have not gotten interpreters or notices in your own language and the welfare office has cut off your benefits, you may be able to get your benefits back.

Maybe. If you are a trafficking victim, you are eligible to get SSI for 7 years. After that, you probably have to become a U.S. citizen to remain eligible.

Talk to a legal aid lawyer about your situation. (See contact info below.)

No. T visa holders can use public assistance, including cash, food, and medical, and still be eligible to get a green card and U.S. citizenship.

However, if you get benefits fraudulently, like by giving the welfare office false info about your income or family members, you may:

  • Not be able to naturalize.
  • Face other immigration consequences.

Try not to take trips outside the U.S. for more than 180 days. If you are gone longer, you may be denied re-entry into the U.S.

To learn more, talk to an immigration lawyer or read Public Charge: What You Need to Know.

No. You still must report to DSHS any actual income your sponsoring organization has given you.

The welfare office may have turned you down because you are not eligible for some reason. However, the rules are complicated. It is possible the welfare office made a mistake.

If you believe you are eligible, or would like another person to review your case, you should tell your worker that you want an “Administrative Hearing” or ask for a copy of the Hearing Request form to fill out. There is no fee or penalty for requesting an administrative hearing.

You can withdraw your request later if you find out the welfare office was right. Read I applied for benefits. DSHS said no. and talk to a legal aid lawyer.

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Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

Last Review and Update: Aug 30, 2022
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