Summary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and Reauthorizations FY 2017

Relevant Authorization Statutes

Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA 2000)

In the beginning of the 21st century, at least 700,000 people were reported as victims of international trafficking each year, 14,500–17,500 of which are women and children who are trafficked specifically into the United States. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates there are 20.9 million victims of forced labor, with other estimates using non-governmental sources of information estimating that even larger numbers face modern slavery in all its forms.2

In order to combat the growing and widespread issue of trafficking in persons, members of the international community came together and concluded a new protocol to the Transnational Crime Commission that banned trafficking, resulting in the Palermo Protocol, which the U.S. Government helped develop and support. During this process and ultimately to provide for both implementation of the Protocol and to fill gaps in U.S. law, Congress passed the bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and it was signed by President Clinton on October 28, 2000 (Public Law 106-386). The issue of trafficking in persons included those trafficked into the commercial sex industry, modern slavery, and forced labor. The TVPA 2000 was created to “ensure just and effective punishment of traffickers, and to protect their victims.”3 In particular, there were three main components of the TVPA, commonly called the three P’s:

Protection: The TVPA increased the U.S. Government’s efforts to protect trafficked foreign national victims including, but not limited to:

  • Providing assistance to victims of trafficking, many of whom were previously ineligible for government assistance; and
  • Establishing non-immigrant status for victims of trafficking if they cooperated in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers (T-Visas, as well as providing other mechanisms to ensure the continued presence of victims to assist in such investigations and prosecutions).

Prosecution: The TVPA authorized the U.S. Government to strengthen efforts to prosecute traffickers including, but not limited to:

  • Creating a series of new crimes on trafficking, forced labor, and document servitude that supplemented existing limited crimes related to modern slavery and involuntary servitude; and
  • Recognizing that modern slavery takes place in the context of force, fraud, or coercion and is based on new clear definitions for both trafficking into commercial sexual exploitation and labor exploitation: Sex trafficking was defined as, “a commercial sex act that is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.”4 Labor trafficking was defined 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.”5

Prevention: The TVPA allowed for increased prevention measures including, but not limited to:

  • Authorizing the U.S. Government to assist foreign countries with their efforts to combat trafficking, as well as address trafficking within the United States, including through research and awareness-raising; and
  • Providing foreign countries with assistance in drafting laws to prosecute trafficking, creating programs for trafficking victims, and assistance with implementing effective means of investigation.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton later identified a fourth P, “partnership,” in 2009 to serve as a “pathway to progress in the effort against modern-day slavery.”6


Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 (TVPRA 2003)

Congress re-authorized the TVPA in 2003 (herein, TVPRA 2003) (P.L.108-193). Despite significant progress to combat and prosecute human trafficking, additional assistance and research was still needed. Moreover, corruption was still evident among some foreign law enforcement authorities that undermined any international effort to combat this issue.7 Thus, TVPRA 2003 added provisions to expand its reach, which included, but were not limited to:

  • Allowing for materials to be disseminated, which alert travelers that sex tourism is illegal;
  • Creating a new civil action that allowed trafficked victims to sue their traffickers in federal district court; and
  • Requiring the Attorney General to report annually on anti-trafficking efforts.


Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (TVPRA 2005)

As awareness about the issue of human trafficking grew, the United States began to recognize that human trafficking impacted not just foreign national victims of human trafficking, but also United States citizens and Legal Permanent Residents. Congress reauthorized the TVPRA in 2005 (herein, “TVPRA 2005”) (P.L.109-164).8 The TVPRA 2005 added measures to protect U.S. citizen survivors. These included, but were not limited to:

  • Grant programs to assist state and local law enforcement efforts in combating human trafficking and to expand victim assistance programs to U.S. citizens or resident aliens subjected to trafficking;9
  • Programs to create comprehensive service facilities for trafficking victims;
  • Programs to create rehabilitative facilities for trafficking victims; and
  • Extraterritorial jurisdiction over trafficking offenses committed overseas by persons employed by or accompanying the federal government.10

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA 2008)

In December 2008, Congress reauthorized the TVPA through fiscal year (FY) 2012 with the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (herein, TVPRA 2008) (P.L.110-457). This bipartisan reauthorization extended and modified certain programs that form the core of the Department of Justice’s efforts to prevent and prosecute human trafficking and protect the victims of trafficking, forced labor, and modern slavery, as well as the Department of Labor’s efforts to better document and deter the trafficking problem. It also allowed the continuation of efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to provide services to victims of trafficking, especially children. TVPRA 2008 added provisions related to:

  • Establishing new crimes that imposed penalties on those who obstruct or attempt to obstruct prosecutors’ investigations of trafficking;
  • Changing the standard of proof for the crime of sex trafficking to require that the government only prove that the defendant acted in “reckless disregard of the fact that such means [force, fraud, or coercion] would be used[;]”11
  • Eliminating in sex trafficking charges the requirement that the defendant knew that the person engaged in commercial sex was a minor where the defendant had a reasonable opportunity to observe the minor;12
  • Expanding the crime of forced labor, providing that “force” is a means of violating the law;13
  • Imposing criminal liability on those who, knowingly and with intent to defraud, recruit workers from outside the U.S. for employment within the U.S. by making materially false or fraudulent representations;14
  • Increasing the penalty for conspiring to commit trafficking;15
  • Creating a penalty for those who knowingly benefit financially from the participation in ventures that engage in trafficking;16 and
  • Adding new prevention and protection measures to provide information to persons entering the U.S. lawfully and to establish protections for unaccompanied alien minors.


Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013 (TVPRA 2013)

In February 2013, Congress reauthorized the TVPA (herein, “TVPRA 2013”) (P.L.113-4), which was passed as an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act.17 This authorization establishes and strengthens programs to ensure that U.S. citizens do not purchase products made by victims of human trafficking, and to prevent child marriage. It also puts into place emergency response provisions within the Department of State to respond quickly to disaster areas and crises where people are particularly susceptible to being trafficked. The reauthorization also strengthens collaboration with state and local law enforcement to ease charging and prosecuting traffickers.

TVPRA 2013 added the following key provisions to:

  • Provide invaluable resources supporting holistic services for survivors and enabling law enforcement to investigate cases, to hold perpetrators accountable, and to prevent human trafficking, forced labor, and modern slavery from happening in the first place;
  • Prevent U.S. foreign aid from going to countries that use child soldiers;
  • Penalize the confiscation of identity documents, a prevalent form of coercion that traffickers use to exploit victims;
  • Create a grant-making program to respond to humanitarian emergencies that result in an increased risk of trafficking;
  • Authorize the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP) office to form local partnerships in focus countries to combat child trafficking through Child Protection Compacts; and
  • Enhance law enforcement capacity to combat sex tourism by extending jurisdiction under the 2003 PROTECT Act to prosecute U.S. citizens living abroad who commercially sexually exploit children.



Despite these efforts, the problem of human trafficking, forced labor, and modern slavery continues to grow. These victims often experience severe trauma that requires intensive therapy, recovery, rehabilitation, and restorative services as a result of their abuse. In addition, human trafficking and forced labor criminal cases are often complicated and lengthy legal proceedings that require additional resources for prosecutors as well as for victims. Many of these victims require comprehensive case management provided by victim services organizations to see them through their recovery, help them navigate the legal system, and provide assistance to law enforcement, all of which are necessary to prosecute criminal enterprises involved in human trafficking.