The U visa was established under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). It was created as humanitarian relief for a vulnerable population, most of whom do not have lawful status in the United States. It provides legal status to victims of certain serious crimes who have suffered substantial physical or mental harm and can document cooperation with law enforcement. If favorably adjudicated, the U visa grants permission to remain and work in the U.S. for up to four years, and allows beneficiaries to eventually apply for permanent resident status.
Congress allocated 10,000 U visas to be issued each year, not including spouses and other derivative family members. Once the annual cap of 10,000 is reached, applicants for U status will be placed on a waitlist and will be issued deferred action, the same benefit that was offered under interim relief. As with interim relief, those on the waitlist are eligible to receive employment authorization and deferred action status for U derivatives.
The general rule is that a person whose U visa application was approved is eligible for adjustment of status if: (1) s/he has been physically present in the U.S. for a continuous period of 3 years; and (2) in the opinion of the Secretary, his/her continued presence in the U.S. is justified on humanitarian grounds, to ensure family unity, or is otherwise in the public interest. Physical presence is broken if the person is outside the U.S. in excess of 90 days or an aggregate of 180 days unless the absence is to assist in an investigation or prosecution, or a person involved in the investigation certifies that the absence was otherwise justified.