A new “U” visa for domestic-abuse victims allows them to seek legal protection and grants the victim up to four years to work and live in the U.S. while applying for permanent resident status. The plan, almost 10 years in the making, was promoted by immigrant-rights groups in the Bay Area. The visa is attracting predictable controversy as critics claim it invites scams and gives illegal immigrants a loophole. At least three-quarters of the U visa applicants to date have been victims of domestic violence. The program seeks to solve the conundrum that immigrants face when they become victims of violent crime; historically, immigrants are wary of seeking assistance from the police or courts because they fear retaliation on the part of the perpetrator or deportation. The Bay Area is leading the nation in winning U visas for immigrants, with more than 12 percent of the nation’s visas being granted in the areas surrounding Oakland and San Francisco. Congress has given the program an annual limit of 10,000 visas, and more than that number of applications are currently pending.