If you are a victim of domestic violence and are worried about what will happen to your immigration status if you leave your spouse, civil or unmarried partner, help does exist.
Domestic violence is any threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between adults who are or have been in a relationship. Domestic violence can be psychological, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, and happens regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Unfortunately, incidents of domestic violence do occur between same-sex partners.
People who have come to the UK to live with their spouses, civil or unmarried partners can be particularly vulnerable when suffering domestic violence. For the first five years following the grant of leave to remain as a spouse, civil or unmarried partner, a foreign partner does not have permanent status in the UK and normally, must show that their relationship has lasted for five years before they can then apply for indefinite leave to remain (also known as permanent residency). During those first five years victims of domestic violence can feel trapped and afraid that if they leave an abusive relationship or report domestic violence, they will lose their immigration status and have to leave the country.
Fortunately, foreign partners who need to leave an abusive relationship do have an option. The Home Office Immigration Rules state that a victim of domestic violence can apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK during the five-year probationary period and does not have to wait the full five years.
To do this, you must provide evidence that:
- you were lawfully admitted to the UK as a spouse, civil partner, proposed civil partner or unmarried partner of someone present and settled in the UK,
- the relationship existed at the time you were granted limited leave to remain in the UK as a spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner,
- you are no longer living with your partner,
- the relationship ended as a result of domestic violence.
You may still qualify for settlement under this rule even if a family member of your partner committed the domestic violence. Normally you need to show that the violence was the reason for the breakdown of the relationship or that your partner did not protect you from abuse by their family.
Proof that domestic violence occurred can come in many forms. The best evidence is a relevant court conviction, police caution or a non-molestation order issued against your partner. If this evidence does not exist, other documentation can be used such as:
- a medical report from a doctor confirming that you have suffered injuries consistent with domestic violence,
- a letter from a GP confirming that you have suffered injuries consistent with domestic violence,
- a police report showing attendance at your home on a domestic violence call,
- letters from a social services department or domestic violence support centre confirming their involvement in connection with domestic violence.
In all cases proof should be accompanied by relevant documents and successful applicants will receive indefinite (permanent) leave to remain in the UK. Indefinite leave to remain status allows you to work, to be self-employed or, if necessary, to claim benefits.
If you are a spouse, civil or unmarried partner who has suffered domestic violence, there are options available to you, and it is important that you ask for help and report the violence rather than suffer in silence.
You should seek legal assistance to discuss whether you qualify for indefinite leave to remain in the UK as a victim of domestic violence. Please see our list of lawyers who can help you.
Destitution Domestic Violence Concession
The Destitution Domestic Violence (DDV) Concession is available to those people who have no recourse to public funds and who are experiencing domestic violence. Survivors of domestic abuse can notify UK Visas and Immigration that they need access to public funds, whilst they make a claim for indefinite leave to remain as a victim of domestic abuse under the Domestic Violence Immigration Rule (Settlement DV).
You will need to meet the following criteria:
- You have entered the UK/been given leave to remain in the UK as a spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same sex partner of a British Citizen or someone present and settled in the UK.
- That relationship has broken down due to domestic violence.
- You do not have the means to access accommodation or support independently and need financial help.
If the UKVI considers that you are in a position to apply for assistance, three months’ limited leave will be given to enable you to stay in the UK with access to benefits.