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15 April 2020

Domestic abuse – options for those with leave as foreign national partners

3 mins

Various news outlets have reported on the increased risk of domestic violence during the coronavirus lockdown. Refuge has reported a 700% increase in calls to its helpline.

The Home Office has launched a campaign to support victims of domestic abuse, inviting people to share the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone with messages of support for those experiencing domestic violence.

The Home Secretary announced a government pledge to provide an additional £2m in funding to domestic violence helplines and online support services.

Victims of domestic abuse whose ongoing presence in the UK depends on their relationship with their partner potentially suffer an additional form of abuse because their immigration status is often used as a method of control by the abuser.  It is commonplace for victims to be threatened by their partners that they will contact the Home Office and that they will not be able to stay in the UK if they report the abuse or leave the family home.  This can result in victims deciding to stay in abusive relationships rather than risking being forced to leave the UK.

The Home Office defines domestic abuse as follows:

Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can include, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate or dependent by:

  • isolating them from sources of support
  • exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain
  • depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape
  • regulating their everyday behaviour

 Coercive behaviour is either:

  • an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation
  • other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim

No distinction should be made between psychological (mental) abuse and physical abuse when assessing if a person has been the victim of domestic violence or abuse.

There is provision within the Immigration Rules at section DVILR of Appendix FM for victims of domestic violence to apply for indefinite leave to remain and thus free themselves of their partner’s control over their immigration status, provided they meet certain conditions.

Broadly, the requirements are that:

  1. The applicant is in the UK;
  2. The applicant has had leave to remain as a partner;
  3. The applicant continues to meet the suitability requirements they met for their partner application
  4. During that period of leave to remain as a partner, the applicant experienced domestic abuse from their partner and/or their partner’s family members
  5. Due to that domestic abuse, the applicant’s relationship with their partner has permanently broken down

There is also a concession which enables victims of domestic abuse to apply for a period of three months’ leave to remain outside the Immigration Rules if they are destitute and need to access public funds to support themselves.  If granted, an application for indefinite leave must then be submitted within the three month period of leave granted.

If you or someone you support could benefit from immigration advice on this matter, please contact the immigration team here. Legal aid is available for this type of work, subject to means.

Sources: Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules, Guidance.

For information only. Not intended to be immigration advice. Correct at time of publication.

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