If your permission to be in the UK is tied to your British or settled partner, what happens if your relationship breaks down because of domestic violence?
This post is primarily about immigration status, but I have also added some resources at the end of the post if you need more general help with things like getting away from an abusive relationship, or accessing financial support or housing.
If your relationship breaks down
It is not unusual for an abusive partner to say that they will “get you deported”, or “call Border Force”. This in itself can be part of a pattern of abusive behaviour.
If your relationship breaks down, you must consider whether you need to make a new immigration application so that you can remain in the UK.
If your ex-partner informs the Home Office that your relationship has ended, then in some circumstances the Home Office can “curtail” your leave to remain. This usually involves shortening your leave so that you only have 3 months remaining. The Home Office will usually tell you about this by writing to you at your last known address. If you have changed your address, it is possible for your leave to expire without your knowing it.
You may also have an obligation to inform the Home Office yourself about a change of address, or about the breakdown of your relationship, under the Immigration (Biometric Registration) Regulations 2008.
If your leave is curtailed you must make sure that you make your next application to remain in the UK before the new expiry date.
You can also take report the situation yourself by emailing the Home Office stating clearly in the email that domestic abuse was the reason for the break-up. This can be a way of keeping control over the situation. However, you should take advice first about how to make your next application to the Home Office for permission to remain in the UK.
Appendix FM: Section DVILR
If you have leave to remain as the partner of a British or settled person, then you can apply for indefinite leave to remain if your relationship with your sponsor has broken down due to domestic violence (Section DVILR of Appendix FM). The application form is online:
You will need to provide evidence of the domestic abuse you have suffered, and show that this was the cause of the relationship breakdown.
Note that this category is only available if it is the relationship with your sponsor that has ended due to domestic violence. If you are affected by domestic abuse in a different relationship, then you cannot use this route.
The Home Office has been known to accept that domestic abuse has occurred, but to refuse an application because they say that some other reason actually caused the relationship to end (for example, an affair, or abandonment by the abusive partner).
The Home Office’s guidance for caseworkers provides some information about the kinds of evidence that they consider acceptable (graded as “conclusive”, “strong”, “moderate” and “weak”). For example, criminal conviction of an abusive partner is “conclusive”, whereas a statement by you as the applicant is “weak”.
You might also provide evidence of contact with a support group or charity; medical evidence from your GP or hospital; statements from people who have witnessed the abuse, or police records of calls or complaints you have made.
It can be difficult to produce detailed evidence if you have fled an abusive relationship. If you are waiting for evidence but do not yet have it, you should still make your application in time if you can, and inform the Home Office about the evidence that is coming. You can submit more evidence later in the process.
A human rights application
The Home Office does not automatically consider an application under Section DVILR to be a “human rights application”.
This is important, because you can only appeal to the Tribunal against the refusal of a human rights or protection (asylum) application.
You should state clearly in your application why you think that it should be treated as a human rights application. This might be because you have a child living with you in the UK, or because you have lived in the UK for a long time. You should provide evidence of this with your application.
Funding: fee waiver
The application fee for indefinite leave to remain is £2,389.00 plus biometric charges. If you cannot afford this, you can say so on the application form. You will normally have to provide information and evidence about your finances to show that you are destitute, or you would be destitute if you paid the fee.
If you are not applying in the DVILR category, you will need to apply for a fee waiver separately, before you submit your main application.
Funding: public funds
If you are applying using the DVILR route, you can apply first to the Home Office for temporary access to public funds while you make your application. There is a special form for this application for people using the DVILR route. You need to complete the form and send it to the Home Office.
If you are not eligible to use the DVILR category, you can still apply to change to conditions of your existing leave so you can access public funds.
Read more about public funds in my blog post about the No Recourse to Public Funds condition.
If the application is refused
If your application is refused, then the Home Office might say that you do not have a right of appeal because yours is not a human rights application.
In some cases you might be able to appeal to the Tribunal anyway, and argue that your application is clearly a “human rights” application so that the Tribunal can deal with your case. In other cases, you might need to use the Judicial Review process to argue that you have made a human rights application. This is a complex area of law, and there are strict deadlines for applying to the courts, so you should seek legal advice if you can.
Not eligible for DVILR
If you are not eligible to use the DVILR route (for example, if your immigration status is tied to a partner who has limited leave to remain; or if your partner is not the person you were granted leave to remain with), then you might need to apply in a different category, or on the basis of your private or family life in the UK outside the Immigration Rules.
Help for victims of domestic abuse during the coronavirus outbreak is available from the following organisations. This list is by no means comprehensive, and it includes more local services in the South of England, as that is where my clients are based. However, national helplines are also included.
Tel: 07752 722 292
17 May 2020