What to do if you are a victim of domestic violence
Domestic violence is a traumatising and distressing experience to encounter which can be even more upsetting for those who are subjected to such treatment by a partner who they rely upon for immigration purposes.
The UK government has implemented a cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse which defines domestic violence as:
“any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, 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.”
The abuse is not limited to physical abuse and includes, psychological, sexual, financial or emotional abuse.
Victims often feel trapped and confused as they are uncertain as to whether they should leave and how this would impact their legal status in the UK. There are provisions within the Immigration Rules which cater to such circumstances to assist victims of domestic violence to leave their violent partners and continue their residence in the UK legally by making an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
What are the requirements of applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain as a victim of domestic violence?
The first requirement is that the applicant must have been granted leave to enter or remain based on their relationship with their settled partner by way of a spouse, fiancé(e), unmarried, or same-sex partner visa. This essentially means that the applicant must have obtained leave on the basis of their relationship with a British or settled person.
An additional requirement is that the relationship between the applicant and his/her partner, regardless of whether the applicant is the spouse, fiancé, unmarried or same-sex partner of the settled person, was subsisting when the visa was initially granted. The applicant must therefore demonstrate that there was a real relationship in existence when the visa was initially granted.
Lastly, the applicant is required to provide substantial evidence to demonstrate that the relationship with their settled partner has permanently broken down as a result of domestic violence. It is important to note that the applicant is required to also show that the break down occurred before the expiry of their current visa.
It is essential to provide evidence of the domestic violence in order to satisfy the above requirement. However, understandably this is always a difficult requirement to meet as most victims of domestic violence find it difficult to seek help or even discuss their experience with a friend or relative. It is important to document the domestic violence experienced, not only for future reference in case it is reported to the authorities but also because it will strengthen the application made to the Home Office. Victims are encouraged to speak to a trusted individual which can include a friend, relative, their GP and charities that assist women who have experienced domestic violence.
The success of such an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain relies heavily on the supporting documents provided to evidence the domestic violence and how the case is argued. It is therefore, important to instruct specialist immigration solicitors who are experienced with such cases. Domestic violence is an extremely sensitive matter and as such, it is vital to instruct a firm that is compassionate and understanding. If you are a victim of domestic violence and you are concerned about your future in the UK, please contact us today for a confidential and friendly discussion on your matter.
If the Home Office is satisfied that all of the above requirements have been met, the applicant will be granted Indefinite Leave to Remain. However, if the application is refused for Indefinite Leave to Remain, an applicant may instead be granted limited leave to remain for a period of 30 months.
How can I protect myself as a victim of domestic violence?
The Family Law Act 1996 implemented certain remedies which are available to those who are victims of domestic violence.
A victim of domestic violence is able to apply to the court for a non-molestation order which can stop the alleged abuser from subjecting a victim to further abuse. This is can be done by not allowing the alleged abuser to contact a victim of domestic violence. The court will make such an order if it deems that it is necessary in order to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of the applicant.
If an alleged abuser does not act in accordance with a non-molestation order, he/she will be committing an offence and as such will be liable to imprisonment for any period between 12 months to five years and/or a fine.
Since 8 March 2014, the police have been issued with the power to issue a Domestic Violence Protection Notice which is an emergency non-molestation and eviction notice; this can be issued by the police whilst attending to an incident of domestic violence. This notice is effective from the moment that it is issued on the alleged abuser thus providing a victim with immediate support and protection. If the alleged abuser acts in breach of such a notice, he/she can be arrested and brought before a magistrates’ court within 48 hours of the arrest.
A magistrates’ court must hear an application for a Domestic Violence Protection Order which is made by the police within 48 hours of issuing a Domestic Violence Protection Notice. A Domestic Violence Protection Order stops an alleged abuser from contacting the victim or returning to the victim’s place of residence for a maximum of 28 days. A failure to act in accordance with such an order can result in arrest and will be considered to be a civil contempt of court.
A further application that can be made by a victim of domestic violence is referred to as an occupation order. An occupation order allows a victim of domestic violence to continue residing at their place of residence which was previously shared with the alleged abuser. This order can therefore stop an alleged abuser from entering the premises even if he/she has the right to occupy the premises. Such an order will only be granted if it clear to the court that a victim will suffer significant harm if an order is not made.
Contact our experienced immigration lawyers in London
Contact us if you are concerned about your legal status in the UK as a victim of domestic violence and if you also require assistance with applying to the courts for protection.