Indefinite leave to remain as a victim of domestic violence
By Jordana Adams, solicitor
The statement of changes to the Immigration Rules
When the statement of changes comes into effect on the 10 January 2019, the scope of applicants eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain will be redefined as:
“A partner (other than a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner) of a British Citizen, a person settled in the UK or a person with refugee leave”.
The important change is to extend the eligibility scope to partners of those with refugee status.
How can OTS Solicitors help?
At OTS Solicitors, we know people are often afraid to speak out, as they feel trapped because of their family responsibilities or worries about Immigration status.
What is domestic violence?
top London immigration solicitors are often asked “what is domestic violence?”. That may sound like a senseless question, after all, we all know what violence is.
However, it is not a senseless question. In recent years there has been a move towards understanding that domestic violence is not just about physical abuse.
Nowadays the best London immigration solicitors will tell you that domestic violence does not have to involve slapping or kicking. Psychological abuse and control can be just as damaging to the victim of domestic violence.
The Home Office definition of domestic violence
The Home Office guidance says that domestic violence is not just physical abuse.
The guidance states domestic violence is:
“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.”
The statement of changes will substitute the words “domestic abuse” for all previous references to “domestic violence” in the appendix to the Immigration Rules.
top London immigration solicitors welcome the change in terminology. It shows the Home Office is recognising the importance of emphasising that domestic abuse is not limited to acts of physical violence.
What is domestic abuse from a family court perspective?
To the UK family court is clear that domestic violence does not have to be physical in nature.
Domestic violence can involve:
• Physical abuse: this can range from a push to an assault requiring hospitalisation;
• Sexual abuse: this is all types of unwanted sexual contact;
• Psychological or mental abuse: this can often be derogatory remarks that impact on the victim’s self-esteem;
• Harassment: this can be stalking outside someone’s home or place of work or online harassment on social media;
• Coercion and control: this is wide ranging; from not allowing a partner to leave the family home on their own to financial control and restricting a spouse’s access to money.
If the family court accepts that domestic abuse has occurred they can take protective measures and make injunction court orders.
Response to domestic abuse
The best London immigration solicitors are used to helping both husbands and wives who have been subjected to domestic abuse. The victim’s response is often to deny that the behaviour has either taken place or has affected them. That can be down to embarrassment, cultural reasons or fear.
It is important that victims of domestic abuse realise that the normal responses to domestic violence can be:
• Acceptance of the behaviour: often a spouse will have been subject to domestic violence for a long time and it will be ingrained that the domestic abuse is their fault because they wind their partner up or let the children make a noise;
• Normalisation of the behaviour: thinking that it is ok and that in every family you can expect a black eye or two;
• Denial of the behaviour: thinking that the domestic violence is not happening, often because the victim is told that they are mentally ill;
• Justification of the behaviour: for example, saying that the behaviour only occurs because the children are so noisy or long work hours.
If you are a victim of domestic violence and you are worried about your Immigration status it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking you have no option but to accept the behaviour.
The impact of domestic abuse
The top London immigration solicitors realise that if someone is subjected to or witnesses domestic abuse it can lead to:
• Low self-esteem;
• Low mood;
• Isolation from friends, family and the community.
The impact of domestic abuse on a victim can make it hard for them to tell anyone about the abuse.
It is important that you tell someone about the abuse to protect you and your family and, secondly, to make sure that there is evidence of the domestic violence to support your Immigration application.
Injunction court orders
A court injunction order is just one way of protecting you and your family from domestic abuse.
An injunction is a court order stopping a person from taking a step or ordering a step to be taken, such as:
• Stopping an assault or harassment by a partner (this is called a non-molestation order);
• Ordering a spouse to leave a family home until the court decides what should happen long term with the family home (this is called an occupation order);
If you are concerned about your children’s safety, the court can also make an urgent custody order (this is called a children arrangements order).
How do you get an injunction order?
Your solicitor has to make a court application, supported by a statement and evidence. The evidence you need depends on what you are trying to stop or prevent.
Do the Immigration Rules require you to obtain an injunction order to prove domestic violence?
An injunction order does not have to be obtained but if does provide some evidence of the abuse.
Evidence of domestic violence for a Home Office application
Other evidence of domestic violence can include:
• Police referrals and a conviction of a partner for domestic violence offences;
• Letter from a doctor;
• Letter from social services.
A Home Office caseworker assesses any evidence. It is their job to decide if, on the balance of probabilities, the relationship has broken down due to domestic violence. The relationship breakdown has to be permanent.
The Home Office provides guidance on what evidence can be used to support an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain because of domestic violence.
This guidance shows how the evidence of domestic violence is weighted. A level of strength is attached to the evidence.
A criminal conviction for domestic violence (for example assault or harassment) is considered by the Home Office to be conclusive evidence that domestic violence occurred.
You do not need a conviction to secure Indefinite Leave to Remain because of domestic violence. A top London Immigration solicitor can guide you through the information and supporting evidence that is likely to be sufficient to secure leave.
For expert family and Immigration law advice and assistance regarding your family situation or your application for Indefinite Leave to Remain because of domestic abuse, contact our specialist family and Immigration law team on 0203 959 9123 for an appointment to discuss how we can help you.