Are you fleeing domestic violence?
If you have arrived in the UK to join a partner who is settled here, but have to leave your home because you fear or have experienced violence from your partner, this information applies to you.
- you may be a woman or a man
- you may be married to your partner, living with him or her, or in a civil partnership
- you may be in a lesbian, gay or straight relationship
- you may or may not have children.
- If you are the partner, husband, wife or cohabitee of an EEA national, there are special rules that may allow you to keep your right to reside when you end your relationship because of domestic violence. Until you divorce or dissolve your partnership you will keep the rights that you have as a wife, husband or civil partner. These are explained in the page on EEA family members.
If you arrived in the UK to join a British partner or a partner who is settled (i.e. has indefinite leave to remain); you were given leave to remain for a fixed period because of the relationship, and you can no longer stay in the relationship because of violence, there is an Immigration Rule (no 289A, the domestic violence rule) which allows you to apply to get indefinite leave to remain under certain conditions. The full version of this rule and other family rules can be found on the Home Office website.
Since the beginning of April 2012, if you leave your partner within the first two years and are considering applying under the domestic violence rule, you can apply for leave for up to three months to enable you to make the application. This should be granted quite quickly and allows you to access benefits and support while waiting for the domestic violence application to be granted. You can find information about this here (pdf).
Leaving a violent relationship involves a lot of choices, and these are best made with the help of good advice and support. Some of the law in this area is complex and developing. There are organisations dedicated to helping and advising people fleeing domestic violence. You can find some on the links page, and also by contacting the Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247 .
What documents might you be asked for?
You should get good legal advice if you are thinking of applying for the three months’ leave or under the domestic violence rule or getting accommodation from a local authority or a charity. While you may need to prove your immigration status, officials should be sympathetic to the fact that you may have had to leave in a hurry or your ex-partner may have stolen or hidden your documents.
What are your rights to housing and benefits?
If you get leave for three months, this leave entitles to you to access benefits and also to apply for help if you are homeless and to apply for a housing allocation. If your application for indefinite leave to remain is granted then you will also be able to get benefits, apply for homeless help and to apply for an allocation of housing.
You can apply to a housing association for housing, but will need to show them how you can pay your rent.
You may be able to get help from the local authority social services department, who are responsible for the care of children in need and vulnerable adults. See the page on people with social care needs for more information on this.
Even if you do not apply for help under the domestic violence rule, if you are the parent with sole care of a British child, and have no other leave to remain in the UK you may also be able to claim benefits and apply for housing and homelessness assistance. This is a complicated area of law that is still developing, however, and you need to get advice before applying.
If you are from Croatia, Macedonia or Turkey you may be able to get help with housing benefit to pay your rent as long as you are habitually resident in the UK and have current leave to remain or are the family member of an EEA national. This is because the UK has signed treaties with these countries to allow citizens to claim benefits in each country. In Wales, you may also be able to get homelessness assistance from the local council and to apply for a housing allocation. But this is a complicated area of law and it is best to get advice first.