Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) as a Victim of Domestic Abuse
Domestic abuse, often described in the media as ‘the shadow pandemic’ or ‘the silent crisis of this century’, is a prevalent issue affecting millions worldwide. It is estimated that nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United Kingdom have experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16. This translates to a staggering 10.4 million individuals who have suffered at the hands of domestic violence.
Imagine that you are facing a choice – remaining in an unsafe home or losing your immigration status and facing deportation.
This is the situation of many foreign nationals present in the UK on a Spouse visa who fear speaking out about the abuse because their right to remain in the UK depends on their relationship with their abusive partner. The language barriers, cultural differences, and lack of support systems that foreign national victims face make it even more challenging for them to escape this cycle of abuse.
The UK government has taken steps to address these issues by making provisions for the victims of domestic abuse to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). The ILR is a form of settlement in the UK that gives the recipient the right to live, work, and study without any restrictions on their stay. In other words, once an individual has been granted ILR, they have the freedom to reside in the UK indefinitely.
Benefits of applying for ILR as a victim of domestic abuse
Once you have been granted ILR, you would be free to live and work in the UK indefinitely, without the need for further immigration permission. This means that you would no longer be tied to your abusive partner and can start building a new life for yourself without fear of being forced to return to your home country. Furthermore, the restrictions to accessing public services (such as healthcare and education) will be lifted. This is particularly important, as you can then have access to specialist support services in order to recover, such as counselling and therapy.
In order to apply for ILR as a victim of domestic abuse, you must first be physically present in the UK. Another requirement is that you must have been previously granted leave as a partner of a British citizen or a person settled in the UK. In addition, you must prove you were in a genuine and subsisting relationship with your spouse, which has subsequently broken down as a result of domestic abuse.
What behaviour constitutes domestic abuse?
The Home Office guidance makes it clear that a broad range of behaviour falls under the definition of domestic violence and abuse. The definition extends beyond just physical violence to include ‘any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse.
This extensive definition encompasses acts of financial abuse, such as isolating the victim from sources of support or patterns of psychological and emotional abuse through threats, humiliation and intimidation.
However, one of the biggest challenges in applying for ILR as a victim of domestic abuse is that you must provide evidence of the abuse.
What evidence is required?
The Immigration Rules do not specify any mandatory evidence or documents to be submitted with an application, leaving some uncertainty as to what is required.
However, the Home Office provides useful guidance on what evidence may be considered and assigns how much weight should be placed on each type of evidence. Potential evidence may include court orders, police reports, medical records, witness statements, and other relevant documents that demonstrate you have suffered from domestic abuse and the impact it has had on you. For example, non-molestation orders or occupation orders are generally accepted as definitive proof of abuse, whereas emails or photos repeating your account of events have limited value and will be assessed on the balance of probabilities in light of the rest of the evidence.
What is a fee waiver?
You may opt to waive the Home Office fees when submitting the ILR application on the basis that you cannot afford them or if paying for them may put you in a state of destitution. In order to have the fees waived, you must provide evidence of your financial circumstances. The Home Office will consider a range of factors, including your income, expenses, and any other sources of financial support you may have that could be used to pay for the fees.
It is important to note that if the Home Office is not satisfied with the evidence provided, they may request that you pay the fees anyway. This means that you will need to provide as much detail as possible and provide strong evidence that you truly cannot afford the fees.
Finally, it is important to remember that even if your fees are waived, this does not guarantee that your application for ILR will be approved. The Home Office will still thoroughly review your application and assess whether you meet all the eligibility criteria for ILR.
Several other factors will be taken into account when deciding your application, such as your previous immigration history, the duration of the relationship between you and your partner, and the duration of the alleged domestic violence.
It is also worth mentioning that the rules of applying for ILR can be complex and time-consuming, so it is a good idea to seek help from an immigration adviser if you need it. Our experienced team of advisers will be able to guide you through the process and help ensure that your application is complete and meets the Home Office requirements.