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 limited leave to remain 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 in the Home Office immigration rules.
Since the beginning of April 2012, if you leave your partner within the period of limited leave you were given as a husband, wife, cohabitee or civil partner, 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.
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.
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. Usually, when applying for housing, you would need to produce a passport and/or leave document to prove your immigration status, so a lawyer or adviser can help explain if you do not have them. 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.
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 can also apply for accommodation from a private landlord although you will have to be able to show your documentation (in England) as landlords have to carry out 'right to rent' checks to ensure you have the right to rent in the UK.
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 be able to get leave to remain as the carer of your child, or a right to reside under European rules that protect the rights of EEA citizen children. If you get leave to remain, the Home Office may consider allowing you also to have ‘recourse to public funds’ that will allow you to apply for benefits. If you get a right to reside under European rules to protect the rights of citizen children, your rights are as follows:
- if you apply for housing or homelessness assistance - you will not be eligible in either England or Wales (unless you applied before 31 October 2014 to a local housing authority in Wales)
- if claim housing benefit – you are not eligible (except for any period up to and including 7 November 2012).
This is a complicated area of law that is still developing, however, and you need to get advice before applying for leave to remain or the right to reside or for benefits or housing.
If you are from 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.