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People fleeing domestic abuse

This page is for new arrivals. If you are a housing adviser please click here for information more relevant to you.

Are you fleeing domestic violence?

If you have arrived in the UK to join a partner who is settled here, but you have to leave your home because you fear violence 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.

Leaving a violent relationship involves a lot of choices, and these are best made with the help of good advice and support. Specialist immigration advice is essential if getting access to services requires applying to change or vary a person’s immigration conditions. Many will need pastoral support whether legal advice is required or not. There are organisations dedicated to helping and advising people fleeing domestic violence. You can find some on the links page, and by contacting the National Domestic Abuse Helpline - 0808 2000 247.

Partners experiencing abuse while resident in the UK

If you were given limited leave to join your partner who is British or who has settled status but you can no longer stay in the relationship due to abuse you can, under certain conditions, apply to the Home Office for settled status on domestic abuse grounds (pdf).

You can apply for leave for three months' leave with access to housing and benefits to give you time to make your application to settle. However, before you apply you should get immigration advice from a registered adviser. Being granted the three months' concessionary leave does not automatically mean that your application to settle will succeed.

Spouses of UK residents re-entering the UK after abandonment overseas

You may be granted leave to re-enter the UK as the spouse (or former spouse) of a British citizen or settled person if you were deliberately stranded by them overseas. This is a form of domestic abuse or violence that exploits your immigration status called ‘transnational marriage abandonment’ (see domestic abuse grounds above). For example, the wife of a British national who is forced to live with her husband’s relatives overseas and is denied access to her passport and travel documents.  

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. 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.

What are your rights to housing and benefits?

Partners experiencing abuse in the UK

If you get three months' leave under the domestic abuse concession you are entitled to benefits, to join the council’s housing waiting list and to help if you are homeless. You are also entitled to housing and benefits if your application for indefinite leave to remain (settled status) is granted.

Spouses re-entering the UK after abandonment overseas

If you were given leave to enter the UK on the grounds of transnational marriage abandonment you are entitled to benefits, to join the council’s housing waiting list and to help if you are homeless, immediately on your arrival. Unlike some other forms of leave you do not need to show that you are habitually resident.

If you applied to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)

If you applied to the EUSS and have EU pre-settled status (or your application was accepted but has not yet been decided) your rights to housing and benefits are determined by the pre-Brexit rules. If you are not an EEA national yourself your rights will follow the rules for an EEA family member or former family member as appropriate. You can use your family member rights until your marriage or civil partnership is dissolved. If you are a former partner (whether you were a spouse/civil partner or not) and your relationship ended because of domestic violence you may have rights as a former family member.

If you are a non-EEA national who has EU pre-settled status on the grounds that you are the parent with sole care of a British child, your rights to housing and benefits are the same as you would have had before the Brexit transition period ended: see here for details.

Other forms of leave without access to public funds

If you have any other form of limited leave you can apply to a housing association for housing if it has an open waiting list, but you will need to show them how you can pay your rent. An open waiting list means one where the housing association allocates the properties according to its own rules (i.e. properties that are not reserved for council nominations from its waiting list). 

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.

Everyone has the right to get free advice and information from their local council (or an organisation they have commissioned to provide it) to help them if they are homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days. This advice must, in particular, meet the needs of anyone who is or was released from prison or youth detention accommodation, a care leaver, a former member of the regular armed forces, a victim of domestic abuse, leaving hospital, suffering from a mental illness or impairment, and from any other group that the authority identify as being at particular risk of homelessness in their district.

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.

If you are a citizen of certain European countries and you are habitually resident you can get help to pay your rent if you have any kind of leave (even if it has a ‘no public funds’ condition) but only if:

  • you are claiming HB, and you made your claim before 3 May 2022; or
  • you are claiming UC, and you made your claim before 1 January 2021.

Once your entitlement ends (e.g. if your income is too high to qualify) this right is extinguished.