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New ILR Rules for Victims of Domestic Abuse: What You Need to Know

The Immigration Rules for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) for victims of domestic violence or abuse have recently been revised. On January 31, 2024, the new Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse (Appendix VDA) was introduced, with accompanying guidance published on April 4, 2024. This article explains how to evidence domestic violence in ILR applications under the new rules.

Eligibility for ILR Under Appendix VDA

To qualify for ILR under Appendix VDA, you must demonstrate that your relationship with your partner ended permanently due to domestic abuse. Understanding what constitutes domestic abuse and how to provide evidence is essential for your application.

Defining Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is defined in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. It encompasses any single incident or pattern of abusive behaviour between individuals over the age of 16 who are personally connected. Abusive behaviour includes:

  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Violent or threatening behaviour
  • Controlling or coercive behaviour
  • Economic abuse
  • Psychological, emotional, or other abuse

Personal Connections

Individuals are considered personally connected if they:

  • Are or were married or civil partners
  • Have agreed to marry or become civil partners
  • Are or were in an intimate personal relationship
  • Are or were parents of the same child
  • Are relatives

Coercive and Controlling Behaviour

Coercive behaviour involves acts of assault, threats, humiliation, and intimidation. Controlling behaviour aims to make a person subordinate or dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting their resources, depriving them of independence, or regulating their daily activities. Forms of domestic abuse also include forced marriage, honor-based violence, dowry-related abuse, and transnational marriage abandonment.

Transnational Marriage Abandonment

This form of abuse occurs when a sponsoring partner or their family abandons a visa-dependent partner abroad without financial resources, preventing their return to the UK. The guidance confirms that transnational marriage abandonment qualifies as domestic abuse, thus fulfilling the requirement for relationship breakdown due to abuse.

Evidence for ILR Applications Under Appendix VDA

No specific type of evidence is mandated for ILR applications under Appendix VDA. All submitted evidence will be evaluated comprehensively. The evidence standard differs slightly based on whether the application is made from within or outside the UK.

  • Within the UK: The relationship breakdown due to domestic abuse must be shown on the balance of probabilities (more likely than not).
  • Outside the UK: The standard is a reasonable degree of likelihood that the relationship broke down because of domestic abuse.

Reports of domestic abuse made to family, organizations, or professionals abroad are given the same weight as those made within the UK.

Types of Evidence

The guidance provides examples of both conclusive and non-conclusive evidence, but the list is not exhaustive. Applicants can use any relevant evidence to support their application.

Conclusive Evidence

Examples of conclusive evidence include:

  • Criminal conviction related to domestic abuse
  • Police caution related to domestic abuse
  • Final civil court order (e.g., non-molestation or occupation order) with a finding of domestic abuse
  • Multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) referral
  • Charging decision from the CPS related to domestic abuse

Other Types of Evidence

Examples of non-conclusive evidence include:

  • Letters from social services or welfare officers connected to HM Armed Forces
  • Letters from organizations supporting domestic abuse victims
  • Letters or statements from independent witnesses
  • Medical reports from UK hospitals, GPs, or medical professionals employed by HM Armed Forces

When Evidence is Limited

The guidance recognizes that some applicants may only have their statement as evidence of abuse. In such cases, the reasons for the lack of documentary evidence will be considered, especially if they are related to the abusive situation. A detailed, consistent, and plausible account by the applicant can be sufficient evidence.

Factors Considered in Evidence Assessment

Caseworkers will take into account the nature of the abuse, reasons for any difficulties in obtaining evidence, and the impact of the abuse on the applicant. Victims might not report abuse due to fear for their children’s safety or lack of access to support and may still live with the perpetrator despite the relationship breakdown.

By understanding these updated guidelines and requirements, victims of domestic abuse can better prepare their ILR applications under Appendix VDA. MSR Solicitors is here to help you navigate this process, ensuring your application is supported by compelling and relevant evidence. Contact us for expert legal advice and support.

*This article is not legal advice but provides a general overview. The specific details of your case will determine the best course of action.