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Who can apply?

A person who is living in the United Kingdom as a spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner of a British Citizen or person settled in the UK, whose relationship has recently broken down permanently as a result of domestic violence, may be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (settlement).

If such a victim of domestic violence meets the requirements, and is able to provide the necessary documentary evidence to prove that the main reason for the breakdown of their relationship was due to domestic violence, they will be granted settlement in the UK.

Documentary evidence may include a non-molestation order, occupation order or other such evidence.

What is domestic violence?

Rights of Women have estimated that domestic violence affects one in four women. UK police recorded 464,886 cases of domestic violence in 2017.

The Government introduced a new definition of domestic violence as of 31st March 2013.  The definition of domestic violence and abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents showing controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over, who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.  This can, but is not limited to the following types of abuse: psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.

Controlling behaviour can cover a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and or dependent by isolating them from sources of support. Controlling behaviour exploits the victim’s resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape.

Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation, or other abuse that is used to harm punish or frighten the victim. There is no difference between psychological abuse and physical abuse when it comes to assessing if a person is a victim of domestic violence. In the domestic violence context family members include mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister and grandparent.  The legal definition of injury is any harm done to a person by acts or omissions of others.

The Domestic Violence Rule applies if you are in the UK as the wife, partner or civil partner of someone who is British or has Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). The Domestic Violence Rule was brought in in 2002 because victims were being forced to continue receiving abuse in order to guard their leave to remain. The Rule allows people who entered the UK on a spousal visa and then suffered domestic abuse to apply for Leave to Remain. However, as part of the ‘hostile environment’ policy, the Home Office has increased its rejection rate for applications. Moreover, since 2015, applications that are rejected cannot be challenged; there is only the right to administrative review. Only 2% of administrative reviews are successful according to a Freedom of Information request by the Guardian.

Who can benefit from the Domestic Violence Rule?

If you are an EEA national or the family member of an EEA national (even if you are not yourself an EEA national) the information in this legal guide does not apply to you. Get advice from us for more information.

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The Domestic Violence Rule does not apply to spouses, unmarried partners or registered civil partners of a sponsor who has only limited Leave to Enter or Remain in the UK, i.e. the post flight partners of a person in the UK as a refugee, or a partner of a person with Humanitarian Protection. It does not apply to fiancés or for people who seek asylum in the UK or the spouse or civil partner of a foreign or commonwealth citizen who has served in Her Majesty’s Forces.  This is because these people were not admitted to the UK for the purpose of settlement.

You do not need to have suffered physical violence to benefit from the Rule. If you have experienced sexual, psychological, emotional or financial abuse which has broken down your relationship with your sponsor during the probationary period you are entitled to indefinite leave to remain under the Domestic Violence Rule.

Applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain based on the Domestic Violence Rule must use the form SET(DV). Both men and women can make an application as a victim of domestic violence.

If you would like Danielle and her team to assist with your settlement/immigration application, or you have a general query please do not hesitate to call us on 020 7267 4133.

Partners of EEA Nationals

If you are the partner of an EEA national exercising Treaty rights, you can apply to retain your right of residence under Regulation 10(5)(d)(iv) of the 2016 Regulations. You will have to prove your identity and nationality, the nationality of your sponsor, and that the relationship has ended. You will also have to prove that, when the relationship ended, your sponsor was exercising Treaty rights. This means they must have been in the UK and working.


There is a destitution concession for the Domestic Violence Rule if you can prove that you are destitute and in need of benefits. Contact us for help with applying for the concession. This will then notify the Government that you require benefits, safe accommodation, and support before you apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Public funds are granted for three months only.

If you cannot prove that you are destitute, the cost of applying for Leave under the Domestic Violence Rule is £2,389 (in 2018, but may rise) and an additional £2,389 for each dependent child.

Danielle worked for many years with Women’s Rights organisations and Not for Profit Organisations, including Justice, Refugee Women’s Legal Group, Rights of Women, and Hammersmith and Fulham Law Centre. She is passionate about assisting those who have been subject to domestic abuse and has extensive experience in this area.

Who else can help?

There are other organisations that can support you if you are a victim of domestic violence. You could contact:

The English 14-Hour National Domestic Violence helpline (freephone)

Call on 0808 2000.

Justice legal advice

020 7242 1222 for England and Wales.

0131 226 7411 for Scotland.

Refugee Women’s Legal Group

Book an appointment on 020 7923 2412.

Rights of Women legal information

Call 020 7490 7689.

National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline

Call 0808 2000 247.

You can also find more advice and information at the NHS help-page.

Get in touch with Danielle Cohen Solicitors for expert advice.

Danielle invites you to take a look at her blog, where you will see the diverse range of clients that she has helped.

If you have any questions about the process or would like to make an application as a victim of domestic violence, please contact Danielle or call on 020 7267 4133. Danielle will only charge you for the first consultation if you decide to become her client and if she can assist you.

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