Changes to the legal rules around the domestic abuse route

Legal Updates

On 7 December 2023, the Government published new Immigration Rules relating to the domestic abuse route to indefinite leave to remain (ILR). The new immigration rules are called ‘Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse’ or ‘Appendix VDA’.  They will come into effect on 31 January 2024, and it is expected that guidance to understand these new rules will also be published on the same day. 

In summary, what this means is that the Home Office has now created a route to indefinite leave to enter for people who have experienced a very specific type of domestic abuse. Leave to enter is different to leave to remain. It is granted to people who are applying for permanent residence from outside of the UK. In comparison, leave to remain is granted to people who are already in the UK.

Keep reading this legal update to find out who these changes will affect. 

What does this change mean?

These new rules include a new route for victims of domestic abuse who are abandoned overseas to apply for permission to re-enter the UK.

Transnational marriage abandonment is when a person is deliberately stranded overseas by a former or current spouse. It is a form of domestic abuse and a type of violence that exploits a person on the basis of their immigration status. It affects spouses who have been resident in the UK as a partner of a British or settled person. They are then stranded overseas by their British or settled partner. 

Up until this change to the law, if you had experienced transnational marriage abandonment, you had to be in the UK to make an application to stay in the UK – meaning that many people were excluded from re-entering the UK after being abandoned. 

Now, if you have been stranded overseas and your relationship has broken down permanently, you will be able to apply for indefinite leave to return to the UK.

It is now no longer necessary for the relationship breakdown to have happened during the last grant of leave. This means that it can happen after your visa has expired. 

What caused this change to the law? 

There was a landmark ruling by the High Court in the case of AM v SSHD in October 2022. In this case, the judge held that people who had experienced transnational marriage abandonment are discriminated against because they are outside the UK.

The High Court ruled that the Home Office needed to allow people who had experienced transnational marriage abandonment to be treated like other victims of domestic violence in the UK. This includes being able to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

How can someone make an application? 

There will be a new application form for these applications. This should be shared on the 31 January when the guidance is published. 

Dependent children will also be able to apply under this appendix. 

For information on the grounds of refusal, read this section of our Toolkit page on visas. 

It will be possible to apply for a fee waiver for these applications if you cannot afford the application fee. 

What if I am a victim of domestic abuse in the UK?

If you are in the UK on a temporary visa as a partner, and you experience domestic abuse which caused your relationship to break down permanently, you might be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. The form is called SETDV and is available here.

If you have no money to support yourself while you are waiting for the outcome of this application, you might be able to apply for short-term income and immigration status. This is called the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC). 

You can get advice from a law centre near you, immigration lawyer or your local domestic abuse service



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