Women who have insecure immigration status
If you are uncertain about your immigration status you can phone one of the agencies listed in useful organisations. Your documents (for example your visa) should state how long you are entitled to remain in the UK for and whether or not you are entitled to work and/or claim any benefits.
Always seek advice about your legal status from a specialist immigration adviser as immigration law changes regularly. Try to have your documents with you when you do so.
If you have been granted 'indefinite leave to remain' in the UK your immigration status is secure and you are entitled to the same benefits and housing support as a British citizen.
If you are not legally entitled to be in the UK (for example you came on a holiday and stayed without permission from the home office) and you approach a statutory (government) agency for help they have a duty to inform the home office that you are here. This could result in you being deported from the UK.
If you have insecure immigration status and have insufficient private income, it is much more difficult to get a place in a refuge, since you are not entitled to claim benefits (for example you are precluded from claiming benefits because your immigration status means that you have 'no recourse to public funds').
A small number of refuges are willing to take women without recourse to public funds but it is often difficult to get one of these limited places. You can contact the National Domestic Violence Help line for further information on this (Tel: 0808 2000 247).
Some social services departments are also able to pay the rent (and a basic living allowance) for women without recourse to public funds but this support can be difficult to get.
Social Services have clear duties towards all 'children in need' under The Children Act (1989), meaning they have a duty of care towards children made homeless by domestic violence.
However they do not have clear duties towards adults with insecure immigration status unless they can prove that they are 'vulnerable' (for example they are pregnant or disabled). This sometimes means that social services are unwilling to help women with insecure immigration status who are fleeing domestic violence even if they have children.
It may be more helpful to get an experienced voluntary sector worker to go with you to social services rather than going there on your own so that they can support you (advocate for you) in asking social services for help. You could contact one of the following specialist agencies for further information and/or support in this area:
- Southall Black Sisters: 020 8571 9595
- Joint Council on the Welfare of Immigrants: 020 7251 8706
- National Domestic Violence Help line: 0808 2000 247
- Newham Asian Women's Project: 020 8472 0528 or 020 8552 5524
- Immigration Advisory Service: 020 7967 1200
- Office of the Immigration Service Commissioner (OISC): 020 7211 1500
If you have been sponsored to come to the UK by your abusive (ex) partner but have not yet secured long term (indefinite) leave to remain in the UK you should seek specialist legal advice about your circumstances.
If you are able to prove that your relationship has broken down within the 2 year period of time you are required by the home office to be in the relationship in order to secure your long-term stay, you may yourself be entitled to make a direct application for 'indefinite leave to remain' in the UK. The agencies listed above can give you further advice on this.
If you are currently in an abusive relationship and your leave to remain in the UK is dependent upon that relationship you should try to talk to as many appropriate agencies as possible about the domestic violence and the exacerbated difficulty in leaving your partner.
You should consider talking to your GP (local doctor) about the violence. This would be confidential unless you asked your GP to write a letter to another agency about what has happened.
You could also talk to a local refuge worker (this is also confidential) and may wish to involve the police (please see separate section on the criminal justice system for further information about how the police can help).
If you have concerns about the safety of your children you can also contact your local social services department. Please see separate section on children if you would like further information on this.