Dear Mr Bassie,
I am a victim of spousal abuse and domestic violence, but I got married and applied to stay permanently in the United Kingdom. I am afraid to report what is happening to me because I do not want this to affect my application, and I cannot financially afford to support myself. I need some advice. What should I do?
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you should report this to the police.
With respect to you not being able to financially support yourself, there is a policy pertaining to a situation such as this where a person may be able to receive assistance. In a case such as yours, a person can notify the United Kingdom (UK) Border Agency of his or her need to access public funds under this policy if certain criteria are met. The person would have to have entered the UK, or have been given leave to remain in the UK, as a spouse, or civil partner, or unmarried partner of a British citizen, or someone present and settled in the UK; and if his or her relationship has broken down due to domestic violence.
Another condition for accessing the funds would be if the person does not have the means to access accommodation or to support himself or herself and he or she is in need of financial help. Also, the applicant would need to state that he or she is going to make a claim to stay permanently in the UK under the Domestic Violence Immigration Rule (Settlement DV).
The abused individual would need to contact the UK Border Agency and advise them that he or she needs a change to his or her leave to allow for an application to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) for financial help while he or she makes an application to stay permanently in the UK under the Domestic Violence Immigration Rule (Settlement DV).
If the authorities consider the applicant to be in a position to apply for assistance, he or she would be given three months' limited leave to enable that person to stay in the UK with access to benefits. Just for completeness, if such a person does not need financial help, he or she can apply directly to stay permanently in the UK under the Domestic Violence Immigration Rule (Settlement DV).
It should also be noted that notifications from migrants in other categories such as work, study, refugees, or visitors will not qualify under this policy. The person should notify the authorities using the notification form protecting victims of domestic violence. In addition, the authorities will be able to give you the numbers for domestic violence help lines where someone will be able to provide practical help and advice, including emergency refuge accommodation, safety planning and advice, and translation facilities if the person has difficulty communicating in English.
Finally, it should be noted that if an asylum applicant is experiencing domestic violence from a partner or another member of the family, then he or she is also able to receive help from the authorities.
John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a justice of the peace, a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator, and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (UK). Email: email@example.com.