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Equality, Benevolence & Empowerment
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Frequently Asked Questions by Immigrant Women Victims of Domestic Abuse

"You have a right to be free from violence in your own home"

What is Domestic Violence?

Is your partner (husband, boyfriend, or "ex") extremely jealous and does he discourage you from speaking to friends or family? Does he prevent you from getting a job or learning English? Has your partner ever threatened to take away your children? Has he told you that he will have you deported?Have you ever been hit by your partner? Has he forced you to have sex when you did not want to? Has he ever threatened to harm you with weapons like guns, knives or other objects?

Does your partner claim that his violence is your fault? Has he ever told you his violence is not serious? Does he blame drugs or alcohol for his violent behaviour? Does he make you feel like you are crazy? Does he call you names that are hurtful and shameful to you?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. Many other women like you are in the same situation. Your partner's behaviour is not your fault.
Domestic violence tends to get worse over time. It does not go away on its own. We will outline some things you can do to protect yourself and your children from continuing violence.

We will refer to the abuser as "he." Some women are abused by other women, and some men are abused by women. While not all the legal remedies will apply to same sex relationships, we will still provide some basic information about things you can do to make yourself safe. We will use the term "partner" to refer to a husband, boyfriend, or "ex" who may be abusing you.

What can I do?

There are a variety of services available to assist you to stop the violence in your home: womens refuges, hospitals, police, legal aid and other community services.

How can i get lawful permanent residency without my husband's help?

If you are married to a British citizen or have lived legally in the United Kingdom for a certain length of time e.g. on a spouse visa, you may be able to apply for permission to settle here. This is known as ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’. 
PHOEBE and other services in the Ipswich area can offer support and assistance on this process for applying for the right to live in the United Kingdom permanently. 

In particular, if you have come to the United Kingdom on a spouse or partner visa and are experiencing domestic violence, you may be able to apply for ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ under the domestic violence rule.
 However, it is a complication process so the best thing to do is discuss your own circumstances with an immigration or domestic violence advocate. Depending on your financial circumstances and the details of your case, you may be entitled to public funding (also known as legal aid). This enables some people who cannot afford to pay for legal advice to get legal advice and representation free of charge.

My husband or partner is threatening to take my children away if I leave him. What can I do?

  • Your partner will not have rights over the children, ‘parental responsibility’, if he was not married to you when the child was born or if he is not on the birth certificate.
  • If you and your abuser are the biological parents of your children, and they are still minors, then you both have the same rights, until a family judge determines something else through an order. 
  • If the judge doesn’t make a final decision about custody or visiting rights, then both parents have the same rights. 
  • If you are undocumented and the father is a British citizen or resident that does not give him any special rights over the children.
  • If your abuser threatens to take away your children or if he tries to get physical and/or legal custody of the children, he will have to go to court and you will be notified of his court actions. Get in touch with a lawyer immediately, as you could lose your custody rights.
  • If you were never served court papers or if he didn’t start the legal process in family court then you have the same rights regarding your children as he does. 
  • If you are in immediate danger you can leave the house with your children and go to a women’s refuge, as necessary. 
As a general rule, don’t sign any papers that your husband or his lawyer gives you without first consulting your own lawyer. If your partner is threatening to take your children away or take them to his home country, you should:

1)      Immediately get a residence order. This order can include an order to prohibit your husband/intimate partner form removing the children from the country in which you live, permanently.

(Click on the following link for a basic guide to residence orders:)

How can I support myself and children if I leave my husband

You may be able to get help with emergency or temporary accommodation. If you need to leave home because you are being abused by the person you are living with, or are threatened or intimidated by a partner or ex-partner, you may decide to go into a refuge. Contact PHOEBE on 01473 231566 for further advice and support on.

The father by law does not have to pay child maintance if he is not on the birth certificate. However, if the father of your child is on the birth certificate by law, he is required to pay child maintance, even if you are living apart, even if you were never married to him and regardless of your immigration status. You should contact a family lawyer or a domestic violence advocate to find out how to obtain child support in your state. 

I am a legal permanent resident. Am I eligible to receive benefits and healthcare

If you are lawfully a permanent resident in the United Kingdom you will be entitled to free NHS healthcare regardless of your income. You may be eligible to receive welfare benefits. The link below is to a benefits adviser test which can calculate what benefits you’re entitled to and how to claim them: https://www.gov.uk/benefits-adviser or visit your local Citizen Advice Bureau for advice on benefits.

I am a refugee. Can I receive welfare and healthcare

If you have been granted refugee status, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave you have broadly the same rights and entitlements to services as UK citizens and can apply for welfare benefits and tax credits. However, you may find it difficult to gain entitlement to contributory benefits though since these depend upon you having a sufficient national insurance contribution record. We advise you to get expert advice e.g. from citizen advice before making a benefit claim. 

I am undocumented. Can I receive welfare and healthcare

If you are undocumented or have an insecure immigration status, you are generally prevented from accessing welfare benefits and certain community care services in two different ways: 

1)      You may have a ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition attached to your permission to be in the UK, which means if you receive a type of public                   fund e.g. public housing, benefits and tax credits, you will have breached your permission to be in the UK. 
2)      An individual subject to immigration control is not eligible for most benefits and many community care benefits. 

If you are in the UK on a spouse visa, you can access tax credits and child benefit which you are entitled to as a family and which are received by your partner. 

Asylum-seeking women are also prevented from accessing welfare benefits and certain community care services from their local authority. 
However, regardless of your immigration status: you can register with a GP and access medical treatment.

Are my British citizen children eligible for public benefits.

Yes, if you are undocumented, your UK citizen children are eligible for public benefits just as other citizen children are.

Will I be deported if I take any of the above actions? 

If you are now a British citizen or you are a lawful permanent resident, or you possess a valid visa, you cannot be deported unless you entered the United Kingdom on fraudulent documents, violated conditions of your visa, or have committed certain crimes. 

If you are undocumented or are unsure about your immigration status, you should seek the assistance of an immigration lawyer or advocate, to see if you can legalise your status. Until then, you should do what you need to do to make yourself safe. Seek safety at a police station if you are in danger.
Remember that even if you have an insecure immigration status, you are still entitled to protection from domestic violence, just like anyone else in the UK. Your abuser will also be subject to the same sanctions as anyone else, whatever his or her immigration status.  

Will my husband/intimate partner be deported if I take action

If you seek assistance from a shelter or lawyer, it is extremely unlikely to result in the deportation of your partner. 
If you contact the police and your partner is convicted of a crime, he may be deported, depending on his immigration status and the seriousness of the crime. 
It is important to remember that you must keep yourself and your children safe. It is your partner that has put himself at risk by his actions. 

Do I need to see an immigration Lawyer if I cannot afford one

It is vital that you get legal advice, either from a solicitor or an immigration adviser. Depending on your financial circumstances and details of your case, you may be entitled to get public funding (also known as legal aid). Public funding enables some people who cannot afford to pay for legal advice to get free legal advice and representation. 

From 1st April 2012, you can apply under the Destitute Domestic Violence (DDV) concession for access to public funds while you make a claim for ‘indefinite leave to remain’ as a victim of domestic violence. Click on the link to find the application form for public funds under DDV 

Anyone can call PHOEBE on 01473 231566 for an appointment with our solicitor that can offer free legal advice,  regardless of your immigration status.
Or call ‘Rights of Women’ legal advice line for, free and confidential advice on: 02072516577 or 0207251887
Click on the following link to complete a short test to check if you can get legal aid to help with civil cases (e.g. a debt, family or housing problems)


'A Helper of Many'

19, Tower Street

Citizen Advice Bureau Building

Ipswich, Suffolk



Telephone— 00 44 1473 231566