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Changes to the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession

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The Home Office has made changes to the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession by publishing new guidance and a new application form today.

There is a new acronym for practitioners to learn as the concession has been re-branded as the Migrant Victims of Domestic Abuse Concession (MVDAC).

The big change is that the concession has been expanded to include victims of domestic abuse who have, or last had, leave as a ‘partner of a person with permission to enter or stay on a work and economic route or as a student or graduate’. This brings into scope a very wide group of dependent partners.

One might expect an expansion of the concession to be welcomed. This one has not been. Women’s groups have widely condemned the change because the newly included group of dependent partners of workers / students / graduates are not eligible to apply for indefinite leave as a victim of domestic abuse under the new Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse. This leaves them with no route to further leave or settlement after the end of the three months’ concession leave.

Women’s groups warn that not only is this likely to deter victims from coming forward, but could also lead some to making ill- informed choices to apply not realising that they have no right to apply for settlement like other groups included under the concession.

Given this change, it is now more important than ever that victims of domestic abuse get specialist regulated legal advice before applying to the concession.

Background

Since it was introduced in 2012, the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession has been a policy outside the immigration rules that operated in conjunction with the immigration rules enabling victims of domestic abuse to apply for indefinite leave on relationship breakdown.

Those immigration rules for victims of domestic abuse were previously in Appendix FM but since 31 January 2024 are now in Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse. The immigration rules strictly define, by visa category, which victims of domestic abuse can apply for indefinite leave on relationship breakdown.

The purpose of the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession was for everyone who was eligible to apply for indefinite leave to have the option of first changing their immigration status quickly, to a grant of three months leave outside the rules, enabling access to public funds while their indefinite leave application was being prepared, submitted and decided.

The changes announced today is the first time the Home Office has uncoupled the concession from the route to settlement as a victim of domestic abuse.

Who is eligible under the concession?

Guidance sets out the eligibility criteria:

Those who have, or have last been granted permission as, one of the following:

  • a partner under Appendix FM (except for permission as a fiancé or fiancée or proposed civil partner) of a person who is a British citizen, settled in the UK or a European Economic Area (EEA) national in the UK with limited leave to enter or remain granted under paragraph EU3 of Appendix EU on the basis of meeting condition 1 in paragraph EU14 of Appendix EU
  • a partner under Appendix FM, Part 11, or Appendix Family Reunion (Protection) of a person with permission as a refugee
  • a partner of a person present and settled in the UK under paragraph 285 or 295E of Part 8
  • a partner under Appendix Armed Forces or Part 7 (except for permission as a fiancé or fiancée or proposed civil partner) of a person who is or was a member of HM Armed forces
  • or as a partner of a person with permission to enter or stay on a work and economic route or as a student or graduate

and

  • the applicant’s relationship has broken down due to domestic abuse

and

  • the applicant requires a short period of permission to stay independent from their partner

and

  • the applicant wants the option to apply for access to public funds

As we can see, applicants no longer need to be destitute to qualify under the concession.

Arising from the expansion in scope to include dependent partners of workers / students / graduates, the requirement to have an intention to apply for indefinite leave as a victim of domestic abuse has also been removed.

Dependent children can also apply alongside their parent. The application form carries a helpful warning about children:

If your child already has permission, you should get legal advice about whether it is in your child’s best interests to change their immigration status by applying for 3 months permission alongside you.

It is often the case that children do not need to apply alongside their parent because they are not themselves applying for public funds and if, they already have leave, it may not be in their best interests for this to be varied to three months leave outside the rules.

How to apply

The application process remains the same as it has been, though the application form has been updated.

The application form must be completed and submitted to the Home Office by email to the address provided on the application form. Postal applications are also accepted, though take longer, and an amended postal address is provided on the form.

While the application form has increased from 9 to 17 pages with additional questions, the increase does not reflect more challenging questions and the form is reasonably intuitive.

The applicant form asks for basic information on personal and contact details, as well as details of partner, any dependent children, any immigration adviser, and biometric residence permit details. Alongside this, the form asks only three key eligibility questions that are all yes / no answers:

  • Has your relationship with your partner broken down due to domestic abuse?
  • Do you need permission to stay in the UK that is independent from your partner?
  • Do you wish to apply for access to public funds to support yourself and any dependent children in the UK?

The five working day service standard is maintained by the Home Office which means, given biometrics are not currently required to be re-enrolled on this route, applications should generally be decided within a week.

What does success look like

A successful applicant is granted three months leave outside the rules which permits employment and recourse to public funds.

Successful applicants will get a decision letter confirming the grant and will be issued with a new biometric residence permit. They are reminded that the concession is not an application for benefits / housing, and so after the grant they will need to separately apply for benefits / housing support.

Importantly, guidance states that caseworkers are required to confirm in a grant letter ‘whether the applicant is eligible to make an application for settlement under Appendix VDA via form SET(DV) or whether they are not eligible to do so.’

Most of the applicants under the concession will be eligible to make an application for settlement under Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse. It is only the newly included group who will not be eligible to apply for settlement i.e. those who had leave as a partner of a person with permission to enter or stay on a work and economic route or as a student or graduate.

What should dependent partners of workers / students / graduates do?

There is no one size fits all answer. Each case will need to be considered carefully on its individual facts with the assistance of a specialist regulated immigration adviser.

There are some important considerations for this group to take into account when deciding whether to apply under the concession, which the application form itself warns about:

  • If three months’ leave is granted under the concession, the previous grant of leave as the dependent partner of a worker / student / graduate is gone for good.
  • If three months’ leave is granted under the concession, the Home Office expects the applicant, during this period, to either make arrangements to leave the UK or apply for permission to stay in another immigration route.
  • Those who are a partner of a person with permission to enter or stay on a work and economic route or as a student or graduate will not be eligible to apply for settlement under Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse.
  • If three months leave is granted under the concession, it may not be possible to switch into most immigration routes as they generally prohibit in country switching where the applicant has leave outside the rules. The application form warns:

Permission under this concession is granted outside the immigration rules. Applications under Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse and human rights applications can be made by someone granted permission under this concession. However, it may not be possible to qualify for other immigration routes with permission under this concession.

Applicants who are a partner of a person with permission to enter or stay on a work and economic route or as a student or graduate will not be eligible to apply under Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse and must understand that a grant of three months permission outside the rules under this concession may not lead to eligibility under any other immigration route.

Help from Rights of Women

Rights of Women is a charity that provides free legal advice and information to women on the law in England & Wales with a specific focus on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).

Rights of Women’s specialist immigration lawyers provide advice on immigration law relating to domestic abuse, including this new concession:

Thursdays, 10am-12pm and 2-4pm

  • Professionals can access free second tier legal advice from Rights of Women by calling the Professionals’ Advice line on 020 8138 8028 open fortnightly on Fridays, 10am – 12pm
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Nicole Masri

Nicole Masri is Senior Legal Officer (Immigration & Asylum) at Rights of Women

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