Victims of domestic violence in the UK staying in the country on a spousal visa will now be able to access some vital services after a change in policy at the Home Office. Those in need were previously denied services as part of rules governing the two-year probationary term served by those on spousal visas.
Since November 2009 a pilot programme called the Sojourner Project has given help to those who would otherwise not leave an abusive relationship because of immigration rules. Between December 2009 and January 2011, 587 women and 358 children have been supported through the pilot. The permanent plan will come into effect next year.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
“We have always said we will support the small number of spouses who must leave their relationship and are unable to access any support services. However we are very clear there will be tough checks in place to ensure this system is not abused by those seeking to stay in the country where they do not have the right to.”
The Immigration Rules makes provision for spouses (including registered civil partners and same sex partners and unmarried partners) of British citizens and persons settled here who have been subjected to domestic violence during the probationary period to apply for indefinite leave to remain as the victim of domestic violence. They do not currently have access to public funds and this can mean that they are not allowed to stay in refuges.