New Transnational Marriage Abandonment Law – UK Visa for Victims of Domestic Abuse Abroad

New Transnational Marriage Abandonment law January 2024

For some people, marriage also brings a new life in a new country. But tragically, not all marriages work out as expected. Transnational marriage abandonment (TMA), when a spouse is deliberately abandoned overseas by their British or settled partner, leaves victims stranded abroad. However, there is finally good news for survivors of TMA. Since the 31st of January 2024, victims of transnational marriage abandonment can apply for a visa to return to the UK. This follows the landmark case of R on the application of AM v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2022] EWHC 2591 (Admin).

What is transnational marriage abandonment?

Transnational marriage abandonment refers to a form of domestic abuse where the sponsoring partner or their family members abandon or strand the visa-dependent partner abroad, usually without financial resources, with the aim of preventing their return to the UK. This practice is often characterized by controlling and coercive behaviour.​ The abandonment is typically accompanied by deception, such as misleading the victim about the intention of foreign travel or deceiving them about the reasons for not returning to the UK.​ Passports and immigration documents may be taken away, and the sponsor may notify the Home Office of the relationship breakdown to curtail the victim’s permission to stay without their knowledge.​ Children may also be involved, either abandoned with the victim or taken from their care.​

Past legal situation

​Previously, you had to be in the UK to apply to for Indefinite Leave to Remain on the grounds of Domestic Abuse. This has left many victims trapped in difficult situations. Victims were stranded, often in danger and would face difficulties in obtaining and producing evidence due to the circumstances of their departure from the UK. The abandonment not only inflicted emotional trauma but also stripped victims of their rights and protections, leaving them in a state of vulnerability and despair. Victims, mostly women but also including men, are often left destitute and homeless, many with little to no support from their own families or communities due to the stigma attached to marriage breakdown. Transnational marriage abandonment cases can be complex and may involve cultural and language barriers, trauma, and limited access to support services.

Recent developments in UK immigration law have brought forth a significant stride towards addressing the plight of individuals left stranded due to transnational marriage abandonment. This progressive step comes in the form of a dedicated visa route, offering a lifeline to those who find themselves in dire circumstances. Now, if an applicant meets the eligibility criteria, he or she can apply for a visa from their home country. If successful the visa grants them indefinite leave to remain, allowing victims to rebuild their life in the UK.

The New law – January 2024

This change follows a landmark legal case (R on the application of AM v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2022]) that recognized the vulnerability of those abandoned abroad. The key features and implications of the law include:

  • The Recognition of Vulnerability; the introduction of this visa route signifies a crucial recognition of the vulnerability faced by victims of transnational marriage abandonment. It acknowledges the unique challenges they encounter, ranging from legal complexities to emotional distress, and seeks to provide tailored support.
  • Pathway to Stability; for individuals grappling with the aftermath of marriage abandonment, stability and security are paramount. This visa route offers a clear pathway towards establishing legal status in the UK, enabling them to rebuild their lives with a sense of assurance and dignity.

Eligibility requirements for the New Visa for Victims of Domestic Abuse

To be eligible to apply under the Victims of Domestic Abuse (VDA) route, an applicant must meet one of the following criteria: ​

  1. A partner under Appendix FM 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.
  2. A spouse, civil partner, or durable partner under Appendix EU with limited leave to enter or remain as a family member of a relevant EEA citizen (or of a qualifying British citizen), as a joining family member of a relevant sponsor, or as a family member who has retained the right of residence, granted under paragraph EU3 or EU3A of that Appendix. ​
  3. A partner under Appendix FM, Part 11, or Appendix Family Reunion (Protection) of a person with permission as a refugee. ​
  4. A partner of a person present and settled in the UK under paragraph 285 or 295E of Part 8. ​
  5. A victim of domestic abuse under Appendix FM. ​
  6. A partner under Appendix Armed Forces or Part 7 (except for permission as a fiancée or proposed civil partner) of any of the following: ​
    • A person who is a British citizen. ​
    • A foreign and commonwealth citizen with at least 4 years’ reckonable service in HM Forces at the date of application under this paragraph. ​
    • A member of HM Armed forces who has applied for or been granted permission or settlement as a foreign and commonwealth citizen discharged from HM Armed Forces. ​

To be eligible for settlement under Appendix VDA, victims of transnational marriage abandonment must satisfy all the requirements of Appendix VDA, including having or last having permission in a relevant category and their relationship breaking down permanently due to domestic abuse. ​

The standard of proof needed to establish eligibility for settlement is a reasonable degree of likelihood, taking into account the individual’s future life and safety being at risk and the challenges they may face in obtaining and producing evidence.

Applicants need to pay the usual fee for Indefinite Leave to Remain applications, but those who cannot afford to pay and can provide proof of this can apply for a fee waiver. They may also be eligible for legal aid, which means that they can access free legal support.

Likely effects

In essence, the introduction of a new visa route for victims of transnational marriage abandonment heralds a significant milestone in immigration law. It reflects a concerted effort to uphold human rights, promote social justice, and extend compassion to those in need.

The new law represents a significant breakthrough in addressing the trauma caused by transnational marriage and offers victims a beacon of hope. Victims will hopefully be able to return to the UK and rebuild their lives here.

If you have been affected by Transnational Marriage Abandonment, please contact us. We can have a quick chat about your situation and whether you would be able to make an application.

You may contact us by filling in our Quick Enquiry form any time you need professional support or have any questions. Alternatively, you can call us during office hours on 07544669131 / 0116 3800 744

Cross Border Legal Solicitors Ltd is a UK law firm regulated under the Solicitor Regulations Authority. It is Headed by Mr Tito Mbariti, a UK Immigration and Human Rights Solicitor who is a practising lawyer and member of the Law Society of England and Wales.