Produced with Southall Black Sisters
This information outlines support that is available if you have experienced domestic abuse and are in the UK and have ‘no recourse to public funds’.
If you have ‘no recourse to public funds’, it is important that you speak to a qualified immigration adviser immediately about your rights and options. A list of organisations that can help you further can be found at the end of this page.
On this page
No recourse to public funds is a condition that applies to most migrants in the UK until they have permanent settled status.
Some visas that allow you to live in the UK have the condition ‘no recourse to public funds’ attached. This includes:
This information may be stamped in your passport or written on the back of your residence permit.
Undocumented migrants and many asylum seekers also have no recourse to public funds.
It means that you cannot claim most forms of state benefits. It also means that you may not be able to access accommodation in a refuge. This can be a major barrier to escaping abuse.
If you do not have the right to live in the UK permanently, it can leave you more vulnerable to domestic abuse, including economic abuse. Your immigration status may mean that you little money of your own. You may be financially dependent on someone else.
You may feel worried about seeking help and you may feel trapped with the abuser. The abuser may use your immigration status to make you afraid to seek help. For example, they might threaten to have your visa taken away or to have you deported if you report the abuse.
Even if you have no recourse to public funds, there are some things that you can do to try to reach safety.
Speak to a qualified immigration adviser
This is the most important step you can take when seeking support. An immigration adviser can let you know:
If you need more help to stay safe, they may also be able to help you get in touch with a support service for migrant women in the UK who have experienced abuse.
To find an immigration adviser, contact Southall Black Sisters, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Rights of Women, or one of the other organisations listed at the end of this page.
You should always check that the person you see for immigration advice is professionally qualified. You can check by calling the Officer of the Immigration Services Commissioner on 0345 000 0046. There may be a charge for calling this number.
Speak to your local domestic abuse service
A local domestic abuse service may be able to help you reach safety and access support in your area. Your safety will be their first priority. You can find a local service by:
Call the police
You have the right to call the police to protect you from abuse. If you are in immediate danger, call the police on 999. If you are worried about your immigration status, speak to a domestic abuse support service. They can support you to contact the police and can liaise with the police on your behalf.
Apply for a court order
You can apply for a court order to protect you from the abuser without needing to speak to the police. There are two types of court orders that could protect you from the abuser. These are also called injunctions.
You should seek advice from a legal professional if you are applying for an injunction against the abuser. You may be eligible for legal aid to help you with the cost of legal fees (see below). To find a solicitor, contact Rights of Women or the Law Society.
If you have limited rights to remain in the UK and have experienced domestic abuse, including economic abuse, you may be able to apply for the right to remain in the UK. This is known as indefinite leave to remain.
A qualified immigration adviser can advise you on how to do this, depending on your circumstances.
If you have access to your passport, visa and any other immigration documents, try to take these with you when you see an immigration adviser (if you can do so safely). If you cannot access your documents safely or if they have been taken from you, speak to your immigration adviser.
The immigration adviser will need to know:
It would also be helpful to:
If you don’t have any evidence, explain why to your immigration adviser.
One way of applying for the right to remain in the UK is through the Domestic Violence Rule. You may be able to apply under this rule if:
A qualified immigration adviser or a domestic abuse service can help you collect evidence and make the application.
There is a fee for applying for indefinite leave to remain through the Domestic Violence Rule. However, if you are destitute and cannot access any money, you do not have to pay the fee. Your immigration adviser can support you to explain why you cannot pay and help you to provide evidence.
If you do not have current leave to remain in the UK, for example because it has expired, you may still be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain under the Domestic Violence Rule. It is vital that you get legal advice from an immigration adviser and explain your history and circumstances of abuse.
If you are applying for indefinite leave to remain under the Domestic Violence Rule, you may be able to get temporary financial support. This is called the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC). This provides financial support for three months while you make your application for indefinite leave to remain under the Domestic Violence Rule.
This option is only for people who have come to the UK on a spousal visa.
To apply for the DDVC you must show that:
You should get advice from an immigration lawyer or a domestic abuse service to see if you are eligible.
If you have no recourse to public funds, some financial support may still be available to you if you are a victim of abuse.
Support with childcare costs
This may include:
Benefits associated with National Insurance contributions
This includes statutory maternity pay and statutory sick pay.
Social services support if you are destitute and in need.
Speak to your immigration adviser before applying for support from social services or the local authority.
You will be eligible for legal aid if you have faced abuse and are destitute, even if you have no recourse to public funds. Speak to a qualified legal professional if you are applying for legal aid to cover legal fees.
‘No recourse fund’
Southall Black Sisters (London), BAWSO (Wales), Ashiana Sheffield and Birmingham Solihull Women’s Aid, Shakti Women’s Aid (Edinburgh) and Foyle Women’s Aid (Northern Ireland) operate a ‘No Recourse Fund’. This can provide temporary support for housing and living costs if you are destitute.
Emergency Fund for survivors
Delivered via local Women’s Aid services, the Emergency Fund for survivors offers one-off payments to help survivors experiencing financial hardship leave an abuser. Survivors meeting specific criteria can receive £250, or £500 if they have children. All survivors of domestic abuse in England and Wales who meet the criteria, including those with no recourse to public funds, are eligible.
Search the Turn2us website for any other grants you may be eligible for.
Your accommodation options may be limited because of the no recourse to public funds rule. Your options may include:
Free health care
The following services are free for everyone, regardless of immigration status:
All maternity care is classed as ‘immediately necessary treatment’ and must not be refused or delayed for any reason. You cannot be refused maternity care or face delays because of charges or potential charges. Maternity Action has more information.
If you are receiving the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession, you will not need to pay charges to access healthcare for you or your children.
Paying for health care
To access most other healthcare, you will normally need to pay the ‘immigration health surcharge’ as part of your immigration application.
If you need urgent medical care, you should get legal advice. If you cannot wait, ask to speak to the Overseas Visitors Manager at the hospital to discuss your options.
If you access healthcare in the UK that you are required to pay for, it can affect your immigration application if you are not able to pay. An application for leave to remain can be refused if you have debts of £500 or more due for medical care. However, the NHS may be able to write off debts if you are destitute.
The No Recourse to Public Funds Network (see below) has more information on healthcare services that may be available to you.
Speak to a specialist immigration advice organisation like Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) or Rights of Women if you are not sure about your entitlement to health care.
Angelou Centre (Newcastle)
Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid
Foyle Women’s Aid (Northern Ireland)
Southall Black Sisters (London)
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)
Migrants’ Right Network
Rights of Women
Law Centres Network
Hackey Migrant Centre
Also contact Southall Black Sisters for immigration advice and support (see details above).
We have information on organisations that can help with housing, legal advice and much more.
Last updated April 2023
If you are experiencing economic abuse, you are not alone. We have more information that can support you to take steps towards safety and begin to regain control of your finances.
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