Domestic Violence and Immigration – Recent Successes for our clients

It has been reported that instances of domestic violence are on the rise in Ireland since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and migrant families are no less impacted. Since the pandemic, we have noticed an increase in the number of people seeking advice and assistance in respect of their immigration status in light of the abusive nature of their relationship.

There are a number of options available to persons who are experiencing domestic violence at the hands of their spouse or partner from whom their residence permission derives. Guidelines from the Immigration Service are in place upon which an application for a Change of Status can be made in cases of a relationship categorised by domestic violence. The Guidelines seek to

“…set out how the Irish immigration system deals with cases of domestic violence where the victim is a foreign national and whose immigration status is currently derived from or dependant on that of the perpetrator of domestic violence.”

We also ensure clients who seek our assistance in these cases that there is absolutely no requirement to stay in an abusive relationship and that leaving an abusive partner does not automatically mean they can no longer stay in Ireland. This is made clear by the Immigration Service Guidelines:

[d]omestic violence should always be reported and you do not have to remain in an abusive relationship in order to preserve your entitlement to remain in Ireland.”

Persons with a Stamp 4 EU FAM in particular may benefit from the Retention of Rights provisions of the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2015 in cases of a divorce. If the marriage lasted at least three years, it is possible to retain your residence rights in Ireland. If the marriage lasted less than three years, but was brought about for reasons of domestic violence, you can still apply for a retained right of residence on that basis.

It is often mistakenly understood that informal separation (such as a break-up and living separately) falling short of a full divorce will result in a Stamp 4 EU FAM permission being revoked, but this is not accurate. You are, however, required to update your change in circumstances with the Immigration Service. Persons who have EU Treaty Rights, De Facto Partner/Spouse of Irish National permission should seek particular advice in relation to their status in cases of separation.

We have recently secured a Stamp 4 permission for a number of clients on the grounds that they suffered domestic violence at the hands of their partners. In one case, a young woman from Mexico who was refused EU Treaty Rights at first instance, and her Review of that application was on-going. She sought our advice and assistance due to her partner’s abusive behaviour at the time.

While she had her EU Treaty Rights Review case on-going, we were able to advise her as to the various options open to her. We made an application to the Residence Division based on the Immigration Service Domestic Violence Guidelines, but without prejudice to her EU Treaty Rights Review application. After a number of weeks of back-and-forth communication with different Units of the Immigration Service, we were able to secure our client a renewable Stamp 4 permission for two years on a wholly independent basis, and she no longer needed to continue with her EU Treaty Rights Review application.

In another successful case, a woman from Brazil had applied to the Spouse of Irish National Unit herself for retention of her Stamp 4 permission soon after she had received it since her relationship broke down and was categorised by domestic violence. After not having a result in almost a year, she sought our assistance. We advised her and engaged with the Immigration Service, and we were able to obtain a renewable Stamp 4 permission on a wholly individual basis.

In both cases, we also advised our clients on how to renew their permission, and gave them preliminary information on how to apply for naturalisation in due course. If you have been experiencing any issues of domestic violence, your first priority is your personal safety, health and well-being. If you require any advice or assistance in respect of your immigration status, we are here to help and guide you along the way.