§ Mr. Mike O'Brien
Under the Immigration Rules, spouses of British Citizens or of people settled in the United Kingdom are not given settlement on arrival or following the marriage; they are granted an initial period of 12 months. At the end of this 12 month probationary period, settlement will be granted if the Secretary of State is satisfied that the marriage is still subsisting and that each of the parties has the intention of living permanently with the other as his or her spouse.
If, for whatever reason, the marriage has broken down during the probationary year, settlement is normally refused. That is because the fundamental reason for the person's admission in the first place—to continue or commence stable family life—no longer exists. In the past, cases where violence was the reason for the breakdown of a marriage have been considered sympathetically but it was held that domestic violence could not normally override the requirements of the Immigration Rules.
The probationary period is intended as a safeguard against abuse. If settlement were granted immediately there would be no recourse against applicants who desert their partners as soon as they arrive in the country. The absence of a probationary period would also allow more bogus marriages to escape detection. We, therefore, have no intention of abolishing this requirement of the Rules, which in the generality of cases is the only sensible way to operate a firm but fair immigration control.
However, we were aware that this policy placed a small minority of individuals in a distressing dilemma in that their insecure immigration status left them feeling "trapped" in a violent marriage. They faced a stark choice between staying within the violent relationship or leaving their sponsor and being refused settlement.
As I said in my reply to my hon. Friend on 16 June 1999, Official Report, columns 164-65, the domestic violence concession has been introduced for overseas spouses who wish to remain in the United Kingdom, but who wish to leave their partner because of domestic violence before completion of the 12 month probationary period. The concession allows them to settle in the United Kingdom even though they are no longer living with their sponsor provided they comply with the conditions set out in the concession.
§ Mr. Mike O'Brien
The concession will be closely monitored in order to assess its effectiveness. Arrangements have been made for officials to note the details of all applications under this concession once a decision has been reached.