Immigration status and family violence

There are special rules about how your application for permanent residency is processed if you, or a family member, have experienced family violence from your former partner. The family violence rules mean that you can leave an abusive relationship without losing the ability to get permanent residency.

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This information will help you to understand how family violence is taken into account in decisions about your immigration status. Find out:

  • when the family violence rules apply
  • how family violence’ is defined for these rules, and
  • what evidence you may need to provide in your application.

When do the family violence rules apply?

The rules are for people who have made an application for permanent residency and:

  • are on a temporary Partner visa, or
  • married their partner while on a Prospective Marriage visa.

If your relationship ended after you applied for permanent residency, you can continue your application if you show that you, or a family member, experienced family violence from your former partner.

You will still need to show that you were in a genuine relationship with your former partner at the time you applied for permanent residency.

The family violence rules also apply to those on a Distinguished Talent visa and to existing applicants under some other skilled visas that are now closed to new applicants. More information on this is on the Department of Home Affairs website (which includes the Department of Immigration and Border Protection).

What is included in ‘family violence’ under these rules?

Under the rules, ‘family violence’ means actual or threatened behaviour of your former partner towards:

  • you or your property
  • a member of your family unit or their property, or
  • a member of your former partner’s family unit or their property,

    that caused you to reasonably fear for, or to be reasonably worried about, your own wellbeing or safety.

The definition of family violence under these rules is not just physical violence or threats of violence. It can include forms of financial, emotional and psychological abuse.

What evidence of family violence do I need to show?

The Department will accept evidence from a court that you experienced family violence, based on:

  • copies of Family Court injunctions against your former partner that relate to family violence
  • copies of restraining orders against your former partner that relate to family violence, or
  • evidence that your former partner has been found guilty or convicted of a violent offence against you or a member of the family unit.

If you do not have one of those three things, you will need to provide other information and evidence of what happened during your relationship to support your claim. This other information must either be:

  • evidence of a joint undertaking to a court by you and your former partner that relates to an allegation of family violence by your former partner,

or both:

  • a statutory declaration with details of the family violence and naming the person who was responsible, and
  • at least two documents that support your allegations from professionals who have help you or witnessed the effects of the family violence.

The Department of Home Affairs has more information about who can provide supporting evidence documents and what they need to include.

Will I be interviewed for my application?

If you have not provided evidence from a court of the family violence, the Department can ask for an independent expert to assess your case. This may involve meeting with you. The expert has special experience in situations of family violence and is not part of the Department. They will make a recommendation to the Department about whether your evidence of family violence should be accepted. The Department must follow that recommendation.

Even though you have separated from your partner, as part of applying for permanent residency you will still need to show that your former relationship was genuine up to when you separated. The Department might ask to speak to you and ask questions about your relationship with your former partner, such as:

  • When and how did you meet each other?
  • Do you have any children together?
  • What were your plans for the future?
  • Did you go on trips or holidays together?
  • What responsibility did each of you have about running the household?

Where can I get help?

Many community legal centres offer services for people experiencing or at risk of family violence.

More information

You can find more information about the family violence rules, including the forms you need, on the Department of Home Affairs website, including:


Reviewed: 30 January 2020

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The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.