- Refugee Family Reunion: Overview
- Family Reunion: Am I Eligible?
- Refugee Family Reunion Application Process
- What Documents Will I Require?
- Getting a decision on refugee family reunion application
- What Rights Do Family Members On A Family Reunion Visa Have?
- Sponsoring Other Child Family Members
- Fees For Refugee Family Reunion
- Processing Time: How Long Does the Application Take?
- How Manchester Immigration Lawyers Can Help?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Refugee Family Reunion: Overview
If you are either a refugee or have humanitarian protection in the UK, your partner and children may be able to join you and live in the UK too. If they do wish to join you, any eligible family members will need to apply for Family Reunion visas. If their applications are successful, they will generally be able to remain in the UK for the same amount of time as you.
The application process for the Family Reunion visa will differ depending on whether or not your eligible family members are already in the UK. Each family member who is seeking to join you in the UK will need to submit their own visa application.
In order to be eligible to have your family join you in the UK, you will generally need to satisfy the following conditions:
- You were part of that family unit before you fled your country
- You have permission to stay in the UK, either in the form of refugee status or humanitarian protection
The eligibility requirements for family members vary depending on the nature of the relationship in question. The different eligibility requirements are as follows:
In order for your partner to join you in the UK, you will generally need to be either married to them or in a civil partnership. In some cases, it may also be possible for your partner to join you if you are neither married nor in a civil partnership but if you had been living together for at least 2 years when you fled your home country. However, exceptions are sometimes made to this 2 year cohabitation requirement if it would have been dangerous for you and your partner to live together, for example if you are a same sex couple in a country with strict anti-LGBTQ laws.
In order for your child to join you in the UK, they must generally be a minor (i.e. under 18 years old) and not themselves married or in a civil partnership.
If they are over 18, they may still be able to join you in the following circumstances:
- They are dependent on your financial and emotional support
- They are not living independently and are not able to cover their own living costs
- They have not started their own separate family unit, e.g. if they have their own children
- They are unable to seek support from other relatives in their current country of residence
Refugee Family Reunion Application Process
The application process for family reunion differs depending on whether or not your family is already in the UK.
If your family is currently outside of the UK, they can apply to join you in the UK. They will need to apply online via the UK government website. They will also need to complete the VAF4A application form with Appendix 4. Additionally, they will need to give their biometric information (specifically a photograph and their fingerprints) at a visa application centre. Visa application centres are located in numerous locations across the globe.
If your family is already in the UK, they can apply to remain in the country with you. They can apply by either email or letter to the UKVI Family Reunion Team. They will also need to make an appointment with the Service and Support Centre in order to provide their biometric information (specifically their photograph and fingerprints). This is also when they will have their required documents checked.
What Documents Will I Require?
You will need to prove either your refugee status or that you have humanitarian protection, depending on your specific protection status. You will also need to provide documents which prove the relationship between yourself and the family member who is seeking to join you. This could be a birth certificate or a marriage certificate, for example. Your family member will also need to provide personal identification documents in order to prove that they definitely are the relative in question (e.g. that they are the spouse listed on your marriage certificate).
If you are not married to your partner, you will need to provide documents which demonstrate that you were living together for at least 2 years before leaving the country from which you were fleeing. However, the Home Office may make exceptions to this rule if you can demonstrate that you did not live together during those 2 years as doing so whilst unmarried or in a same sex relationship would have put you or your partner in danger.
You will not be required to show proof of income or that you have the financial means to support your family members. You are also still eligible to apply for family reunion if you are receiving UK welfare benefits.
In the case of a parent-child relationship where you do not have sufficient proof of parentage, you may choose to get a DNA test in order to further support your family reunion application. Whilst the Home Office states that it will not draw negative inferences in cases where a DNA test is not provided, it may still be helpful for your application in cases where you do not have access to a birth certificate, for instance.
If you do choose to obtain a DNA test, you should make sure to do so via a Home Office approved service. The DNA test is otherwise likely to be considered inadmissible as evidence in support of your application.
Getting a decision on refugee family reunion application
If the application of your family member is successful, they will be granted permission to stay in the UK. However, they will not be granted protection status (i.e. refugee status or humanitarian protection). They will instead be granted a Family Reunion visa.
If the application is successful, your family member(s) will generally be authorised to remain in the UK for the same amount of time as the sponsoring family member. Accordingly, their permission to remain in the UK will expire at the same time as the sponsoring family member, and their legal status in the UK will be subject to the same conditions as the sponsoring family member’s status.
After living legally in the UK for 5 years, they will generally be eligible to apply for permanent residence. If they successfully receive permanent residence status, they will no longer require a visa in order to live lawfully in the UK.
If the application is unsuccessful, your family member(s) will not be able to either join or remain with you in the UK. When applications are unsuccessful, it is generally because insufficient evidence was provided to demonstrate the relationship between the sponsor and their family member(s). This might be a problem in cases where a couple is not married, does not have a civil partnership, and cannot provide sufficient proof that they have lived together for 2 years, for example. As such, it is important to make sure that you have as much supporting evidence as possible when starting your application.
If your application is unsuccessful, you can generally appeal this decision. If you are appealing from within the UK, you will have 14 days to do so from the date of the decision. If you are appealing from outside of the UK, you will have 28 days. Appeals can be registered online using the MyHMCTS service.
In some cases, the decision letter may state that the applicant does not have the right to appeal. However, such cases are very rare. If your letter does not mention appeal as an option, you should nonetheless assume that you have the right to appeal.
If you are late in submitting your appeal, there is no guarantee that your appeal will be considered.
What Rights Do Family Members On A Family Reunion Visa Have?
Upon receiving a Family Reunion visa, the sponsored family member will generally be authorised to stay in the UK for the same amount of time as the sponsor. They will also generally be able to access education and medical services, welfare benefits, and to legally work in the UK, for the duration of the visa’s validity.
Once they have legally resided in the UK for 5 years, they may be eligible to apply for permanent residence in the UK.
If the sponsor loses their own legal right to live in the UK, their sponsored family member’s own eligibility to remain in the UK will also be lost.
Upon arrival in the UK, there are a number of charities which may be able to offer support with settling into life in the UK, such as the British Red Cross. Your local council may also be able to help with access to helpful resources, such as English language courses.
Sponsoring Other Child Family Members
Another option which you may choose to pursue if you have refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK is to sponsor children who are not your own but are part of your extended family, such as your grandchildren or nieces or nephews. For this route, the requirements are as follows:
- You must have either refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK
- The child must be under 18 when they apply and must be able to verify their identity
- They must be able to demonstrate sufficient grounds for joining you in the UK
- They must not be married, in a civil partnership, or have started their own family unit
- You must be able to support them adequately when they are in the UK and have your own accommodation
Note that, as this is not strictly a traditional family reunion route, the financial requirements are stricter. Specifically, you must show that you are in a position to support the child(ren) and that you are neither reliant on welfare benefits nor would require public funds in order to support the child(ren).
Fees For Refugee Family Reunion
You should not be charged when applying for a Family Reunion visa. You will also not be required to show proof of income or that you have sufficient means to support the family member(s) in question.
Additionally, you are still eligible to apply for family reunion if you are currently receiving welfare benefits.
Whilst there is no charge for the application itself, you may choose to pay for legal assistance in order to aid your application.
Processing Time: How Long Does the Application Take?
Applications for family reunion visas generally take a minimum of 3 months in order to be processed. However, it may take longer than this if a higher number of applications than usual is being processed or if your application is delayed by insufficient evidence.
If you have not received an answer within 9 months, you can contact UK Immigration and Visas to receive advice on your next steps.
In order to avoid delays, make sure to submit as much of the recommended documentation as possible at the time of application. If further evidence is requested, make sure to provide it as quickly as you can. As already noted, most unsuccessful applications are due to the applicant providing insufficient evidence of the family relationship in question.
Many people in the UK with refugee status or humanitarian protection have immediate family members by whom they wish to be joined in the UK. The UK government offers a Family Reunion visa for such circumstances, which is designed to reunify refugees with their partners and children. It means that refugees do not need to choose between living safely in the UK or living with their immediate family in an unsafe environment.
However, the process for applying for family reunion can be long and complicated. At Manchester Immigration Lawyers, our immigration advisors have years of experience in providing bespoke legal advice on similar cases to this. Contact us today on 0161 826 9783 to learn more about how we can help with your specific family reunion case.
Last modified on November 3rd, 2023 at 4:35 pm
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You will not be able to bring your parents to the UK through family reunion; it is only your own children that you are generally able to bring.
Note also that minors are not eligible to sponsor family members through the family reunion route. This is intended by the UK government to deter the unsafe and solo crossings of children.
You do not need to have a certain level of English language proficiency in order to apply for family reunion. However, in the case of low English language proficiency, you may wish to seek legal assistance in order to aid you with your application. This is because the process of applying for family reunion can be even more complicated in the case of low English language proficiency. Contact Manchester Immigration Lawyers on 0161 826 9783 to receive additional help with your application or with your appeal.
So long as the sponsoring family member still has protection status in the UK, there is no deadline for applying for a Family Reunion visa. However, as the family members will only be able to join the sponsor for the duration of the sponsor’s own legal status, and because the family reunion application can take a number of months to be processed, it is recommended that you apply as soon as possible.