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Family Reunification

Family reunification refers to the possibility for refugees with a certain protection status to bring their spouse and/or underage children or, in the case of underage refugees, their parents to Germany. 


Who is entitled 

In principle, persons who qualify for the right to asylum according to section 25 (1) Residence Act (AufenthG), recognised refugees according to section 25 (2), 1st alternative Residence Act (AufenthG), persons with a subsidiary protection status according to section 25 (2), 2nd alternative Residence Act (AufenthG) or persons who came to Germany through resettlement with a residence permit according to section 23 (4) Residence Act (AufenthG) can make a request for family reunification. Only the core family, i.e. spouse, unaccompanied minor children, or parents in the case of unaccompanied minor refugees, qualify for family reunification. The reunification of other family members is regulated in section 36 (2) Residence Act (AufenthG) and is only possible in cases of hardship.


How does family reunification work? 

The requirements for family reunification vary depending on the residence permit. In principle, however, both spouses must have reached the age of 18, they must be able to attest their identity and nationality, the state should have no interest in deportation and a passport must be presented. In addition, as a rule, the person joining the family must provide proof of basic German language skills (A1) (exceptions are possible), sufficient accommodation must be available and the means of subsistence must be secured (not required for unmarried minors joining their parents, other exceptions are possible). 


Facilitated family reunification – compliance with the deadline

Persons entitled to asylum, recognised refugees and resettlement refugees are entitled to a facilitated family reunification (cf. section 29 (2) s. 1 Residence Act (AufenthG)), provided that a so-called notification of compliance with the deadline (Fristwahrende Anzeige) is submitted within three months of notification of the decision by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) (see envelope for exact date) or after receipt of the residence permit according to section 23 (4) Residence Act (AufenthG). In the event of a successful appeal, the time limit does not begin with the notification of the judgment, but with the delivery of the decision by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) that implements the judgment. In the case of facilitated family reunification, the requirements of being able to cover their own living expenses and sufficient accommodation for the person in Germany are abstained from.


The notification of compliance with the deadline (Fristwahrende Anzeige) must be submitted to the responsible immigration authority and the responsible diplomatic mission abroad and can also be uploaded via the portal (where there is also a form that can be filled in). 


Persons entitled to subsidiary protection did not have to provide living expenses and accommodation for the persons joining them until the reunification procedures were stopped for the time being in 2016. Since 2018, family reunification for persons with a subsidiary protection status has been possible again. However, it is linked to a quota of 1,000 visas to be issued per month and securing a livelihood and available housing can have a positive influence on the decision of the immigration authority and embassy.


Visa procedure

To apply for a visa, an appointment must be requested at the relevant embassy abroad (responsibility depends on nationality and place of permanent residence). Each applicant needs a separate appointment; minors should check the homepage of the respective embassy. In many cases, minors are included in the appointment booking of their parents, but in some cases a separate registration must be made for them, and the appointments are then brought together in one file. 

There are very long waiting times of up to 24 months (depending on the embassy) from the registration of the appointment to the appointment at the embassy. It therefore makes sense to book an appointment as early as possible. 


The waiting time until the appointment should be used to complete documents. The best way to do this is to search the website of the respective diplomatic representation abroad for information sheets on the currently required documents. In some countries, applicants will also be contacted by the International Organisation of Migration's (IOM) family support programme, which will help prepare the documents. A file number is assigned at the appointment, which is essential for further queries.


After a personal visit to the embassy (= application), the visa application and all required documents will be checked by the responsible diplomatic representation. If necessary, further documents will be requested. The entire visa file is then forwarded to the corresponding immigration authority in Germany. If necessary, this authority will request further documents from the family member in Germany, then draw up a statement and forward it back to the embassy. As a rule, the immigration authority must give its consent before a visa can be issued. The diplomatic representation abroad makes the final decision, of which it informs the applicant, together with an appointment to collect the visa. If the visa application is rejected, a remonstration can be submitted to the embassy or an appeal can be filed before the administrative court in Berlin.


Reunification with persons with a subsidiary protection status 

The reunification of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection is regulated in section 36a Residence Act (AufenthG) and has been made considerably more complicated with the introduction of the quota of 1,000 persons per month. The Federal Office of Administration can select up to 1,000 cases per month that are eligible for family reunification. However, this is only relevant as soon as more than 1,000 visa applications are approved by the embassies, which is regularly not the case. The appointment is booked via a centralised list for persons with a status of subsidiary protection. There are also additional reasons for exclusion (e.g. marriage after flight), which the diplomatic mission abroad checks when applying for family reunification with beneficiaries of subsidiary protection.


Restrictions on family reunification

For the following residence titles, family members can only be reunited in exceptional cases:

  • Section 25 (3) Residence Act (AufenthG) (prohibition of deportation) (Abschiebungsverbot)

  • Section 25 (4a) Residence Act (AufenthG) (victims of human trafficking) (Opfer von Menschenhandel)

  • Section 25a (1) Residence Act (AufenthG) (well-integrated young people) (gut integrierte Jugendliche)

  • Section 25b (1) Residence Act (AufenthG) (sustainable integration) (nachhaltige Integration)

  • Section 22 Residence Act (AufenthG) (admission from abroad) (Aufnahme aus dem Ausland)

  • Section 23 (1) and (2) Residence Act (AufenthG) (admission through a federal state or humanitarian admission) (Landesaufnahme oder Humanitäre Aufnahme)


Persons with the following residence titles are excluded from family reunification: 

  • Section 25 (4) and section25 (5) Residence Act (AufenthG) (tolerated stay) (Duldung)

  • Section 25 (4b) Residence Act (AufenthG) (operation of a criminal offense within the meaning of the Undeclared Employment Act or the Temporary Employment Act) (Opfer einer Straftat im Sinne des Schwarzarbeitsbekämpfungsgesetzes oder des Arbeitnehmerüberlassungsgesetzes)

  • Section 25a (2) Residence Act (AufenthG) (residence for parents of well-integrated, tolerated young people) (Aufenthalt für Eltern von gut integrierten, geduldeten Jugendlichen)

  • Section 25b (4) Residence Act (AufenthG) (residence for relatives of well-integrated tolerated persons) (Aufenthalt für Angehörige von gut integrierten Geduldeten)

  • Sections 104a (1) s. 1 or 105b Residence Act (AufenthG) (“residence of opportunity”, old case regulation) (Chancenaufenthalt, Altfallregelung)


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