Refugee Family Reunion - Top 6 FAQ's
Currently, government policy regarding asylum places a lot of emphasis on ‘safe and legal routes’ and reducing the numbers of people arriving in the UK via unsafe journeys. This is the stated purpose of the recent Illegal Migration Act 2023.
Therefore, in this post we answer some frequently asked questions about the Refugee Family Reunion route, one of the main ‘safe and legal’ routes available.
1. Who can sponsor an application for refugee family reunification?
To sponsor an application for refugee family reunification you must satisfy the following requirements:
- You must currently have protection status in the UK;
- You must not be a British citizen;
- You must apply through the appropriate method (see below);
- You must have provided any required biometric information.
You cannot sponsor an application for refugee family reunification while your asylum claim is pending or if you are under 18.
2. How do I prove my identity for refugee family reunion?
The Immigration Rules for the Refugee Family Reunion route require the sponsor to ‘satisfactorily establish their identity and nationality’.
Home Office guidance states that you can prove your identity and nationality using the following documents:
- A passport or travel document;
- National identity cards;
- An expired passport or travel document;
- Other official documents, for example school ID cards, letters or identity cards.
If you do not have any of these documents you must provide other documentation or evidence such as voluntary DNA or attending an identity interview.
3. Which family members are covered by refugee family reunion?
The Refugee Family Reunion route covers partners and children of the UK-based sponsor.
To be eligible applying partners must:
- Have formed part of the family unit before the sponsor left the country of their habitual residence to seek protection;
- If you are not married or in a civil partnership with the sponsor you must have been living with the sponsor for at least two years before the sponsor left the country of their habitual residence to seek protection;
- Be in a genuine and subsisting relationship with the sponsor;
- Not be within the prohibited degree of relationship with the sponsor.
To be eligible applying children under 18 must:
- Be under the age of 18 at the date of the application;
- Have formed part of the family unit before the sponsor left the country of their habitual residence in order to seek protection;
- Not be married or in a civil partnership;
- Not have formed an independent family unit;
If the child is over 18 years of age they must satisfy the three requirements listed above and the Home Office decision-maker must be satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances.
When considering whether there are exceptional circumstances, the Home Office decision-maker must consider the following factors:
- Whether the child is dependent on the financial and emotional support of the sponsor or the sponsor’s partner;
- Whether the parent or parents the the child depends on is in the UK, or qualifies for family reunion or resettlement and intends to travel to the UK;
- Whether the child is leading an independent life;
- Whether the child has no other relatives to provide financial or emotional support;
- Whether the child can access support or employment in the country in which they are living;
- Whether they would likely become destitute if left on their own.
4. What if the family members I want to reunite with are not my partner or my child?
The Home Office guidance states that other dependent relatives such as sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts are excluded from the Refugee Family Reunion route.
However, the Immigration Rules state that if an applicant does not satisfy the requirements for a partner or child under the Rules, the Home Office decision-maker must consider whether there are exceptional circumstances which would make a refusal of the application a breach of Article 8 ECHR.
The Home Office guidance further states that the Home Office decision-makers must consider whether there are any compelling compassionate grounds which would warrant a grant of leave outside the Immigration Rules.
Furthermore, it is possible that the sponsor’s relative could be eligible for an Adult Dependent Relative visa, a spouse visa under Appendix FM, or a visa under Appendix Child staying with or joining a Non-Parent Relative (Protection) (CNP).
It may be necessary to get legal advice to determine which route is most appropriate for your applying relative.
5. How does the refugee family reunion application process work?
If your family members are outside the UK, they must complete an online application form and fill in an Appendix 4 VAF4A questionnaire. They will need to provide their fingerprints and photograph at a visa application centre.
If your family members are inside the UK, they will be allowed to apply from within the UK, as long as:
- They are making their first application to stay with you;
- They can prove that they had a relationship with you before you fled your country of habitual residence
They may apply by sending an email or a letter to the following address:
UKVI Family Reunion Team
They will be asked to provide their fingerprints and photograph and have their supporting documents checked at a Home Office Service and Support Centre.
There are no fees for applying for family reunion for eligible family members.
6. What is the effect of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022?
The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 introduced a ‘differentiated status’ policy which gave different groups of refugees different rights.
Group One refugees are those who travelled directly and without delay to the UK from the country which they fled and who have a good cause for their unlawful entry and/or presence in the UK. Group One refugees were automatically entitled to sponsor eligible family members under the Refugee Family Reunion route.
Group Two refugees are those who do not satisfy the requirements for Group One. They were only able to sponsor eligible family members if the refusal of their application would breach article 8 of the ECHR.
However, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has announced that the government is dropping the ‘differentiated status’ policy and all traces of the policy have been removed from the Home Office guidance on the Refugee Family Reunion route.
Therefore, everyone who has been granted refugee status in the UK is entitled to sponsor family members on this route.
Contact our Immigration Barristers
For expert advice and assistance regarding an application for a protection, human rights, family reunion or any other application, or for updates and/or advice on ‘safe and legal routes’ in the UK, contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.