According to the Migration Observatory, in 2018, the top five countries of origin for refugees in the UK were Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Pakistan, and Albania. Up to the end of June 2019, the number of resettled refugees (those relocated from other countries) was the highest from Syria (66%), followed by Iraq (7%), Somalia (7%), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (7%).
For those who have made the harrowing journey from their home country to the UK in search of safety, and have secured refugee status, the next priority may be to reunite their divided family.
The family reunion scheme enables partners and children to join individuals who have secured protection in the UK. In this article, we will review how the scheme works, who is eligible, and the application process.
The scheme is open to refugees who have successfully claimed asylum in the UK, resettled refugees, and those that are given humanitarian protection.
The family reunion visa enables a partner or any children of a UK-based refugee to join them in the UK. The UK based refugee must have been part of a family in their country of origin before they were forced to leave their country, and they must have:
There are some exceptions, however. A family reunion application cannot be submitted if a decision is yet to be made on the asylum claim, or if the refugee is under 18 years of age.
Once the Home Office has granted asylum, family members will then be allowed to come to or stay in the UK with the same immigration permissions as the person given asylum protection.
The immigration rules state that to be eligible, you must have been in a genuine relationship with your partner and that you are married or in a civil partnership. If you are not married or in a civil partnership, your partner may still be able to come to the UK to join you if you have lived together in a relationship that is ‘like a marriage or civil partnership’ for at least two years and you were granted asylum or humanitarian protection after 9th October 2006. You must also intend to live together in the UK and continue your relationship.
Your child will be able to join you if they are under the age of 18, will be living with you and your partner in the UK, and are not living an independent life (i.e. they are not married and do not have children). It may also be possible for children of relatives (e.g. grandchildren) to make a successful application for a family reunion. The requirements for children of close relatives include:
Applications for family reunion visas are relatively straightforward, but the Home Office may still issue a refusal if insufficient evidence is provided. Refusals may result from a lack of evidence of being lawfully married prior to the departure of the refugee from their home country, or that the marriage remains valid.
For unmarried applicants, refusals may stem from a lack of evidence to show that the couple was living together in a manner akin to a marriage or civil partnership for two years, or that they have ended their relationship. In some cases, if the couple has not been living together for the requisite two years, perhaps due to a repressive regime which would make it dangerous to do so, the Home Office will use its discretion to grant a refugee family reunion visa. This may also apply if the refugee has been unable to maintain regular contact with their family members since leaving their home country due to technical, political, or other restrictions.
The evidence you submit as part of your application for a family reunion visa should be as complete and current as possible. When providing evidence of a genuine relationship, be sure to include as many formal documents as possible, including marriage, birth, and adoption certificates, photographs which prove your subsisting relationship (including wedding photos), witness statements, and phone, email, correspondence, and messages between you and your partner. Where possible, if the person with asylum referenced their family when submitting their asylum application, this should also be included.
As a final option, where there is a lack of evidence of a family relationship, it is possible to have a DNA test to prove a biological link between a parent and child, or between children. The Home Office has a list of approved laboratories who can carry out a DNA test for you and your family member/s.
Having come so far to reach safety in the UK, you will now want to make sure your family members can join you. The process is relatively straightforward and does not impose many of the requirements which apply for other visa types, such as the English language test and a minimum income. You should, however, ensure you leave no doubt as to the genuineness of your family relationships. If you are unsure whether you have sufficient proof, it is advisable to engage the services of immigration Solicitors to prepare the application on behalf of your family members.
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