- What is Refugee Family Reunion?
- Who qualifies for family reunion?
- How to apply for family reunion
- What happens after the Family Reunion application?
- How can IAS help?
- How long does a family reunion visa take?
- How much is a family reunion visa UK?
- Can my family members still join me if they are not eligible for family reunion?
What is Refugee Family Reunion?
People who have made a successful asylum claim are granted Refugee Status in the UK, this allows them to live in the country for up to 5 years, after which they could be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Due to the nature of their circumstances, refugees may have had to leave family members behind when fleeing their country of origin.
Refugee Family Reunion is the process in which refugees in the UK can be reunited with their family members. Under the Family Reunion route, refugees and those with humanitarian protection can sponsor their partner or children so that they can join them in the UK. These family members can only join a refugee sponsor in the UK providing that they formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country of origin.
If an application for Refugee Family Reunion is successful the family member will be granted leave to remain in the UK for the same duration of time that the sponsor has remaining, so that their leave to remain will expire at the same time as the sponsors. If the sponsor has Indefinite Leave to Remain then their qualifying family members will also be granted this status.
It’s worth noting that whilst Refugee Family Reunion will grant you leave to remain in the UK with your sponsor, you will not be granted refugee status or humanitarian protection, this status is only granted to those who make an asylum claim.
Suspension of Asylum Differentiation Policy 2023
The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 introduced two groups of refugees in the UK: Group 1 and Group 2. Group 1 refugees are granted permission to stay for five years and can apply for settlement, while Group 2 refugees are given temporary permission to stay for 30 months on a 10-year route to settlement. This differentiation aimed to discourage illegal migration.
To further deter illegal entry, the government introduced the Illegal Migration Bill, which makes asylum claims inadmissible for those who arrive illegally through safe countries, and imposes a duty to remove them. As a result of these changes, the differentiation policy will be paused in July 2023, and all successful asylum applicants will receive the same conditions regardless of their group.
Additionally, a streamlined asylum processing model was announced for certain nationalities with high asylum grant rates, including Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Sudan. Positive decisions for well-founded cases in these nationalities can be made without an additional interview, and no asylum application will be refused without an opportunity for an interview. Sudanese legacy claimants are being processed in line with established policies, with a commitment to clear the backlog of legacy asylum claims by the end of 2023.
Transparency in Withdrawing Asylum Claims 2023
The updated paragraph 333C clarifies the circumstances for withdrawing asylum claims and strengthens the process to promptly withdraw applications from non-compliant individuals. It specifies that withdrawn claims won’t be considered, allows flexibility for explicit withdrawals, and places the burden on claimants to keep the Home Office updated with their contact details. Failure to comply may lead to withdrawal of their asylum claim. These changes aim to focus decision-making resources on genuine asylum claimants in the UK. The changes to the Immigration Rules will be implemented in July and August 2023:
- In July 2023, the changes regarding Asylum including the pause of the differentiation policy took effect.
All remaining changes will be enforced on 7 August 2023.
Who qualifies for family reunion?
Partners and children of people with refugee status or 5 years humanitarian protection in the UK can qualify for family reunion to join their family member in the UK.
To be eligible for family reunion as the partner of a refugee or someone with humanitarian protection you must be able to prove that you are married or in a civil partnership. If you cannot prove this, you may still qualify for family reunion as the partner of a refugee if:
- You were given refugee status or humanitarian protection on or after 9 October 2006
- You’ve lived together in a relationship like in a marriage or civil partnership for 2 years and you’ve been given asylum or humanitarian protection after 9 October 2006
You and your partner must also intend to live together and continue your relationship after they apply.
If you wish to bring your child to the UK to join you using Refugee Family Reunion your child must:
- Be under the age of 18
- Live with you and your partner when in the UK
- Not be married or in a civil partnership
Unlike other types of family visas, there is no income of English language requirement for the Family Reunion Visa.
How do I apply for a family reunion UK?
If outside the UK, your partner and children must apply for an entry clearance visa under the family reunion category online at the gov.uk website. As well as this application, your family members must fill in the family settlement application form (VAF4A) with Appendix 4.
You can apply for your children on their behalf but in most circumstances your partner will need to complete their own application to join you in the UK.
Applications for family reunion made in the UK should be made by writing to UKVI and the letter should include the following information:
- The sponsor’s full name, date of birth, nationality and Home Office reference number
- 2 passport sized photographs of each applicant
- A valid passport for each applicant (where possible)
- A statement from the sponsor, setting out who is in their family, giving names and dates of birth, how came to leave their family behind, what contact they have had with their family whilst separated, what contact they have with their family currently and what circumstances their family is living in
- Any supporting documentary evidence available – see the section in this guidance on ‘Evidence’
- Contact details in the UK of the sponsor and any representative
As well as submitting the relevant application forms, your family members will need to have their biometric information, this is their photo and fingerprints, taken at a visa application centre near them.
What happens after the Family Reunion application?
If your application for Family Reunion is successful you will be granted an entry clearance visa that permits you to travel to the UK. This visa is only valid for 30 days, any family member travelling to the United Kingdom under family reunion must come to the UK within this 30 day validity period, otherwise they will not be able to enter the country. The start date for this validity can be deferred by up to 3 months if needed.
Upon arrival a Border Force officer will check the identity of the family member and will examine the entry clearance visa to ensure that they are joining family in the UK for the purposes of family reunion.
Once here, you will need to collect your Biometric Residence Permit within 10 days, this can be collected from your chosen post office. Your Biometric Residence Permit can be used to prove your leave to remain in the UK.
You will be granted leave to remain in the UK for the same amount of time that your refugee sponsor has been granted leave to remain, if you wish to extend your leave to remain you should apply to do so at least 28 days before it is set to expire.
How can IAS help?
The Refugee Family Reunion route can seem simpler than other family visa routes because there is no income or English language requirement to meet, however the application process is not straightforward and can be complex.
Our immigration lawyers are highly trained and have an in depth knowledge of UK immigration rules, they have helped many families to reunite in the UK and can support you through the process of applying for family reunion. If you choose to hire one of our immigration lawyers to assist you with your application they can work with you and your UK refugee sponsor to assess your eligibility for this route and ensure that you meet all of the requirements. As well as this, one of our lawyers can help you to fill in all of the relevant paperwork and can also help you to gather any documents you may need to prove that you meet the requirements. Our lawyers can even communicate with the Home Office on your behalf, ensuring that you stay updated about your applications progress.
For more information about how our lawyers can support you through the family reunion process, get in touch with our team today by calling 0333 305 9375.
Last modified on July 26th, 2023 at 12:36 pm
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Once submitting your family reunion visa application and attending your appointment at a visa application centre, you should receive a decision on your application from the UK Home Office within 12 weeks.
All applications for family reunion are free of charge, this includes those for the family members of people with humanitarian protection in the UK as well as the family members of refugees.
If your family members are not eligible to join you in the UK under the Refugee Family Reunion route, they can still join you in the UK if they qualify under the regular UK immigration rules.
If an individual becomes the spouse/partner/fiancé/fiancée of a person with refugee leave or humanitarian protection in the UK after they have been given that leave they could be eligible to come to the UK using a Spouse Visa, Unmarried Partner Visa or Fiance Visa. They will need to meet the visas requirements and will also be required to pay an application fee. The UK partner will also need to meet the income requirement of at least £18,600 per year or equivalent in cash savings.
Children who do not qualify for the Refugee Family Reunion route could be eligible to join you in the UK using the Dependent Child Visa.
Other extended relatives such as parents, grandparents and siblings are not eligible for Refugee Family Reunion but they may qualify to come to the UK using other routes such as the Adult Dependent Visa.