People who have been recognised as refugees in the UK or who have been granted humanitarian protection may sponsor certain family members to join them in the UK. Both will be referred to as 'refugees' for ease of reference. Refugees who were admitted to the UK under resettlement schemes may also sponsor family members.
Eligible family members of refugees
Only 'pre-flight' family members of refugees can be sponsored under the family reunion rules. This means that the relationship must have been formed prior to the refugee fleeing from their country of origin or their country of former habitual residence.
Refugees can sponsor a spouse or civil partner. They must have met in person and be in a valid marriage or civil partnership. The relationship must be genuine and subsisting and they must intend to live together permanently.
Unmarried partners are also eligible where they have lived together in a relationship akin to marriage or civil partnership for at least 2 years prior to the refugee leaving their country to seek asylum.
The fiancé or proposed civil partner of a refugee is not eligible for refugee family reunion.
Refugees can sponsor their children under the age of 18 as long as the child is not married or in a civil partnership, is not leading an independent life and has not formed an independent family unit. The child should also have been part of the family unit of the refugee before they left the country.
An age assessment process may be carried out if there is insufficient evidence to show that the child is under 18 years of age.
Refugee Family Reunion Process
Applications for refugee family reunion are free of charge. If successful, the family member of the refugee will be granted entry clearance for the same time period as their sponsor in the UK. An application will not be granted if the applicant is excluded from protection, for example, due to criminality or war crimes.
Once a refugee has obtained indefinite leave to remain or become a British citizen, the normal immigration Rules to sponsor family members (in Appendix FM) will apply and family members will no longer be able to rely on the rules for refugee family reunion.
Evidence for Refugee Family Reunion
There is no specified evidence required for refugee family reunion applications. However the onus is on the applicant and sponsor to provide sufficient evidence to establish their identity and their relationship. Relevant documents include passports, national identity cards, marriage certificates and birth certificates.
The Home Office may decide to conduct interviews to ascertain further information where there is insufficient information to decide an application. They will also assess documents in the sponsor's file, such as records of asylum interviews.
Original documents may be difficult to obtain in view of the circumstances leading the sponsor to become a refugee. Where documents are not available a full explanation should be given detailing why original documents are not available and what attempts have been made, if any, to obtain them.
Alternative evidence should also be provided, if possible, which could include DNA evidence (this can be costly and difficult in practice to obtain and is not mandatory), photographs, evidence of contact and letters of support. Detailed witness statements from the applicant (where relevant) and sponsor should be provided.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.