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Family members reunited

German citizens and citizens of non-EU countries who have a residence or settlement permit are allowed to bring their family members to Germany. This is called "family reunification". Family members need a visa to enter Germany and a residence permit for further stays. Family reunification is limited to the spouse (or the registered life partner) and joint minor children or, in the case of minors living in Germany, to their parents. Other family members - e.g. B. uncles, aunts or grandparents - can only join them in very limited exceptional cases.

For EU citizens living in Germany, special, more generous rules apply to family reunification. If the EU citizen has the right of free movement (e.g. as an employee or self-employed person) and the spouse comes to Germany with him or her or wants to move to him or her, then has the spouse also has a right of free movement. He or she does not need a visa or a residence permit. This also applies if the spouse is not an EU citizen themselves, and it also applies to partners in registered civil partnerships.

What do I have to do for spouse / family reunification?

For family reunification, it is generally necessary that the family member moving from abroad applies for a visa at the German diplomatic mission (embassy / consulate) in the country in which he or she has his or her usual place of residence (i.e. has been allowed to do so for at least six months stops). It is important that the visa is applied for for the actually intended purpose of stay - not e.g. B. a tourist visa.

The visa application is examined jointly by the diplomatic mission and the immigration authorities at the place of residence of the partner who already lives in Germany.

A number of general requirements must be met on a regular basis:

  • The family member who would like to move to Germany must present a valid passport.
  • The identity of the person must be clarified (this is usually done by presenting the passport).
  • The person to whom the family member would like to move must have sufficient income to support the newcomer without being dependent on social benefits.
  • There must be no so-called “interest in deportation”, which means in particular that the family member who is joining them should not have committed any criminal offenses and should not endanger public safety and order in Germany.

The family member already living in Germany must have a residence or settlement permit (or be a German citizen). If the marriage has not yet existed in the home country, the partner living in Germany must have held the residence permit for two years before the spouse can join you. Family reunification during the asylum procedure is not possible because a residence permit has not yet been issued during this period; Even people with a Duldung do not have the right to have their family members join them.

In principle, the family member who is already living in Germany, if they are not German, must also have sufficient living space, although the requirements here are not too high.

Further requirements arise depending on whether the spouse or children want to move in:

The following one Spouse or one Spouse requires an effective marriage (for same-sex partners: a registered civil partnership). However, it is not enough for the marriage to be formalized. It is necessary that the partner want to lead an actual cohabitation in mutual responsibility for one another. There is no visa for a “fictitious marriage” in which the partner does not want this. A suspicion of a fictitious marriage is often raised if there is a large age difference between the partner or if they hardly got to know each other before the marriage. Even if there are indications that the partner was forced to enter into marriage, no visa will be issued. If plural marriage is permitted in the country of origin, only the partner of the first marriage is entitled to join.

Both spouses must be at least 18 years old. The new spouse must be able to communicate in German at least in a simple manner (level A1).

children are entitled to family reunification before their 16th birthday if both parents or the parent with sole custody have a residence permit or a settlement permit. Young people who are already 16 or 17 years old are only entitled to this if they either move to Germany with both parents or the parent with sole custody, or if they have a command of the German language (level C1) or if they have assumed it for other reasons that they will integrate well in Germany (one reason can be, for example, that they have completed their training).

If the prerequisites for entitlement to a residence permit are not met, the immigration authorities may decide whether they will issue a residence permit or consent to a visa being issued. However, it is only allowed to do this if it would otherwise result in "particular hardship", i.e. a situation that is unreasonable for those affected.

If children or young people live alone in Germany, e.g. B. because they fled here without their parents, the parents can also move there. If the young person is recognized as a refugee and there is no custodial parent in Germany, then there is a right to parents reunification. The young person does not have to provide evidence of sufficient income or sufficient living space in order for the parents to be able to join them. If the young person is not a recognized refugee, the rules for the reunification of “other family members” also apply to his or her parents.

From August 1, 2018, family reunification is possible for family members of persons entitled to subsidiary protection, limited to 1,000 people per month throughout Germany. In principle, spouses, minor children and parents of minors can apply for family reunification. Family reunification requires that there is a humanitarian reason. This includes the duration of the family separation, specific dangers to life and limb as well as serious illness, severe disability or severe need for care. A humanitarian reason exists in particular if underage children are affected by the separation of the family. In addition, efforts to integrate (e.g. securing a livelihood, sufficient living space, knowledge of German) must also be considered positively. Family members wishing to join you can register on this website for an appointment to submit their visa application.

Other family members - so z. B. adult siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts - are only allowed to follow suit if this avoids "extraordinary hardship". The requirements for this are strict. An example could be the severe need for care of the grandmother, who lives alone in the country of origin, if she cannot be cared for there. In these cases, the immigration authorities have a discretion, a margin of discretion, as to whether they consent to family reunification; they rarely make use of it. In addition, livelihoods including health insurance must be secured.

From some regulations there are Exceptions.

An exception can be made to the visa procedure and the residence permit can be applied for directly in Germany if there is a legal entitlement to the permit or if it is unreasonable to repeat the visa procedure. However, the immigration authorities are very cautious about this rule. As a rule, it is insisted that the visa procedure be made up for.

Citizens of certain countries - in addition to the EU countries: Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and the USA - are allowed to enter Germany without a visa. You can also apply for a residence permit to live with your family members after entering the country. Citizens of Andorra, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco and San Marino are also allowed to come to Germany without a visa and apply for a residence permit for family reunification after entering the country.

Some of the exceptions are linked to the person who already lives in Germany:

It is generally easier to join German nationals than to join non-EU citizens. The child of a German or a German or the parents of a German child may come to Germany if their livelihood is not secure. This generally also applies to spouses of Germans.

A number of facilitations also apply to recognized refugees and people with other types of humanitarian residence permit.

Anyone who is recognized as a person entitled to asylum or a person entitled to asylum or a refugee or who has come to Germany as part of a so-called "resettlement program" can be made an exception to the requirements of securing livelihoods and proof of sufficient living space. In the first three months after being recognized as in need of protection, this is even mandatory - it is therefore important for this group of people to apply for a visa for their relatives as soon as possible.

Spouses of recognized refugees do not need to prove that they speak German if the marriage was already in existence when the refugee came to Germany.

The two-year waiting period before the spouse is allowed to join does not apply to persons entitled to asylum and recognized refugees.

The spouse of a person who has an “EU Blue Card”, ie who is highly qualified and who is going to work in Germany, does not have to prove any knowledge of German either. The same applies to the spouses of Turkish nationals who are part of the regular labor market or who came to Germany as children of such employees, as well as to the spouses of nationals of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and the USA.

Young people whose parents are recognized as refugees in Germany or whose parents have the “EU Blue Card” do not have to prove that they have advanced knowledge of German or any other particularly outstanding integration prospects even after their 16th birthday.

Make other exceptions to the person of the family members or family memberswho wants to move from abroad. Spouses who move to Germany do not have to prove that they have learned German if they were prevented from doing so for health reasons or if it was not possible or reasonable for them to learn the language for special reasons.

The reverse also applies under certain conditions Tighteningthat make family reunification difficult:

Anyone who has come to Germany as part of a humanitarian admission program, has received a residence permit because the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has determined a ban on deportation in his or her case, or who has received the residence permit after a long stay because of his or her good integration their family members are only allowed to enter “for international law or humanitarian reasons or to protect the political interests of the Federal Republic of Germany”. For the holders of a number of other humanitarian residence permits, the law does not allow any family reunification at all.

Note on the visa procedure: Since it makes it considerably easier for recognized refugees to apply for family reunification within the three-month period after recognition, it is important in these cases to initiate the procedure as soon as possible. Family members of recognized asylum seekers and refugees have the opportunity to register their family reunification via an Internet portal of the Federal Foreign Office.

Embassies

To apply for a visa, you have to go to a German embassy or consulate. A list of all representations of the Federal Republic of Germany abroad can be found on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.

Immigration authorities

All relevant information, especially about locations, appointments and frequently asked questions, is available on the website of the immigration office.

Here you will find a link to the website of the International Organization for Migration (IOM): In cooperation with the Foreign Office in Istanbul, Gaziantep, Erbil and Beirut, IOM has opened offices to assist family members of Syrian and Iraqi refugees living in Germany when applying for the Support family reunification (family support centers). You can find the addresses of the offices here.