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Foreign families reunited or disunited?

Since 2003, immigration laws have been applicable that at the UE level govern the right of third country citizens to family reunification. Nevertheless, the procedure is riddled with a whole range of practical problems. Individual EU Member States differ in their interpretation and application of laws based on directives. Currently, the European Commission is carrying out a consultation of guidelines aimed to standardise the practice in this regard. The HFHR has taken part in this consultation.

Małgorzata Jaźwińska, an HFHR lawyer says: “We think that the guidelines under consultation contains too narrow definition of the family”. “This means, for instance, that a foreigner may not file an application for a temporary stay of his or her adult family member, i.e. a mother, father or grandparents”, further explains Ms Jaźwińska.

The HFHR’s experience shows that people who may exercise the right to family unification waive it for cultural reasons. “They can’t reunite the whole family if some of their children have come of age”, adds Ms Jaźwińska. She continues saying: “Therefore, parents often have to choose between their children or between children and a spouse.”

In a situation where a given Member State allows only for reunification of parents with minor children, it becomes all the more important to act promptly and effectively. Otherwise, the excessive length of the procedure conducted by public authorities may deprive a minor child of the right to become reunited with his or her family, if he or she comes of age before it is completed.

“Another problem faced by foreigners who want to exercise the family reunification procedure is the requirement to have all the documents in a country where an application is made”, says Ms Jaźwińska. Hence, in the course of consultation the HFHR has called for enabling foreigners to submit documents both in the destination country in which a family member is already staying as well as in diplomatic and consular facilities of this country abroad.

At the same time the HFHR endorsed the Commission’s interpretation of the requirement that a family member who applies for family reunification must have stable and regular resources. According to the Commission such resources may include private means already accumulated by a foreigner and not only a regular income as laid down in domestic laws.

According to data of the Office for Foreigners in 2012 only three foreigners with refugee or subsidiary protection status applied for family reunification. The same figure for 2014 has been one, whereas in 2013 no application was made.

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