Can I apply for family reunification?

Whether you can apply for family reunification depends on the type of residence status you hold, i.e. to apply, you need to have at least a residence permit. Furthermore, you have to meet some other requirements. You can find out more in the section "What requirements do I have to meet for family reunification?".

  • I am a recognised refugee or person entitled to asylum: If you are recognised as a person entitled to asylum or a refugee under the Geneva Refugee Convention, you can bring your family to Germany.
  • I have subsidiary protection: If you have been granted subsidiary protection, your family can apply for family reunification. However, you are not legally entitled to a positive decision on your application, meaning immigration authorities can reject your application. Currently, only up to 1000 people per month are allowed to travel to Germany to reunite with their family members who are beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. 
  • Families who have been separated for a long time and those which include small children or particularly vulnerable and sick members are given more extra attention. It will be an advantage if the family can already speak German, make a living independently, and alike.
  • I have a residence permit due to a national ban on deportation: People with a ban on deportation can only apply for family reunification if the duration of their stay in Germany is likely to last for more than one year. To apply, your marriage must also have been registered before you arrived in Germany. Also, there must be particular reasons in hand- for instance, a family member suffering from a severe illness or a definite threat to your family's wellbeing. When that is the case, the immigration office can approve your application. But keep in mind that legally speaking, you are not entitled to it; so the immigration authorities may reject your application.

Which family members can join me in Germany?

According to the German family asylum law, only close family members who can join you here, including:

  • your wife or husband or registered partner. The spouse must be over 18 years old at the time of marriage.
  • your underage single children
  • In case you are underage and single, your parents or another adult who are entitled to your custody. Underage siblings can only join you in Germany if your income suffices to cover their costs, and adequate living space is available for them at your place.

Otherwise, minor siblings and other family members can only join you in Germany in cases of "extraordinary hardship" ("außergewöhnliche Härte") . In these sporadic cases, there is the possibility to apply for a visa according to § 36 paragraph 2 or § 22 Residence Act. This possibility is often called "hardship case" ("Härtefallregelung")- it is an emergency clause of the residence act. In practice, it is quite tricky to get a visa for the family members using this law. There must be an immediate danger to the life and limb of the family member in question. And you must meet many prerequisites, e.g. being able to secure their livelihood. To learn more, seek advice from a counselling centre or a qualified lawyer. You can find a counselling centre e.g. at proasyl.de. Search for a specialised lawyer at  rechtsberaterkonferenz.de.

What are the requirements for family reunification?

The requirements you have to meet for family reunification depend on your residence status.

Recognised refugees and persons entitled to asylum can apply for the so-called "privileged family reunification" ("privilegierten Familiennachzug). That means your family can join you in Germany under easier requirements: For instance, as a recognised refugee or persons entitled to asylum, you do not have to prove that you earn enough money to support your family. Likewise, you do not have to verify that your apartment is big enough to accommodate your family members, etc. Important: To benefit from the "privileged family reunification", you have to submit the application for family reunification within three months of your recognition as a refugee/person entitled to asylum in Germany. If you do not apply until later, the same requirements apply to you as the individuals with a national ban on deportation ("Abschiebungsverbot").

People with subsidiary protection do not have to meet any further requirements.

Individuals with a national ban on deportation ("Abschiebungsverbot") are not entitled to family reunification. So you have to meet the following requirements:

  • You and your family must be able to earn a living: That means that you have to earn enough money to be able to look after yourself and your family. You are not allowed to receive any support from the Job Centre or the Social Welfare Office. In other words, you have to earn enough so that you do not need to receive any money from the Job Centre or the Social Welfare Office. The exact level of income you need to prove depends on the size of your family. The Immigration Office will check your income thoughtfully.
  • Your apartment must be big enough: Your apartment must be big enough to accommodate your family. In principle, you need 12 square meters per each person aged 6 and over. For children under 6 years old, 10 square meters is enough. Babies, up to 2 years of age are not counted. In exceptional cases, an apartment can be somewhat smaller.
  • You must have health insurance for yourself and your family: In principle, you can also ensure your family through what is known as "family insurance". Find out more in our chapter "Health Insurance".
  • Your family members need to speak some German: Spouses who would like to come to Germany under the family reunification scheme need to prove that they speak German at least at A1 level. To do so, you need to present a certificate from a language school. Children under 16 years of age are exempt- but if your child is already over 16 years old, they also need to prove that they speak German. Exception: If it is not possible for your family to receive a German language certificate in your home country, or in case a family member is incapable of learning German due to a physical, mental or psychological illness or disability, the Immigration Office can make an exception.

Where and how should I apply for family reunification?

Your family members should submit their application for family reunification in person to the responsible German embassy or general consulate in your home country or the country where your family reside. They have to make an appointment and hand-in all the required papers. You should also personally apply to the relevant Immigration Office (“Ausländerbehörde”), where you are expected to present all the necessary documents. Read the next section to learn which you need.  

You must personally notify the relevant Immigration Office that you intend to bring your family to Germany. You can inform them per fax or via the website of the German Foreign Ministry. Such a notice is known as  „fristwahrende Anzeige“. Remember you need to keep the letter or the confirmation you receive from the website somewhere safe. You must send the notice („fristwahrende Anzeige“) within three months from the date you have been granted your status; then and only then your family can join you in Germany under eased pre-conditions (the so-called „privilegierter Familiennachzug“). 

After the submission of the application, the German embassy or consulate will send it to the responsible Foreigner's Registration Office inside Germany. The Foreigners’ Registration Office (“Ausländerbehörde”) will then check whether the conditions for family reunification are met and react to the application. This procedure often takes many months, sometimes even more than a year. If the immigration office agrees, your family will receive a visa and can legally travel to Germany. Immediately after arrival, your family members must apply for a residence permit for familial reasons (at the relevant Immigration Office) or family asylum ("Familienasyl").

Important information for those entitled to Subsidiary protection (“subsidiären Schutz”): You can find further helpful information (In Arabic & German) regarding family reunification for beneficiaries’ of subsidiary protection on familienlebenfueralle.net.

Which documents should my family submit in their appointment at German embassy?

Your family need to bring and present the following documents (at least):

  • The confirmation email from the embassy regarding the appointment
  • A copy of your „fristwahrende Anzeige“
  • Visa applications for all family members
  • A family registration certificate (if applicable)
  • Birth certificates of all family members
  • Marriage certificate
  • A copy of your German residence permit
  • A copy of BAMF's decision on your case

Some of these documents must be certified by the German Embassy; i.e. their authenticity must be confirmed. The certification process can take place during the appointment.

The embassy may request further documents from you. For more information, make sure you check the website of the relevant embassy before the appointment.

What if the Immigration Office rejects my application for family reunification?

When the Foreigners’ Registration Office rejects your application for family reunification, they are obliged to send you a letter and justify their decision. They may do so, for instance, because they suspect the marriage is fictitious. The German diplomatic mission (Embassy or Consulate General) then will refuse to issue a visa for your relatives. Then, you will have two options:

  • Your family members can object this decision in writing within one month. The complaint must be submitted to the relevant German Embassy. In the complaint letter, they should explain why the rejection is not justified. Upon receipt of this letter, your relative's application will be re-examined. Either they will then receive a visa or the complaint will also be rejected. Then your family members will receive a so-called "Remonstration Notice" (“Remonstrationsbescheid”), where the reasons for rejection are explained in detail. Your family members can appeal against this decision to the Administrative Court at your place of residence within four weeks. To do this, they would need a lawyer who can represent them.
  • You can file a complaint directly at the Administrative Court at your place of residence within four weeks. To learn more, seek advice from a lawyer.

Where can I get help?

The German laws of residence are very complicated. Therefore, you should seek help from a lawyer. You can find specialised asylum lawyers at www.rechtsberaterkonferenz.de.  The PRO ASYL organisation also offers legal advice to refugees and asylum seekers. If you can't afford a lawyer, you can apply at the Refugee Council ("Flüchtlingsrat") in the federal estate you live and receive support from the PRO ASYL Legal Assistance Fund.

At b-umf.de you will find the addresses and contact details of the IOM's family support programmes (FAP) in many countries. The family support programmes help your family in your home country with the application for family reunification.

What should I do after the arrival of my family in Germany?

First of all, your family has to register at the Citizens' Office ("Bürgeramt" or "Einwohnermeldeamt"). You can find out more about the process in our chapter Registration.The next step is the registration at the Immigration Office and/or the BAMF. Since your family has come to Germany with a visa, they have two choices concerning obtaining a long-term residence permit:

  • Your family can go to the Immigration Office and apply for a residence permit for family reunification (§§27-36 Residence Act). Since the Immigration Office has already checked all their documents for the issuance of the visa, this process usually concludes quite swiftly. You can book an appointment at the relevant Immigration Office before your family arrives.
  • Your family can apply for family asylum at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (§26 Asylum Act). Family asylum means that your family will be granted the same status and rights as you.

Whether you should opt for the first or the second option depends on your family's specific circumstances. Find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of family asylum in our chapter "Family asylum".

What are the next steps? 

Upon your family’s arrival in Germany, you must do the following:

  • You must register your family at a health insurance company.
  • If you receive social benefits yourself, you must register your family at the Job Centre or the Social Welfare Office responsible for you.
  • If you have school-age children, you must enrol them in school. Read more about schooling in our chapter "School".

What are the next steps?

Upon your family’s arrival in Germany, you must do the following:

  • You must register your family at a health insurance company. You can learn more in our chapter health insurance.
  • If you receive social benefits yourself, you must register your family at the Job Centre or the Social Welfare Office responsible for you.
  • If you have school-age children, you must enroll them in school. Read more about schooling in our chapter "School".

I have lost my family members. What can I do?

The following search platform can help you find the family members you might have lost during your flight to Germany.

  • Red Cross Tracing Service (DRK): The GRC Tracing Service is a search engine which connects and unites families in Germany and around the globe
  • Refunite helps to reunite separated families. Everyone can use their free and secure internet platform to search for their missing relatives. For registration, you only need to have a current phone number.
  • On the “Trace the Face” online platform, you can upload a photo of yourself and start a search for missing relatives. If a family member identifies you, he or she can contact you directly.