What are the advantages and disadvantages of a family asylum?

Family asylum has both advantages and disadvantages: If accepted, your family will have the same status and rights as you. That means your family, e.g. will also be entitled to the so-called privileged family reunification ("priviligierten Familiennachzug"). This option can be useful, for instance, if you are an unaccompanied minor refugee who is permitted to bring their parents to Germany- but not their siblings. Once your parents have obtained family asylum, they can bring their other underage and single children (i.e. your siblings) to Germany. Another advantage is that your family can stay in Germany independently.  So, for instance, even if you separate from your spouse, they will be able to keep their residence permit.

But family asylum can also have downsides: as soon as your family members are also recognised as entitled to asylum or refugees protection, they will no longer be able to travel to their home country. Furthermore, after applying for family asylum, your own recognition may be re-examined or - in the event of a considerable improvement in the situation in your country - even revoked.

If you are uncertain whether family asylum is right for you and your family, seek advice from a counselling centre or lawyer. You can find a counselling centre nearby on the Pro Asyl website. Plus, at www.rechtsberaterkonferenz.de you can find lawyers who specialise in the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

Who can apply for family asylum?

The following individuals can apply for family asylum:

  • Spouses and partners („Lebenspartner*in“)
  • Unmarried minor children (they need to be minor and single at the time of applying for family asylum)
  • Parents of an unaccompanied minor refugee (if he/she is still a minor at the time BAMF decides about the family asylum application)
  • Unmarried minor siblings of an unaccompanied minor refugee (provided that all those involved are still minors at the time BAMF decides about the family asylum application)

The persons mentioned above can apply for family reunification, if:

  • your marriage/family has already existed in the country of origin and
  • you have a residence permit as an individual entitled to asylum, refugee status or subsidiary protection.

Please note: if you have a residence permit due to a national ban on deportation, you cannot apply for family asylum.

When and where can I apply for family asylum?

Your family must apply for family asylum immediately upon their arrival in Germany. "Immediate" in this context usually means within two weeks.

Your family has to apply for family asylum at the at the Federal Office for Migration & Refugees (BAMF). There are two possibilities here:

  1. If your family already has a residence permit valid for more than six months (for example, the residence permit for the purpose of family reunification or "Aufenthalterlaubnis zum Zweck der Familienzusammenfürung"), they can apply for family asylum (in writing) to the BAMF headquarters in Nuremberg. On BAMF's website, you will find the application form for family asylum. Send the application per fax or as a registered mail ("Einschreibung") and preserve the receipts as evidence. If you request family asylum via a written application, your family's obligation to stay in an initial reception centre for the first few weeks is waived, and your family can live with you from the start.
  2. If your family does not have a residence permit for more than six months (for example, the residence permit for the purpose of family reunification), the application for family asylum must be submitted in person to the BAMF branch office in your area. When this is the case, your family usually has to live in an initial reception centre for a while. To avoid this, you must apply for a residence permit for the purpose of family reunification at the relevant Immigration Office before requesting family asylum from the BAMF. As the requirements for family reunification have already been checked when applying for a visa, the Immigration Office can often directly issue a temporary residence permit (or a so-called "Fiktionsbescheinigung") for more than six months. Upon obtaining this document, your family can submit a written application for family asylum and does not have to stay in an initial reception centre. You can find the responsible BAMF office and Immigration Office at bamf.de.

Please note: Your family can also apply for a residence permit for the purpose of family reunification (at the Immigration Office) after submitting their application for a family asylum. In this case, they will be issued a residence permit (i.e. "Aufenthalterlaubnis zum Zweck der Familienzusammenfürung") in addition to a temporary residence permit ("Aufenthaltsgestattung"). The rights of your family regarding social benefits, access to the labour market and alike are then regulated based on the residence permit obtained for family reunification (and not the temporary residence permit). That means your family's rights as asylum seekers will not be restricted as a result of having an "Aufenthaltsgestattung".

Seek advice from a counselling centre or lawyer before applying for family asylum. On Pro Asyl's website, you can search for a counselling centre nearby. On www.rechtsberaterkonferenz.de, you can find lawyers who specialise in advising refugees and asylum seekers.

What residence status my family will have while their application for Family Asylum is being examined?

If your family has a residence permit for the purpose of family reunification, it will remain valid during the asylum procedure. Although your family will also receive a temporary residence permit (i.e. "Aufenthaltsgestattung"), they have all the rights which a person with a residence permit can enjoy. This rule also pertains if your family applies for a residence permit (for the purpose of family reunification) after submitting their application for family asylum.

If your family has neither a residence permit nor a "Fiktionsbescheinigung" valid for more than six months, their residence permit will be revoked as soon as they apply for family asylum. They will, then, be issued a temporary residence permit ("Aufenthaltsgestattung") and are going to have the same rights and obligations as other asylum seekers. You can read more in our chapter Temporary Residence Permit (“Aufenthaltsgestattung”).

I cannot apply for a family asylum - what other options do I have?

If your own asylum application has not yet been decided, or in case you have been granted a residence permit due to a national ban on deportation, you cannot apply for a family asylum. In case your underage, unmarried child flees to Germany after you, an asylum procedure will be initiated for them automatically, if:

  • your asylum procedure is still ongoing,
  • your asylum application has been rejected or
  • you have received a residence permit due to a ban on deportation (§25 paragraph 5 the Residence Act).

Once the asylum procedure has been initiated for your child, you will be informed in writing. You will also be asked if you want to refrain from carrying out the asylum procedure for your child. Seek advice from a counselling centre or a lawyer. On Pro Asyl's website, you can search for a counselling centre nearby. On www.rechtsberaterkonferenz.de, you can find lawyers who specialise in advising refugees and asylum seekers.

If your own asylum application has been rejected, you can expect that the same happens to your child, unless he/she has separate reasons for flight (which are distinct from yours). If your child does not have their own causes for flight, it is likely that you both will be rejected. However, your child will not receive a simple rejection, but his/her application will be dismissed as "obviously unfounded" ("offensichtlich unbegründet"). The latter has serious consequences concerning the departure deadline and possible subsequent re-entries. You can read more about different types of rejection in our chapter "Rejected Asylum".

Please note: For unmarried children who enter Germany with their parents, an asylum procedure is automatically initiated when the parents apply for asylum.