Family Reunification for Refugees
Can I bring my family to Germany?
If you want to bring your family to Germany, there are several rules and regulations you should keep in mind. The most decisive factor is your residence status. In case your asylum procedure is still ongoing, or you have a so-called "Duldung", family reunification for you is, in principle, not possible. But if you are granted asylum or recognized as a refugee, you have the right to reunite with your family in Germany. For the individuals with subsidiary protection and those for whom there is a national ban on deportation, currently, special regulations apply.
Here we go through right of family reunification for individuals who came to Germany as refugee - for others who come to Germany there are different regulations. You can learn more in our chapter “Family Reunification for Immigrants”.
What do I need to know?
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
- or “resettlement refugee”: If you are recognised as a person entitled to asylum, “resettlement refugee” 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. The law says that you are not entitled to family reunification. However, the Immigration Office cannot simply reject the application as long as you and your family meet all the requirements. Currently, only up to 1000 people per month can travel to Germany to reunite with their family members who are beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. Furthermore, there must be some humanitarian grounds for family reunification. That applies, for instance, to families who have been separated for a long time and those who include children or particularly at-risk and sick members. 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. Also, there must be a humanitarian reason at hand–for instance, the family is not able to live together in any other country than Germany; a family member is 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.
According to the German family asylum law, only close family members can join you here, including:
- your spouse 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 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 a "hardship case" ("Härtefallregelung")- it is an emergency clause of the residence act. In practice, it is quite tricky to get a visa for 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 counselling centres nearby on our Local Information page. Enter the name of the city where you live and search for family reunification, migration, asylum, residence or legal counselling services in your area.
The requirements you have to meet for family reunification depend on your residence status.
Recognised refugees, “resettlement 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 person 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 flat 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 can only apply for family reunification if there is a so-called “humanitarian reason”. This is the case, for example, when families have been separated for a long time, or underage children or very vulnerable and ill people are involved. In order to prove the illness, need for care or disability, your family member must present a medical certificate. Under certain circumstances, IOM can carry out the medical examination on site. You can find the contact details of the IOM in nine countries on the BumF website. There you can seek support for family reunification. Or find the support you need directly at www.iom.int.
You do not have to prove that your home is big enough and that you earn enough money to support yourself and your family. However, it can be a great advantage in getting a positive decision on your application for family reunification if you earn enough money and have a large enough flat. Your good level of proficiency in German language will also have a positive influence on the decision. It is also considered an advantage if your family has acquired German language skills. Being convicted of crimes in Germany will have a negative effect and decrease your chance.
Please note: If you are a person entitled to subsidiary protection and wish to bring your spouse to Germany, your marriage must have taken place before you left your country of origin.
Individuals with a national ban on deportation ("Abschiebungsverbot") have to meet the following requirements:
- You and your family must be able to earn a living: In other words, you have to earn enough so that you do not need to receive any money from the Jobcentre 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 flat must be large enough: Your flat must be big enough to accommodate your family. In principle, you need 12 square meters per 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, a flat 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 spouse or partner 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 the A1 level. To do so, you need to present a certificate from a language school.
- German language proficiency of children: Underage children do not have to know German. If your child is over 16 years (and under 18) and want to come to you alone, they must know German in C1 level.
Exception for language proficiency 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.
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 resides. 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 what you need.
You must personally notify the relevant Immigration Office that you intend to bring your family to Germany. You can inform them by 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“). Seek counselling and support at an early stage. You can find so-called "Migration counselling Centres" for adults and young people in your area on our Local Information page. Enter the name of your city where you live and search for family reunification, migration, asylum or residence counselling service.
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. The IOM can provide families support on site. You can find the contact details of the IOM in nine countries on the BumF website. Or find the support you need directly at www.iom.int.
The requirements are easier for family members of German citizens who want to come to Germany, for example, the family members who want to join the person in question do not necessarily have to have sufficient knowledge of German. In certain cases, it is not necessary for them to prove that they can secure their livelihood, either. But here, too, certain conditions and requirements may apply, depending on the family member:
If a minor child comes to a parent (who is a German citizen) in Germany or if the parents of a minor child (who is a German citizen) want to come to Germany, they do not have to prove that they can support themselves. Furthermore, a minor child who wants to join a German national do not need to prove language skills.
If the spouses of a German citizen want to join them, they do not necessarily have to prove that they can support themselves in Germany from their own resources. You can also apply for social benefits (e.g. citizen’s allowance). However, it is possible that the Immigration Office will issue the visa earlier if the spouse has enough money to support themselves in Germany. Keep in mind that proving a basic knowledge of German is still required.
Slightly stricter requirements apply to migrants with a permanent residence permit. For example, you usually have to prove German language skills at a certain level and secure the livelihood of the family. If they meet these requirements, their family members can join them in Germany.
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.
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, your family 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”) from the German embassy, where the reasons for rejection are explained in detail. Your family members can appeal against this decision to the Administrative Court in Berlin within one month. To do so, you need to find your family a lawyer in Germany who can represent them and arrange the appeal procedure. Good to know: If the remonstration notice does not contain a so-called “Rechtsbelehrung” with a period of one month as the deadline, your family members have one year to file a lawsuit against the rejection of their visa application.
- Your family can file a complaint directly at the Administrative Court in Berlin within a month. To learn more, seek advice from a lawyer in Germany who can represent your family and arrange the appeal procedure.
You can find counselling centres nearby on our Local Information page. Enter the name of the city where you live and search for family reunification, migration, asylum, residence or legal counselling services in your area.
Do you need a lawyer but cannot afford it? If you do not have enough money, 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.
First, 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 (§§27-36a 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".
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 on health insurance.
- If you receive social benefits yourself, you must register your family at the Jobcenter 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".
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.
If your asylum procedure is ongoing and your family is already in another EU country (or Lichtenstein, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland), you are entitled to family reunification in Germany OR the other country. The regulation applies to spouses and minor children. It is worth mentioning that the procedure is quite complicated- so whether you want to bring your family to Germany or move to the other country yourself to join them, it is best to first seek advice from a counselling centre.