Family Reunification for Immigrants
Can my family join me in Germany?
Marriage and the family are under special protection in Germany. Nevertheless, it is not that straightforward for third-country nationals to bring their family to Germany. Whether you can bring your family to Germany depends primarily on your residence status. In addition, however, you need to meet many other requirements.
Here, you can find out everything about family reunification for third-country nationals without a refugee background. The prerequisites for refugees are different. If you are a refugee, you can read more about family reunification in our chapter "Family reunification for refugees".
What do I need to know?
Whether you can apply for family reunification depends on your residence status. In other words, you need (at least) to have a legal residence permit. However, there are other requirements. You can find out more in the section "What requirements do I have to meet for family reunification?".
You can only have close family members come to live it you in Germany. These are:
- Wife or husband or a registered life partner. They must have been over 18 years of age at the time of marriage. Important: If you got married after you arrived in Germany, you must have had a residence permit for at least 2 years to bring your spouse to Germany.
- Unmarried minor children
- If you are a minor and single: your parents or other adult persons who have your custody. In principle, you can only ask for your minor siblings to join you if their livelihood is secure and sufficient living space is available.
Otherwise, there must be a case of "exceptional hardship" for underage siblings and other family members to come to Germany. In these very rare cases, one may be issued a visa per Section 36 (2) or Section 22 of the Residence Act, also referred to as a "hardship rule". It is, in fact, an emergency clause of the Right of Residence Act. In practice, it is very difficult to obtain a visa through this emergency clause- i.e. there must be a looming danger to the life and limb of one of your family members. And you have to meet many requirements, e.g. be able to secure a livelihood. Seek advice from a counselling centre or a specialised lawyer. You can find addresses in the section "Where can I find advice and support?".
To bring your family to Germany, you must 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 are not entitled to receive any money from the Job Centre or the Social Welfare Office - regardless of whether you actually get money from Jobcenter 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 big enough: Your flat 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, 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 family members need to speak 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 at C1 level or have had completed vocational training.
Exception: Some groups of people are exempt from the requirement of German language skills:
- If you are the holder of an EU Blue Card or have a residence permit as a highly qualified specialist, researcher or self-employed person, your family does not have to prove any knowledge of German.
- If your spouse has a university degree, no knowledge of German is required of him/her.
- If your family comes from Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, Korea, New Zealand or the USA, no knowledge of German is required.
- If your family cannot obtain a German certificate in your home country, the Immigration Office can make an exception - this is called "hardship regulation".
- If a family member fails to learn German because of a physical, mental or psychological illness or disability, the Immigration Office can make an exception. But you need to present a medical certificate.
Yes. If you have German citizenship yourself, your family can come to Germany under easier conditions. In this case, you do not have to prove that you can secure a living for yourself and your family on your own. The size of your flat does not matter either. However, your family must meet the above requirements regarding their knowledge of the German language.
Your family must apply for family reunification in person at the German diplomatic mission (embassy or consulate-general) in their home country or in the country in which they are staying. To do so, your family must make an appointment and bring all the papers with them to the appointment. Read the next section to learn what these required documents are.
After your family has submitted its application to the embassy, the embassy sends the application to the Immigration Office responsible for you. Then, the Immigration Office checks whether the requirements for family reunification are met and writes a statement. The procedure often takes many months, sometimes more than a year. If the Immigration Office agree, your family will receive a visa and can legally travel to Germany to reunite with you.
Your family must bring (at least) the following documents:
- The confirmation email from the embassy about the appointment
- Visa applications for all family members
- An extract from the family register (if available in your country)
- Birth certificates of all family members
- Your marriage certificate
- A copy of your residence permit in Germany
These documents may have to be verified by the German embassy - which means their authenticity must be checked. Authentication of documents can take place during your appointment at the embassy.
The embassy can also request further documents from you. Therefore, before your appointment, check the website of the embassy at which your family have their appointment.
If the Immigration Office does not approve your application, they must justify their decision in a statement. One reason may be, for instance, suspicion of a so-called "marriage of convenience". If they assume so, the German diplomatic mission abroad (embassy or consulate-general) will reject the visa application. You then have two options:
1. Your family can object within a month by submitting their objection (in writing) to the German embassy - In this letter, they should explain why the rejection is wrong. After receipt of the letter of objection, your family's application will be re-examined. Either your family members will then receive a visa–or their objection will be rejected. In the event of a second rejection, your family will receive a so-called “remonstration notice”, which explains in detail why they cannot get a visa. Your family can file an action against this decision within four weeks at the administrative court at your place of residence. If that is the case, you should hire a lawyer who can take care of everything.
2. You can file a complaint directly with the administrative court in your place of residence within four weeks. It is best to seek advice from a lawyer.
The Migration Counselling Service or the Youth Migration Service can help you. The employees there speak different languages and are very familiar with the residence law. They can also recommend lawyers who can take your case.
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. 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.
If you have school-age children, you need to register them for school. You can find out more in our “School” chapter.
When your family arrive in Germany, you need to register your family members at Citizen's Office and Immigration Office.