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UK Refugee Family Reunification

In the realm of immigration and refugee policies, one aspect that often sparks curiosity and apprehension is family reunification. For refugees, in the United Kingdom, the opportunity to reunite with their loved ones serves as a beacon of hope amid times. This detailed guide aims to navigate you through the complexities of refugee family reunification offering insights into the forms, procedures, prerequisites, and common obstacles that refugees may face throughout this journey.

How to Apply; Forms and Procedures

If Your Family Resides Outside the UK

When it comes to reuniting with family members living outside the United Kingdom there are steps involved in the process. Each family member must kickstart their application for family reunification via the government’s visa portal. Alongside this application, they must fill out the Family Settlement Application Form (VAF4A) along with Appendix 4. Moreover, they are required to undergo the process of having their fingerprints and photographs taken at a visa application center.

It is important to bear in mind that under certain circumstances accessing a visa application center may present challenges due to issues or risks in the location of the family member. Nevertheless, this step remains essential, for streamlining the family reunification procedure.

If Your Family Is Already, in the UK

Normally requests for refugee family reunions are sent from outside the country. However, if your family member has somehow made it to the United Kingdom some rules allow applications to be submitted while within the UK. Each family member can apply at no cost by sending a written request to the UKVI Family Reunion Team

What Are the Requirements That Need to Be Met?

The requirements for refugee family reunion may differ based on your relationship with the family member you want to bring over to the UK. While specific criteria might apply to types of family members there are rules that all applicants must meet.

General Requirements for All Applications;

 Refugee family members need to apply for a visa known as “entry clearance” before coming to the UK. If they are already in the UK they can apply from, within the country.

 Refugee family members should not have committed acts that fall under the exclusion clauses of the Refugee Convention. These acts include war crimes or serious nonpolitical offenses. The requirements differ depending on the type of family member being sponsored.

For spouses and civil partners, the regulations are outlined in paragraph 352A of the Immigration Rules. Key criteria include;

 The applicant must be married to or, in a partnership with the refugee.

 The marriage or civil partnership should have taken place before the refugee departed from their home country.

 Both individuals must have the intention to reside permanently together. Their relationship must be ongoing.

 The relationship should not fall under the “prohibited degree of relationship ” which excludes blood relatives like parents, children, and siblings from being sponsored.

It’s worth noting that there is no necessity to provide support and housing without relying on funds. Refugees can sponsor their family members even if they are receiving welfare benefits provided all conditions are fulfilled.

For same-sex partners, the prerequisites mirror those for spouses and civil partners. As per paragraph 352A of the Immigration Rules key conditions consist of;

The couple must have been cohabiting in a relationship resembling marriage or civil partnership for two years or more.

The relationship should have already been established before the refugee left their home country. Both individuals must have the intention of living and their relationship must be ongoing. It should not fall under the category of a “prohibited degree of relationship.” Similarly, couples and civil partners unmarried or same-sex partners do not have to prove they can support themselves without assistance.

Regarding Refugee Children

For children of refugees, the specific requirements are outlined in paragraph 352D of the Immigration Rules. The main conditions include;

The child must be under 18 years old when applying.

The child should not be living independently married, or in a partnership. Have started their own family.

The child must have been part of the refugee family unit when they left their home country. Either born or conceived before the refugee fled.

Just like, with spouses, partners, and unmarried or same-sex partners there is no obligation to demonstrate self-sufficiency without relying on public funds. Refugees can sponsor their children even if they are receiving welfare benefits as long as all other requirements are fulfilled. Refugees, under the Immigration Rules, can also sponsor children who are not their own such as nieces, nephews, or grandchildren. The main criteria outlined in Paragraph 319X of the Immigration Rules include the child being under 18 at the time of application having family reasons for entry being dependent and unmarried and having support in the UK without relying on public funds. Unlike cases, there is no income threshold requirement for this type of sponsorship. Additionally, refugees who have sought asylum in the UK are eligible to sponsor their family members, for reunification.

It’s worth noting that when a refugee, in the UK becomes a citizen they no longer qualify for refugee family reunion rights. Instead, they must follow immigration procedures to bring their family members to join them.

Moreover, resettled refugees who have come to the UK under programs like the Gateway Protection Programme or the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme can reunite with their families if they have refugee status.

Additionally, individuals granted protection of refugee status are also allowed to sponsor their family members. Immigration Rules 352FA and 352FG outline the provisions for those given protection after August 30, 2005.

For those given protection before August 30 2005 obtaining leave to remain is necessary before sponsoring a family member. They must also comply with immigration regulations.

To avoid rejection of a refugee family reunion application thorough preparation is essential as there are reasons for refusal. Here are some tips on how to increase your chances of success and prevent pitfalls;

When a Family Member is than 18

If a child, over the age of 18 applies for entry through the family reunion rules or if a parent or grandparent of a refugee applies there’s a chance that the application will be denied. These familial ties do not align with the Immigration Rules concerning refugee family reunions.

In scenarios, one may need to resort to human rights arguments as an alternative. While human rights arguments beyond the Immigration Rules often face challenges in being successful it is crucial to present a documented application with evidence and explanations outlining why allowing the child to come to the UK is justified.

Evidence of Family Relationship

To verify claimed relationships applicants should include documents along with their application. These documents play a role, in convincing the Home Office about the genuineness of the relationship. Items to consider for inclusion;

  •  Marriage certificates
  •  marriage ceremony documents
  •  Documents related to shared accommodation or joint purchases
  •  DNA evidence, from a laboratory
  •  Birth certificates
  •  Adoption orders
  •  Original correspondence from UKVI or Immigration Enforcement confirming the sponsor’s residency and status in the UK
  •  Family photos
  •  Wedding pictures
  •  Invitations to the wedding ceremony
  •  Testimonies from different individuals as witnesses
  •  Records of communication like phone logs, emails, letters, or social media messages

It is crucial to provide evidence indicating that the refugee mentioned their family member during the asylum application process. Typically this information is recorded on the Statement of Evidence Form when applying for asylum and involves inquiries about family members. If such details were not provided during the asylum application a valid explanation must be given.

Proof of an Ongoing Relationship

Apart from establishing the relationship, in cases involving spouses and partners, it is important to demonstrate that the relationship continues (“subsisting”) and that both parties have intentions of residing together permanently in the UK. This requirement can be met by presenting evidence showing communication and support.

This could involve;

  •  Phone records, from mobile or landline services
  •  letters or cards sent and received
  •  Screenshots or transcripts of text conversations or messaging app chats
  •  Call logs from platforms like Skype
  •  Proof of support such as money transfers or bank statements
  • DNA Testing

When there are doubts about a claimed relationship DNA testing can be a valuable tool to uncover the truth. These tests can definitively determine parent-child or sibling relationships. It’s worth noting that while DNA testing is not mandatory it can be especially helpful when other evidence is limited. When opting for DNA tests it’s recommended to use services approved by the Home Office.

Verification of Identity

Even if the relationship is confirmed it’s still essential to verify the identity of the visa applicant. Strong identification is crucial to persuade the Home Office of the applicant’s identity. Applicants should ensure they possess identification documents to support their claims.

Children Forming Independent Family Units

As per Immigration Rule paragraph 352D(iv), a child must be considered part of the family unit as their parent at the time of separation. 

If a child no longer lived with their parent before the parent fled their home country there might still be grounds to consider the child part of the family unit. The specific details of each situation will determine if this condition is met.

Do I Have the Right to Appeal a Rejection?

In some instances, there is a right to appeal a refusal of a refugee family reunion application. Despite changes made in 2015 it can be argued that applying for refugee reunion falls under human rights claims. Hence there is typically an option to appeal against rejection regardless of what the Home Office or Entry Clearance Officers say.

It’s important to note that the decision, on whether an appeal exists does not lie with the Home Office or Entry Clearance Officers. Applicants can access appeal forms. Lodge them directly with the immigration tribunal. Ultimately a judge will determine if an appeal is justified.

Where Can I Seek Assistance for Submitting an Application?

Unfortunately, legal aid (government-funded support) is no longer accessible, for cases concerning refugee family reunions.

However, groups such, as the Red Cross might offer help, and certain legal centers and Citizens Advice Bureaus could have some funding to assist people with refugee relatives.

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