Family reunification

Family Reunification under the International Protection Act

  1. Who can apply for Family Reunification (FR) under the International Protection Act 2015 (IPA)?

People granted international protection (refugees, subsidiary protection beneficiaries) in Ireland (Section 56 IPA). This includes resettled refugees.

  1. Which family members can come to Ireland?

    • Spouse or Civil Partner (where relationship subsists at time of protection application)
    • Minor child (under 18, who is unmarried)
    • Parents and siblings (under 18) of unaccompanied minor (Section 56[9] IPA)

Dependents (i.e. grandparents, sibling, 18+ children are not included)

  1. What is the time limit for applying for FR?

Refugees and people with subsidiary protection have 12 months after receiving their international protection declaration letter to apply for FR. Resettled refugees have 12 months from their date of arrival in Ireland to apply for FR. (Section 56[8] IPA)

IMPORTANT: Persons granted status before commencement of the IPA, still have up until 30th December 2017 to make an application. This means that all persons who arrived before 2017 have until 30th December to apply. Also, people who were refused FR on the basis of the elapsed 12-month limit should apply to the minister for a review of the decision before the above date![1]

  1. Why would an application be refused or revoked?

The minister may refuse or revoke family reunification for a number of reasons, such as: where family members fall outside of the eligible family members of the IPA, where the time limit has expired, where marriage/partnership ceases; in the interests of national security; where someone gives false or misleading documentation or information.  (Section 56[7] IPA)

  1. What is the application process?

    • An initial letter must be sent to INIS FR Section requesting an application questionnaire. The Irish Refugee Council drop-in centre may assist people to write and send this letter. The letter must contain the applicant’s ID number; the full name, relationship, date of birth and address of the family member/s. Applicants should include a copy of their protection declaration letter.
    • A questionnaire will be sent to the applicant within a few weeks. Any change of address should be relayed to the FR section immediately to ensure that the applicant receives the questionnaire.
    • The questionnaire should be returned within indicated time frame (usually 28 days). All relevant documentation must also be attached. The documents must be originals – no copies will be accepted.[2] More time to return questionnaire may be requested if the applicant cannot submit within 28 days.
    • The applicant will receive a decision in writing. The decision will be: a grant of FR for all family members, a grant for some family members but refusal of others, or a refusal of all family members.

If successful:

If family members do not have a travel document, it is recommended that they begin process of obtaining one as soon as possible – ideally even before the FR application process begins in Ireland. The family member must apply for an Irish visa.[3] The minister may indicate a time limit for entry of the family member. UNHCR, IOM and the Irish Red Cross operate a travel assistance scheme which may provide financial support to family members for entry to Ireland once FR has been granted.

If unsuccessful: There is no appeal mechanism for negative decisions.

A person may write a letter to the minister to review the decision and/or exercise his discretion in exceptional circumstances.

Make a fresh application if circumstances have changed (deadline still stands!)

Initiate judicial review proceedings, which requires a lawyer and may be expensive and very protracted.

  1. Family Reunification Humanitarian Admission Programme

Ireland will take “up to 530 family members of refugees from UNHCR-recognised conflict zones.”[4]The exact process and eligible family members are unknown until further information is released. However, family members will have to be registered with UNHCR in country of residence and applicant should be able show that they can accommodate family members in Ireland.  This information should be included in initial letters being sent to FR Section.

Irish Refugee Council will share information on the FRHAP as soon as it becomes available.

[1] http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/WP07000026

[2] The questionnaire itself should list relevant documents. For example list, see INIS website: http://bit.ly/2zlQ0Yr

[3] Visa applications can be made at Irish consulates in the family member’s country of residence – see www.dfa.ie for list of consulates and see www.inis.gov.ie for general information on visa application process.

[4] Announced by Dept of Justice November 2017: http://bit.ly/2A4u6Nh