The Home Office policy on family reunion appears very straightforward:
If you are a holder of refugee status in the UK, you are able to apply for a spouse or minor child (under 18) to join you here. For a spouse, you need to show that you are married and that you intend to live together and continue your relationship in the UK.
This policy was created around the fact that the UK Government recognised refugees often flee their home countries in very difficult circumstances and become separated from their loved ones. Family reunion policy seeks to reunite refugees with their immediate family members who were part of the refugee's family unit before they fled their home country. Indeed, family reunion is one of the key benefits of getting your refugee status.
In practice, however, the Home Office does not seem to pave the way for reunion quite as readily as one may think. There are a number of factors involved which are considered by the Home Office - this can mean the difference between the success and failure of your application/appeal. Here are some of the common examples which we regularly come across in practice.
Proving your relationship with your child - even where you have mentioned your child at your Home Office asylum interview, or where you have a birth certificate, it would appear that this is not always enough evidence to convince the Home Office of your relationship. More and more often, we are finding that we are instructing DNA evidence for our clients in order to prove the genetic relationship with a child.
Proving your relationship with your spouse - marriage certificates are commonly provided to the Home Office to prove a genuine relationship/marriage. Obtaining these documents can be very difficult for a refugee if they are out of their home country or if their country does not typically issue marriage certificates.
Detail, detail, detail - it is crucial for you to get the age/date of birth of your child or spouse correct in your Home Office interview. The interview record will often be the first port of call for the Home Office when they consider your family reunion application. Not all countries put such an emphasis on date of birth as the UK does, however, you should be aware that any discrepancies in key dates such as the age of your child or the date of your marriage, for example, could mean complications for your application.
Contact & Support - the Home Office more so now than ever before look at the level of contact you have had with your family member after you have fled your home country. It is therefore very important that you keep a record of all contact and support between you and your loved one and provide this to the Home Office with your application or at appeal.
Age refusals - the Home Office are increasingly refusing cases for family reunion where the child applying is over 17 and therefore approaching the age of majority. The best advice we can provide to you is to consult one of our Solicitors as soon as you obtain your refugee status and not to delay in making your application for family reunion.
Of course, if you meet the financial and other requirements of the adult dependant relative rule you may be able to make an application under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules, however, in our experience it can be difficult in practice to succeed under this route.
If your family member does not fit within any of the categories above, you may still be able to make a discretionary application based on their/your human rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
We have made many of these applications for refugees in relation to their elderly parents or adult children, for example.
While discretionary applications are by no means straightforward and often deal with complex aspects of human rights law, we have a wealth of knowledge and experience in this particular area and we can assist you with this type of case.
In our experience, the Home Office is tightening its belt not only in relation to human rights applications but also in relation to "straightforward" family reunion cases so if you would like advice, either at the application or appeal stage of your family reunion case, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.