Immigration rules and family reunion in the UK

By Oshin Shahiean, managing partner at OTS Solicitors 
 
Family reunion is an emotive topic. It is also a topic that has hit the headlines this week. Pressure groups, charities and some politicians are urging the government to change the rules and make it easier for refugee families to be reunited. Some are calling for the government’s post Brexit Immigration bill to be changed to address family reunion.
 
The Guardian newspaper reports that this week the charity, Oxfam, will add to the calls for a change in Immigration laws by asking supporters to lobby their members of parliament and request a change in the law. 
 
Top London immigration solicitors will tell you that the current laws on whether a family member can join a refugee in the UK are complex and confusing to applicants. 
 
How can OTS Solicitors help?
 
At OTS Solicitors, we recognise that when it comes to reuniting family it is essential that you get advice from top London immigration solicitors.
 
Please call us on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our experienced London immigration solicitors who will be happy to help you look at the options to help reunite your family.
 
What does refugee family reunion mean? 
 
Top London immigration solicitors define refugee family reunion as the legal process by which a recognised refugee can be reunited with their pre-flight dependent family members.
 
A refugee’s partner or child can make an application to join the refugee in the UK if:
• They were separated from the refugee when he or she left the country; and 
• The refugee has been granted Asylum or 5 years humanitarian protection but does not have British citizenship.
 
Campaigners argue that it is unfair that the relatives of child refugees (children are classed as a child if they are under the age of eighteen) cannot apply for family reunion under the immigration rules.
 
Furthermore, from the refugee and their family’s point of view, the wait for reunification can feel interminable. That is because the partner or child of a refugee cannot make an application until the refugee has received a decision on their Asylum application.  
 
Family eligibility for family reunion
 
Only partners and children can apply and the Home Office has defined the meaning of both “partners” and “children”.
 
The best London immigration solicitors advise that partners are defined as:
• Spouses; or
• Civil partners; or
• An unmarried partner, provided the refugee was given refuges status or humanitarian protection prior to October 2006; 
• An unmarried partner provided the refugee was given refugee status or humanitarian protection after October 2006 and the partner and refugee lived in a relationship akin to marriage for 2 years. 
 
If a partner makes an immigration application, it has to be made on the basis that the refugee and partner intend to live together and continue their relationship. That means that the former partner of a refugee who is, for example, divorced or separated from the refugee could not apply under the provisions even if their child is able to come to the UK to live with their refugee parent.
 
Top London immigration solicitors advise that “children” are defined as a child if they meet the following criteria:
• Under the age of eighteen;
• Going to live with the refugee; 
• Going to be supported by the refugee without using public funds;
• Not married or in a civil partnership; 
• Not in full time work or employment.
Many pressure groups have lobbied the government about the definition of “children” and in particular the upper age limit of eighteen. They argue that a child remains a child for life and that the ties of love and desire for family reunion do not automatically end when a child reaches the age of eighteen.
 
Applications by family members of refugees who are already in the UK
 
If your partner or child is in the UK, then they can make an application if they meet the eligibility criteria and:
• The refugee has refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK; and 
• The partner or child is in the UK and they are making their first application to stay in the UK;
• The partner or child can prove that the relationship started before the refugee left their country of origin.
If a refugee comes to the UK with her or his family to seek Asylum or humanitarian protection then the refugee can include details of his or her dependent family members on their Asylum application. 
 
The top London immigration solicitors advise that, if a refugee is given refugee status or humanitarian protection, then their family members are normally granted ‘leave in line’ or, in other words, permission to be in the UK for the same period of time as the person with refugee status or humanitarian protection. 
 
However, the situation is more complex if the refugee left their country on their own or lost contact with their relatives during the journey to the UK. If a family member is not in the UK with the refugee applicant then the refugee cannot claim protection for them. The best London immigration solicitors say that there are provisions in the immigration rules to allow for recognised refugees or those who have been granted humanitarian protection to bring their family members to the UK for family reunification.
 
Of course, most families do not just consist of a partner and children. There are often parents and in some refugee families, younger siblings and other relatives to look after as part of the family unit. Relatives, such as dependent adult relatives, adopted children, and ‘post-flight’ family members, are subject to different Immigration visa rules. Campaigners complain that far more restrictive eligibility criteria apply to entry to the UK, such as maintenance funds and knowledge of English.
 
If the routes to family reunification fail, then top London immigration solicitors advise that the Home Office policy states that there is also scope to grant leave “outside the immigration rules”. This is only applicable in what are described as exceptional scenarios. The best London immigration solicitors recommend that this route is used, for example, if a child is over the age of eighteen or is a dependant younger sibling.
 
Some sections of the media and refugee pressure groups are arguing that requiring refugees to ask the Home Office to find exceptional circumstances to grant entry is unacceptable, as it does not give refugees and their families any certainty as to whether their family can be reunited. The campaigners are hoping to use the opportunity of the post Brexit Immigration bill to bring about positive change for refugees and their families to make reunification easier and quicker. The sentiment behind the campaign is that a refugee may have lost their country but they should not also be forced to lose their family. 
 
How can OTS Solicitors help?
 
At OTS Solicitors, we pride ourselves on offering specialist Immigration advice, carefully considering family circumstances, to give you the best chance at reunifying family. 
 
OTS Solicitors are experts in Immigration law matters. The firm is recommended for Immigration law in the Legal 500. OTS Solicitors have Law Society accredited solicitors status as trusted specialists in Immigration law
 
For more information on family reunion or any aspect of personal or business immigration law, please call us on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our experienced London immigration solicitors who will be happy to help.
 

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