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Family Reunification in Germany

Settling into a new country is much easier when people have their families with them. Family reunification allows people living and working in Germany to share their experiences with their loved ones. However, just as there are many ways by which a person can live and work in Germany, there are also many ways by which family reunification can occur. The requirements necessary will also depend on the situation in question.

Family reunification is an area of immigration law in which we specialise here at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte. You will find a detailed breakdown of the law in Germany relating to this field on this page. However, as you can see from the detail involved here, this is a complicated legal area, and professional assistance can be a great aid throughout the process. Our legal team is experienced and knowledgeable in family reunification in Germany and has worked with clients from all over the world. You can contact our experts for specialised counsel and support using the contact form below.

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Family reunification in Germany can lead to greater happiness and fulfilment

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our lawyers can help make this a reality for you

Requirements for Family Reunification

Third-country nationals who want to act as sponsors for a spouse or registered partner, a child, a parent or another family member will usually need to be in possession of:

In addition, there must be sufficient living space for the sponsor and the family member joining them (§ 29 (1) 2 German Residence Act) and the requirements of § 5(1) of the German Residence Act have to be met:

  • sponsors will usually have to prove that he or she can provide for him- or herself and the family member joining them,
  • verification of the identity and nationality of the persons,
  • the passport obligation must be met,
  • the interests of the Federal Republic of Germany must not be compromised or jeopardized,
  • there must be no grounds for expulsion.

A more detailed description of some of these requirements and the exemptions for certain groups can be found under Requirements for exercising the right to family reunification.

Both the sponsor and, in some cases, the immigrating family members will need to meet additional requirements before foreign spouses or registered partners, children, parents and other family members can enter Germany.
However, several groups of persons can benefit from preferential treatment and may be partially or fully exempt from the requirements for family reunification set out below.


Family Reunification of Spouses and Registered Partners

In case of a family reunification of a spouse or registered partner with a third-country national in Germany, besides the above mentioned regulations and requirements, § 30(1) German Residence Act imposes additional requirements:

  • both spouses or partners need to be at least 18 years of age
  • the immigrating spouse or registered partner “is able to communicate in the German language at least on a basic level” (level A1 CEFR)
  • the spouse or registered partner already residing in Germany must either possess
    • a settlement permit
    • an EU long-term residence permit
    • an EU blue card
    • a residence permit for research reasons
    • a residence permit for third-country nationals being granted the right to asylum, as recognized refugee or a beneficiary of subsidiary protection, or
      • has held a residence permit for two years and the residence permit is not subject to a subsidiary provision pursuant to § 8(2) German Residence Act or the subsequent issuance of a settlement permit has not been ruled out by virtue of a rule of law, or
      • is in possession of a residence permit, if the marriage or civil partnership existed at the time of said permit being granted and the duration of the third-country national’s stay in the federal territory is expected to exceed on year, or
      • possesses a residence permit pursuant to § 38a German Residence Act and the marriage or civil partnership already existed in the Member State of the European Union in which the third-country national has the status of a long-term resident

The age requirement, the language requirement as well as further requirements may be waived for some of the mentioned status groups under specific conditions (Section 30 (1) and (2) German Residence Act, see section “Integration Measures: Language Skills”). However, a reunification of spouses and registered partners may also be denied (see section: “Exclusion from the right to family reunification”).

Family reunification of minors (extended to adopted, foster and stepchildren)

§ 32 of the German Residence Act sets out the following additional requirements:

  • the child has to be an unmarried minor
  • the parents or the parents possessing the sole right of care and custody is in possession of:
    • a residence permit
    • an EU Blue Card
    • a settlement permit or
    • an EU long-term residence permit.

If the child is aged 16 or over and if it does not relocate the central focus of its life to Germany together with its parents or the parent possessing the sole right of care and custody, it is additionally required that

  • the child speaks German
  • it appears, on the basis of his or her education and way of life to date, that he or she will be able to integrate in the way of life prevailing in the Federal Republic of Germany.

This shall however not apply if:

Where parents share the right of care and custody, the child’s residence permit is also granted for the purpose of joining just one parent if the other parent has given his or her consent or if the relevant binding decision has been supplied by a competent authority.

Minor children also have the right to join their family if, due to the parents’ joining a minor child who benefits from protection Germany, any minor siblings of the refugee would be left alone in the family’s country of origin or residence. In this case, the minor siblings may be entitled to joining their brother or sister.

Family reunification of other members of the family

§ 36 German Residence Act refers to:

  • the parents of German or foreign adult or minor children
  • adult children who want to join their parents
  • minor children who want to join adult close family members
  • other family members such as siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins

Those family members may be granted a residence permit to avoid particular hardship, meaning circumstances that suggest that either the family member living in Germany or the family member wanting to join them is dependent on family support which can only be provided in the Federal Republic of Germany (e.g. I case of a particular need of care).

Circumstances justifying the need for family care will depend on the individual case (e.g. minority, illness, handicaps, need of care, psychological needs). Circumstances arising from the general situation of living in the country of origin of the immigrating family member cannot be considered, meaning that unfavourable educational, economic, social or other conditions in the country of origin are not a case of particular hardship. Urgent humanitarian reasons not related to the separation of the family members will only be considered if the residence is granted on humanitarian grounds. Establishing life as a family with a family member living in Germany is usually unnecessary to prevent particular hardship if other family members living abroad can care for and educate a child.

Parents For parents of minor children residing in Germany, there are no additional requirements and the requirements of sufficient livelihood and adequate living space shall be waived if
  • no parent possessing the right of care and custody is resident in the federal territory
  • the child possesses a residence permit or settlement permit as a resettlement refugee, third-country nationals who are granted the right to asylum, a recognized refugee or a beneficiary of subsidiary protection

In all other cases of parents of minor children residing in Germany and parents of adult children residing in Germany, the only additional requirement is the prevention of particular hardship.

Adult Children Additional requirement: prevention of particular hardship
Married minor or adult children may not join their parents in Germany for as long as the marriage of the child lasts. This does however not affect the possibility of them being granted a residence title for other reasons
Non-Married Partners Immigration for the purpose of family reunification is not possible.
However, the deportation of the partner may be suspended or they may be granted a residence permit pursuant to Section 25 Subs. 4 of the Residence Act until the date of marriage of the registration of the partnership.
Complete orphan (e.g. grandchildren) The immigration of minor other family members to relative in the ascending line will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances, e.g.
  • because they are orphans (e.g. grandchildren joining their grandparents)
  • if the parents are obviously not able to undertake the care and custody of the child in the long run
Applicants in polygamous marriages Pursuant to Section 30 subs. 4 of the Residence Act, if a third-country national is marries to or living in a civil partnership with more than one partner and if he or she is already living in Germany together with a spouse or registered partner, no other spouse or registered partner will be granted a residence permit.
Other dependent persons Additional requirement: prevention of particular hardship

Limited Right to Family Reunification: Persons granted Tolerated Stay, Victims of Human Trafficking & Other Status Groups

For specific groups of persons the right of family reunification is only granted in single cases or cases of special hardship, e.g. under international law provisions or for urgent humanitarian reasons or to safeguard political interests of the Federal Republic of Germany (§ 29(3) German Residence Act). This is the case if the third-country national family member shall join a sponsor already residing in Germany, who:

  • was granted a residence permit for the purpose of admission from abroad in accordance with international law or on urgent humanitarian grounds (§ 22 German Residence Act)
  • was granted a residence permit by the supreme Land authorities in accordance with international law, on humanitarian grounds or in order to uphold the political interests of the Federal Republic of Germany (§ 23(1) German Residence Act),
  • was granted approval for admission by the Federal Ministry of the Interior in consultation with the supreme Land authorities, in order to safeguard special political interests of the federal Republic of Germany (§ 23(2) German Residence Act),
  • was granted a residence permit due to his or her suspension of deportation according to § 60 (5) or § 60(7) German Residence Act,
  • has been the victim of human trafficking or victim of exploitation underutilization of a deprivation of liberty (Section 25 subs. 4 a),
  • was granted a residence permit in the case of well integrated young people and adolescents (§ 25a German Residence Act), or
  • was granted a residence permit in the case of a person whose deportation has been suspended and who has become integrated lastingly into the way of life in the Federal Republic of Germany (§ 25b German Residence Act).

Exclusion from the right to family reunification

The family reunification shall not be granted in the following cases:

  • if the marriage has been entered or the kinship has been established solely for the purpose of enabling the subsequently immigrating persons to enter and stay in the federal territory or
  • if there are concrete indications that one of the spouses has been forced into marriage (§ 27(2) German Residence Act),
  • to a third-country national who is non-enforceably required to leave federal territory (§ 25 (4) German Residence Act),
  • to a third-country national who became a victim to a crime according to §10 (1) or §11 (1) Act of Combat Clandestine Employment or according to § 15a German Act on Temporary Work (Section 2 subs. 4 b),
  • to a third-country national who is enforceable required to leave the federal territory (§ 25 (5) German Residence Act),
  • to some additional status groups (Section 25a (2), Section 25b (4), § 104a German Residence Act and § 104b German Residence Act)

The family reunification may also be denied if the sponsor does not fulfil specific requirements. This holds true especially in cases where the subsistence is not secure, e.g. if public funds such as basic income or social welfare are not obtained (§ 27(3) German Residence Act).


Application Process and Family Reunification

Requirements for Exercising the Right to Family Reunification:

As a rule, certain minimum requirements in terms of available living space, a secure subsistence and health-care insurance for both the sponsor and the immigrating family member must be met. However, there may be exemptions for certain status groups.

Accommodation:

Upon receiving an application for family reunification, the local immigration authority will check whether the sponsor can provide sufficient living space for him- or herself and the family member joining them. Sufficient living space is usually deemed available if

  • 12 sqm of living space are available to each family member age above six and
  • 10 sqm of living space for each family member aged below six.

Adequate availability of the facilities (kitchen, bathrooms, lavatories) must be ensured. A shortfall of about ten percent is acceptable. Children up to the age of two shall not be included in calculation of the sufficient living space for the accommodation of families.

Sufficient financial resources:

The granting of a residence title for family reasons generally presupposes that the sponsor’s own subsistence as well as the subsistence of the reuniting family members is secure. This requirement also holds true for the health insurance.

A third-country national’s subsistence shall be secure when he or she is able to earn a living for him- or herself as well as for the family members without recourse to public funds.

Drawing the following benefits does not constitute recourse to public funds:

  • child benefits
  • children’s allowances
  • child-raising benefits
  • parental allowances
  • educational and training assistance in accordance with Book Three of the Social Code, the Federal Education Assistance Act or the Upgrading Training Assistance Act
  • public funds based on own contributions or granted in order to enable residence in Germany and
  • Grants of Advances for the Maintenance of Children

It makes no difference whether public funds are actually obtained; rather it is decisive whether the sponsor is eligible for public funds. The competent immigration office evaluates the individual determination of the needs and makes a predictive decision on the basis of existing income and account statements in consideration of the employment contract (duration, scope, e.g.).

Healthcare insurance:

If the sponsor is enrolled in a statutory health insurance fund, he is deemed to have sufficient health insurance coverage. As a general rule, family members are co-insured under the statutory health insurance of the sponsors living in Germany (family insurance). Children are categorically co-insured under the health insurance of their parents.

Exemptions

The requirements for secure subsistence and the provision of sufficient living space may be waived for certain groups of people:

In contrast, for the mentioned groups the requirements are to be waived, if

  • the application for issuance of a residence title which is required in connection with the subsequent immigration of dependants is filed within three months of final recognition as a person entitled to asylum or final granting of refugee status or subsidiary protection status or a residence permit within the meaning of § 23(4) German Residence Act (resettlement refugees) and
  • it is not possible for a sponsor and his or her dependants to live together as a family unit in a state which is not a Member State of the European Union and to which the sponsor or his or her dependants have special ties.

Additionally, specific requirements may also be waived if:

  • the sponsor in Germany was granted temporary protection in accordance with § 24(1) German Residence Act and
  • the family unit in the country of origin has been broken up as a result of the sponsor having fled said country and
  • the dependant is admitted from another Member State of the European Union or is located outside of the European Union and is in need of protection (§ 29 (4) German Residence Act).

Integration Measures before and/or after Admission

Language skills

Spouses and registered partners of third-country nationals living in Germany need to prove that they can communicate in German at least on a basic level before they enter the country. This provision aims to prevent forced marriages and to make the spouse’s integration in German society easier.

If the immigrants want to join nationals of certain countries (e.g., Australia, Japan, the United States) or family members who are permitted to reside in Germany on the grounds of certain residence titles (e.g., an EU long-term residence permit or an EU Blue Card), they are exempt from demonstrating German language skills.

As a rule, the family members must prove their basic knowledge of German at the German diplomatic mission abroad before they enter the country. If the applicant cannot prove his or her German knowledge, the visa application may be rejected, or its processing will be delayed until the applicant provides the necessary evidence.

The required knowledge and skills can generally be proven by obtaining a language certificate by a recognized institution (e.g. Goethe-Institute) which certifies that the applicant has German language skills at reference level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). To obtain an A1 language certificate from the Goethe-Institute, students will usually have to take 160 lessons for 45 minutes each, with the actual length of the course depending on their existing knowledge of German.

The diplomatic mission abroad may waive the requirement of formal evidence of the language skills if the applicant obviously demonstrates his or her knowledge of German when applying to the visa department.

Pursuant to § 30(1) German Residence Act, the age and language requirements are to be waived if the spouse or registered sponsored in Germany possesses:

  • a settlement permit for highly qualified third-country nationals
  • an EU Blue Card
  • a residence permit for research purposes or for the purpose of self-employment
  • the third-country national held a residence permit for research purposes immediately before a settlement permit or an EU long-term residence permit was issued, or
  • a residence permit for persons who possess the status of long-term residents in other Member States of the European Union and the marriage or civil partnership already existed in the member State of the European Union in which the third-country national has the status of a long-term resident.

Pursuant to § 30(1) German Residence Act, the language requirements are also to be waived if the family reunification shall take place with a third-country national in Germany who is:

Furthermore, this holds true if:

  • the spouse or registered partner is unable to provide evidence of a basic knowledge of German on account of a physical, mental or psychological illness
  • the spouse’s or registered partner’s need for integration is discernibly minimal within the meaning of a statutory instrument issued pursuant to § 43 (4) German Residence Act or the spouse or registered partner would, for other reasons, not be eligible for an integration course pursuant to § 44  German Residence Act after entering the federal territory
  • by virtue of his or her nationality, the third-country national may enter and stay in the federal territory without requiring a visa for a period of residence which does not constitute a short stay
  • the third-country national holds an EU Blue Card or
  • due to particular circumstances on a case-by-case basis of the joining spouse or registered partner, it is not possible or not reasonable to make efforts attempting to learn basic German (§ 30 (1) German Residence Act).

Ultimately, the language skills requirement may also be waived if the family reunification with a spouse or registered partner at once is a family reunification as a primary carer to a minor German child. In this case the statutory provisions for the family reunification with a child apply and no language skills need to be proven.

b. Civic integrations course

The regular procedure does not foresee attendance of integration or orientation course before entering Germany. After entering the country, migrants may be entitled or obliged to attend an integration course


Procedures

Application procedure at the Germany mission abroad

The family member or the spouse or registered partner who want to join their family in Germany file a visa application for family reunification with the German diplomatic mission abroad. Visas for family reunification are usually issued by the diplomatic mission (embassy or honorary consulate) of the Federal Republic of Germany to the country where the applicant ordinarily resides (e.g. lawful residence for at least six months).

However, the application may also be issued in another country. For example, since the German embassy had to close in Damascus for general public traffic, Syrians need to apply for family.

The sponsor in Germany may file a corresponding application with the foreigners authority, for example in order to comply with the three-month period after the recognition as asylum seeker, as refugee or as beneficiary of subsidiary protection or the granting of a residence permit as a resettlement refugee (§ 29(2) German Residence Act).

Apart from that, the foreigners’ authority at the sponsor’s place of residence shall check whether the requirements concerning the available living space, the secure subsistence and the healthcare insurance are met.

In the case of Syrian beneficiaries of protection the German foreigners’ authorities may grant preliminary approval of the application and send this to the responsible diplomatic mission abroad. This results in less work for the latter and reduces the processing period.

Verification procedure by the German mission abroad

During the visa procedure, applicants shall provide evidence of their identity, of the family relationship and of the marriage or registered partnership (see chapter Documentary evidence required from the applicant).

The German mission abroad also verifies whether or not the family member constitutes a threat to public policy, public security or public health by sending the data of the applicants to the Federal Office of Administration (BVA).

The Office can then follow the procedure of § 73(1) German Residence Act and send these data on to the Federal Intelligence Service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the Military Counterintelligence Service, the Federal Criminal Police Office, the German Customs Investigation Bureau in order to determine grounds for refusing a residence title pursuant to § 5 (4) German Residence Act or examine other grounds for concern, or it can use an automated procedure to compare them with the data stored in the anti-terrorism database established in 2011 (§ 1 (1) Act on the Anti-Terrorism Database) pursuant to § 72a German Residence Act.

The latter procedure is initiated if there are grounds to assume that the applicant is a member of a terrorist association, a group which supports such an association or a group which unlawfully uses force to assert international political or religious issues or supports, prepares or consciously incites to the use of such force, particularly by verbally promoting the use of such force (§ 72a (2) German Residence Act). In case of a database hit, the Federal Office of Administration will notify the relevant security authorities, which, in turn, notify the responsible diplomatic mission via the Federal Office of Administration if there are grounds to refuse a residence title (§ 72a (3) German Residence Act).

Verification procedure by the German immigration authority

The immigration authority at the place of residence of the sponsor must agree to the issuance of a visa to the family members and examine whether the requirements for exercising the right for family reunification are met.

Size of the accommodation: The foreigners authority can choose between different options to check whether sufficient living space is available:

  • evidence of sufficient living space for all current and future members of the household can be provided by a tenancy or purchase agreement which specifies the floor space of the apartment
  • evidence by providing the monthly expenses for the apartment
    • for rented apartments: monthly rent including expenses for heating (recent confirmation by the landlord or account statement)
    • for owned apartments: monthly expenses (interest and redemption payments for loans and monthly maintenance fees)

Conditions under which sponsors have access to healthcare insurance: Sufficient healthcare insurance coverage is deemed to exist if the foreigner is enrolled in a statutory health fund. In this case, no further examination is necessary. As a rule, family members are covered by the statutory healthcare insurance of the sponsor in Germany (family insurance). The healthcare insurance of their parents usually covers children.

The family’s subsistence must be secure in the long run. Therefore, the foreigners’ authority will have to gauge whether the foreigner’s subsistence is secure during the time of the intended stay. Even if the foreign sponsor does not touch basic or social security benefits at the time of the examination, the authority shall examine whether he or she is or would be entitled to such benefits once the family member joined him or her.

If the foreigner has signed a temporary employment contract, the circumstances of the individual case will be taken into account, including the fact whether – as it is the rule in certain economic sectors – it is likely that the foreigner will sign new employment contracts with the same or with another employer or whether there is a risk of unemployment once the contract runs out.

In general, subsistence should be secured by the third-country national him- or herself. In exceptional cases, a third person may guarantee the subsistence; however, this third-person will have to meet strict requirements concerning their ability to do so.

When family members join a gainfully employed third-country national in Germany, the individual needs of the sponsor and the needs of the family members joining him or her will be calculated. This calculation of the needs of the persons living as a unit will be based on the regular benefits as set out in the Second Book of the German Social Code (SGB II in conjunction with SGB XII) which shall cover particular food, clothes, hygiene products, furniture, energy supply excluding heating and hot water and everyday personal needs. Everyday personal needs include adequate participation in social and cultural life.

Regular benefits categories pursuant to § 28 of the SGB XII in euro (since January 1st 2019)

Regular Benefits pursuant to SGB XII from 1st Jan. 2016 Amount in €

Regular Benefits Category 1:

  • One adult who is entitled to benefits
  • and has their own household as a single adult or single parent
€ 424

Regular Benefits Category 2:

  • For each of two adults who are entitled to benefits and
  • have a joint household as spouses or registered partners or live together in a marriage like partnership
€ 382

Regular Benefits Category 3:

One adult who is entitled to benefits and has neither

  • their own household
  • nor lives together with their spouse, registered partner or similar partnership in a shared household.
€ 339

Regular Benefits Category 4:

  • One youth who is entitled to benefits
  • and aged between 14 and 18
€ 322

Regular Benefits Category 5:

  • One child who is entitled to benefits
  • and aged between 6 and 14
€ 302

Regular Benefits Category 6:

  • One child who is entitled to benefits
  • and aged up to 6
€ 245

Documentary Evidence Required from the Applicant by the German Mission Abroad

Residence Permit for Family Reunion (Duration of Stay Longer than 3 Months)

Documents Required:

1. General Requirements:

  • Passport
  • 2 Completed and signed application forms
  • 2 completed and signed explanation forms in German or English
  • 3 recent biometric passport photographs

2. Proof concerning the purpose of travel:

  • A valid marriage certificate,
  • Proof of language skills (German A1 certificate)
  • For purpose of reunification with German spouse: a copy of German partner’s German passport and identity card
  • For purpose of reunification with non-German spouse: proof of legal residence and passport of spouse living in Germany
  • For purpose of reunification with German child: birth certificate of the child, proof of the child’s nationality and if necessary proof of the right of care and custody
  • For purpose of reunification with parents: birth certificates of the children

All documents must be valid and be in either German or English (through official translations if required)

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