Family reunification is a recognized reason for immigration in many
countries because of the presence of one or more family members in a
certain country, therefore, enables the rest of the divided family or
only specific members of the family to immigrate to that country as
Family reunification laws try to balance the right of a family to live
together with the country's right to control immigration. However, how
this balance looks like, e.g. which members of the family can be
reunited, differs largely between countries.
A sub-case of family reunification is marriage migration, where one
spouse immigrates to the country of the other spouse. Marriage
migration can take place before marriage, in which case it falls under
its own special category, or it can take place after marriage, in
which case it falls under family reunification laws. Some countries
allow family reunification for unmarried partners, provided they can
prove an ongoing intimate relationship that also lasted longer than a
certain period of time.
In recent years, there have been several cases of minors sent out on
hazardous journeys in order to apply for political asylum status
which, once granted, would enable the rest of the family to join them.
However, in some countries only over 18 years old can apply for family
reunification and it is only possible to be reunited with child
dependants under 16 or partners, and not for parents or siblings.
1 In Europe
2 In Canada
3 In the United States
Immigration of parents
3.2 Political Opposition to Family Reunification
4 See also
6 External links
A major part of immigrants to
Europe do so through family
reunification laws. Many countries in
Europe have passed laws in
recent years to limit people's ability to do so.
Denmark – In the case of marriage, Danish law requires both spouses
to be at least 23 1/2 years old. This is known as the 24 year rule.
Additionally, the couple's connection to
Denmark must be stronger than
to the country of origin (meaning in practice that the spouse in
Denmark must have resided there for 12 years), unless one spouse
has lived in
Denmark for more than 26 years or been a Danish citizens
over 26 years (this exemption was recently suspended by a court
ruling). The non-Danish spouse is required to pass the Danish A1
language exam within 6 months of receiving their residence visa. A
collateral of 52.490,12 DKK is submitted by the Danish-spouse to
support the non-Danish spouse during their residence, up to 60% of
this collateral is returned on successful completion of subsequent
Danish language tests (A1 and A2).
Netherlands – In case of marriage, Dutch law requires the Dutch
spouse to be at least 21 years old, and to earn a salary of at least
120% the minimum wage. The non-Dutch spouse is required to pass
integration exams at the Dutch embassy in their home country, showing
a basic mastery of Dutch. Where a law case would take years and
thousands of euros, the EU-rules of free movement give right to family
life immediately without costs more than that of an identity card.
Therefore, some Dutch people move to Belgium or
Germany for at least
six months, in order to be governed by the EU family unification rules
instead of the Dutch family unification rules. This has become known
as the "Belgian Route" or "EU Route".
Germany – Since 2007, law requires each spouse to be at least 18
years old. The spouse living in
Germany may not be dependent on social
benefits and must possess adequate living space. The immigrating
spouse needs to prove basic spoken and written knowledge of German
language. The law applies to German and foreign citizens.
Norway – The sponsor must have an income of at least
NOK 251,856 (US$37,000) pre-tax during 2014 and have earned at
least NOK 246,136 in 2013 pre-tax. The reference person cannot
have received social security benefits during the last 12 months. The
income requirement must be proven to the Norwegian Directorate of
Immigration every year.
UK – The
Immigration Rules, under the
Immigration Act 1971, were
updated in 2012 to create a strict minimum income threshold for non-EU
spouses and children to be given leave to remain in the UK. Since
2012, the applicant must meet the financial requirement of £18,600
per year if they’re applying only for themselves, £22,400 per year
for themselves and one child, and £2,400 per year for each additional
child. These rules were challenged in the courts, and in 2017 the
Supreme Court found that while "the minimum income threshold is
accepted in principle" they decided that the rules and guidance were
defective and unlawful until amended to give more weight to the
interests of the children involved, and that sources of funding other
than the British spouse's income should be considered.
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and associated
Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada aged
at least 18 is allowed, subject to certain conditions, to sponsor
specific members of their immediate family for permanent residence in
The eligible persons are the sponsor's spouse, common-law partner, or
conjugal partner aged 16 and over, parents and grandparents, a
dependent child of the sponsor, a child whom the sponsor intends to
adopt, and orphaned brothers, sisters, nieces, or grandchildren under
the age of 18 and who are not married or living in a common-law
relationship. As an exception to the rules, if there are no eligible
persons from the preceding list who may be sponsored and the sponsor
has no relatives in Canada, the 'last-remaining family member' may be
sponsored, but applications of this type are rare.
In the United States
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Immigration to the United States and History of laws
concerning immigration and naturalization in the United States
Family reunification is the most common legal basis for immigration to
the United States, and it is governed by the terms of the Immigration
and Nationality Act, as amended. Historically, the emphasis on
family reunification in American immigration law began in that 1965
act by allotting 74% of all new immigrants allowed into the United
States to family reunification visas. Those included, in descending
preference, unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens (20%), spouses
and unmarried children of permanent resident aliens (20%), married
children of U.S. citizens (10%), and brothers and sisters of U.S.
citizens over age 21 (24%). Since 2016, advocates of more
restrictive immigration laws have often criticized family
reunification as Chain migration, however, scholars typically use that
term for the broader process by which people from particular towns or
regions follow each other to new cities and occupations.
Citizens and permanent residents of the United States may sponsor
relatives for immigration to the United States in a variety of ways.
Citizens of any age may sponsor their spouses and their children, but
only citizens who have reached the age of 21 may sponsor siblings and
parents. (The Supreme Court decision
United States v. Windsor
United States v. Windsor ruled in
2013 that same-sex spouses must be treated the same as opposite-sex
spouses.) Permanent residents may only sponsor spouses and unmarried
children. In all cases, the sponsor must demonstrate the capacity to
support their relative financially at 125% of the poverty level, and
provide proof of the relationship. Immediate relatives of United
States citizens (spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21
years of age) are automatically eligible to immigrate upon approval of
their application. All other people eligible to immigrate through a
family member must wait for a place; a preference system governs the
order at which these places become available. Citizens may only
sponsor siblings, spouses, parents, and children. They cannot sponsor
aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, grandparents, or
grandchildren, though in some cases such relations may enjoy
On December 23, 2017, James Robart, a Senior US District Judge,
granted a nationwide injunction that blocks the administration’s
restrictions on the process of reuniting refugee families and has
partially lifted a ban on refugees from 11 mostly Muslim
Immigration of parents
Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United
States Constitution, All persons born or naturalized in the United
States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the
United States and of the State wherein they reside.
Under existing law, parents of United States citizens may be sponsored
for immigration by their adult citizen children (those at least 21
years of age) under certain conditions. The child must demonstrate
the financial ability to provide for the parents. In addition to
this under current law and USCS policy individuals who entered
illegally (EWI or Entry without Inspection) may not adjust in the
country. However, leaving the United States triggers a ban on entering
the U.S. If the parent was present in the U.S. for only between
180–364 days, the parent will receive a three-year ban. However, as
is more common if the parent was present for 365 days or more, the
parent will receive a ten-year ban on entering the United States.
Unless the parent is willing to live out the ban outside the country,
the parent may not regularize their status through the child. Parents
who enter legally will not have to leave the U.S. to adjust their
status unless they entered on K visas or entered on J visas and did
not obtain a waiver for the foreign-stay period.
Having U.S.-citizen minor children is beneficial in deportation
proceedings when there is "extreme and profound hardship on the child"
for the parent to be deported. The number of such hardship waivers is
capped at 5000 per year. Federal appellate courts have upheld the
refusal by the
Immigration and Naturalization Service to stay the
deportation of illegal immigrants merely on the grounds that they have
U.S.-citizen, minor children.
There are some 3.1 million United-States-citizen children with at
least one illegal immigrant parent as of 2005. At least 13,000
American children had one or both parents deported in the years
Political Opposition to Family Reunification
Opponents of the current United States family reunification policy
(who generally refer to the policy by the term, "chain migration")
argue that the Hart-Celler Act's emphasis on family reunification
resulted in the dramatic increase in migration in general.
FAIR, the Federation for American
Immigration Reform, a conservative
think tank, promotes the idea that "chain migration--and the
expectations and long lines it produces--increases illegal
immigration." Additionally FAIR argues that "illegal aliens given
amnesty by Congress in 1986 are now fueling naturalization in record
numbers. As these former illegal aliens become citizens, all of their
immediate relatives qualify to come immediately to the United States,
and start new migration chains of their own." It is inaccurate,
however, to suggest that relatives of new citizens "immediately"
qualify for immigration to the United States, because strict
restrictions on the numbers of family reunification visas mean that
the average wait time for such qualification is in fact 18 to 23
NumbersUSA, a group that lobbies Congress for lower levels of
immigration, says that family reunification (which they refer to as
"chain migration") is a main cause for creating incentives for illegal
NumbersUSA, FAIR, and other groups lobby to change immigration law to
place limits on the US family reunification policy.
NumbersUSA cites a
specific bill it supports. “On Feb. 4, 2009, Rep. Phil Gingrey
(R-GA) introduced the Nuclear Family Priority Act (H.R. 878). The bill
would eliminate the extended family visa categories (e.g., married
sons and daughters of citizens, etc.), thus ending 'chain migration'
as recommended by the bi-partisan Barbara Jordan Commission in
^ "The Danish spouse's attachment to Denmark". newtodenmark.dk. Danish
Immigration Service. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
^ "Change in the attachment requirement in family reunification
cases". newtodenmark.dk. Danish
Immigration Service. Retrieved 21
^ België vindt Nederlands vreemdelingenbeleid te streng ;
Bonjour, Saskia; de Hart, Betty (2013). "A proper wife, a proper
marriage. Constructions of us and them in Dutch family migration
policy". European Journal of Women's Studies.
^  Block & Bonjour 2013 'Fortress
Europe of Rights.
The Europeanisation of Family migration policies in France, Germany
and the Netherlands' in European Journal of Migration and Law
^ Travis, Alan (22 February 2017). "Supreme court backs minimum income
rule for non-European spouses". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 February
^ The impact on children of the Family Migration Rules (PDF) (Report).
Children's Commissioner for England. August 2015. Retrieved 22
Immigration and Nationality Act Archived 21 August 2008 at the
Wayback Machine., as retrieved from the United States Citizenship and
Immigration Services website.
^ Tichenor, Daniel J. (2002). Dividing Lines: The Politics of
Immigration Control in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press. p. 216.
^ a b "
Immigration through a Family Member". United States Citizenship
Immigration Services. Archived from the original on 16 July 2008.
Retrieved 19 August 2008.
^ washingtonpost.com: Judge’s partial lifting of Trump ban gives
^ Bring my parents to live in the US
^ Stock, Margaret; Eastman, John (2 May 2006). "Five Questions on
Immigration Reform". Federalist Society. Archived from the original on
17 August 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2008.
^ Lee, Margaret Mikyung (12 May 2006). U.S. Citizenship of Persons
Born in the United States to Alien Parents (PDF) (Report).
Congressional Research Service Report for Congress. pp. 10, 17.
Retrieved 16 August 2008.
^ Preston, Julia (17 November 2007). "
Immigration Quandary: A Mother
Torn From Her Baby". New York Times. Retrieved 20 August 2008.
Passel, Jeffrey (7 March 2006). "The Size and Characteristics of the
Unauthorized Migrant Population in the US" (PDF). Pew Hispanic Center.
Retrieved 20 August 2008.
^ Home Federation for American
Immigration Reform. Fairus.org.
Retrieved on 2013-07-22.
^ Lind, Dara (29 December 2017). "What 'Chain Migration' Really
Means". vox.com. Vox. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
^ a b Chain Migration. numbersusa.com
Council Directive 2003/86/EC of 22 September 2003 on the right to
Family Classes –
Immigration and Refugee Protection