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Family reunification in Germany

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Family reunification (Familienzusammenführung) is one of the most popular grounds for immigration to Germany. The main condition for a permanent residence permit by family reunification in Germany is to have a relative or a spouse/registered partner residing in the country. A family member must be a German citizen or a holder of a residence permit in Germany or an EU Blue Card.

However, a relative residing in Germany does not imply sufficient grounds to be lawfully admitted in Germany on a family reunification residence permit. An eligible applicant must meet some other conditions: prove German language proficiency, secure livelihood, and a living space of sufficient size. Even when all the requirements are met, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge or BAMF) will still have the final decision on whether or not to issue a visa.

To be eligible for a residence permit by family reunification in Germany, an applicant must be:

  • A spouse or a registered partner of a German resident. The right to extend a residence permit is retained as long as the family/partnership remains registered.
  • Unmarried underage child/children of a German resident. A child sixteen years of age or older must prove knowledge of the German language and the ability to integrate into German society.
  • Parents of an underage child residing in Germany.
  • Other family members of a foreigner. However, they may apply for a residence permit only in some exceptional cases, for example, to provide care to a disabled relative. 

Obtaining a visa for family reunification in Germany

An applicant seeking to reunify with their family member in Germany must first obtain a national D visa. A national D visa is a long-term visa that allows its holders to live in the country for 90 days of six months and is to be further converted into a family residence permit.

A foreigner applying for a national family reunification visa must submit a set of documents to a consulate of Germany in the country of residence. Consular officers will forward the documents to BAMF.

BAMF will review the documents assessing whether or not the hosting person has sufficient conditions to accommodate and sustain the family and will send their opinion to the German consulate abroad. Drawing on the opinion received from BAMF, the consulate takes a decision on whether or not to issue a visa.

The hosting person must cover all the living expenses of the family members and provide housing of an acceptable size. The applicant must prove they have knowledge of German language. 

Requirements for a family reunification visa:

  • To prove knowledge of the German language at the required level. To provide a language proficiency certificate and speak German with the consular officers when filing the documents.
  • To prove sufficient livelihood of the hosting party. A resident of Germany must cover the living expenses of family members and prove such an ability. There is no single income limit. Besides the finance to cover the overall living expenses, the hosting party must additionally earn at least €500 per one family member a month.
  • To prove housing of the sufficient size. One family member is to have a living space of at least 12–15 sq.m.
  • To prove a legitimate and genuine marriage/partnership. BAMF carries out checks of the reunified couples in Germany in order to prevent misuse of family reunification. If a marriage/partnership proves to be sham/of convenience, a visa will be cancelled. 

Documents for a national visa in Germany

  • Two applications for a national visa (Antrag auf Erteilung eines nationalen Visums) in German,
  • Two signed personal declarations acknowledging the possibility of and the reasons for expulsion from the country and the implications of providing false information,
  • Three 35 х 45 mm photographs two of which must be affixed to the application (Antrag),
  • A foreign passport and two copies of the pages containing personal data,
  • A home country national passport and copies of all the pages containing personal data and records about the registered address and marital status,
  • Two copies of the host party’s passport or residence permit in Germany,
  • Two copies of the German citizen or residence permit holder’s proof of residence (Meldebescheinigung) in Germany (not older than six months),
  • An invitation from a family member in Germany written in any format with a personal declaration that all the family members will be residing together and the hosting family member will be covering all their living expenses,
  • Documentary proof of German language knowledge proficiency in the original and two copies (the required level of language proficiency is specific for each category of family reunification),
  • Health insurance certificate.

These are the general documents required for an application. However, additional documents may be required in some cases. Provision of an incomplete set of documents may be the grounds for a refusal.

Any documents proving marital status issued outside of Germany must be apostilled. The apostille is to be attached to the original document.

The documents in a foreign language must be translated into German by a translator accredited by the embassy. The apostille must be also translated, whereas it is not required to have the passports and insurance documents translated. The applicant must submit the originals and translations with at least two copies.

Visa for marriage

Germany issues a fiancé(e) visa for a fiancé(e) that intends to marry a German citizen or a residence permit holder. This visa allows its holders to get married and further live together. After the marriage/partnership is registered, the foreign spouse/partner may apply for a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for family reunification.

The German consulate notes that obtaining a visa is the last step before entering Germany to register a marriage. Marriage is registered following an application to the competent German civil registry office (Standesamt), passing an interview with the administration and obtaining a certificate of the projected marriage registration. The day of the wedding must be fixed when the visa is issued.

Additional documents for a marriage visa:

  • Certificate from the Standesamt in the original and two copies proving there are prerequisites for marriage registration or submission of a marriage application registration,
  • Certificate from the home country national civil registry office proving the possibility to get married under home country law,
  • Certificate of divorce or spouse/partner death or any documentary proof of terminated previous marriages, if any,
  • Language certificate proving at least an A1 level of German language proficiency. 

Visa to reunify with a spouse/partner

Once the marriage/partnership is registered, a spouse/partner of a German resident may apply for a visa to reunify with the German spouse/partner.

Additional documents for a reunification visa with a spouse/partner:

  • Marriage certificate in the original and two copies. If a marriage is registered outside of Germany, the certificate must be translated into German,
  • Certificate of divorce or spouse/partner death or any documentary proof of terminated previous marriages, if any,
  • If the spouses/partners move together, a lease contract, property title, or another proof of future address,
  • Language certificate proving at least an A1 level of German language proficiency.

Visa to reunify with an underage child

Documents for a visa to reunify with a child are to be submitted by the parents. Both parents must sign by hand an application for a visa. A parent that cannot put a signature by hand must give an express written consent that a child may obtain a visa.

Additional documents for family reunification with an underage child:

  • Birth certificate specifying mother’s/father’s name translated into German, and two copies,
  • For children of 14+ years of age, national passport in the original and two copies,
  • For a parent with a sole legal custody with whom a child is to reunify, a court award depriving the other parent of child custody, with a translation and two copies,
  • If a child is to reunify with only one parent, the other parent’s notarised consent to departure for permanent residence abroad, with a translation and two copies, and a copy of the national passport,
  • If a child has reached 16 years of age, a certificate proving a C1 level of German language proficiency or the documentary proof of the ability to integrate into the German society due to the completed education and current living conditions.

Visa to reunify with parents

The parents of a German citizen or residence permit holder may also obtain a family reunification visa. However, the family will have to prove the exceptional need to obtain a visa in this case. Such reason is usually connected with medical treatment and care.

Additional documents for reunification with parents:

  • Birth certificate or another documentary proof of relation,
  • Other civil status documents proving a changed name, adoption, court awards etc.,
  • A letter in a free format with details of the compelling circumstances for the parents to move to Germany,
  • Documentary proof of the circumstances specified in the letter: medical certificates, social care certificates, documents from an assisted living facility etc., with two transactions and two copies.

The parents will get the right to family reunification only if this will help to overcome difficult circumstances, meaning that the lifesaving assistance can be received only in Germany and is not available in the home country.

A visa is granted to reunify with a family member in case of a serious health condition, severe mental disorder, special care requirements. The applicant may be required to undergo a medical check by the doctor appointed by the consular office.

Visa for family reunification for refugees

Refugees and individuals that are granted asylum in Germany are also entitled to family reunification. However, this right may be exercised only within three months after the respective refugee status or asylum is granted.

A spouse/partner and underage children of a refugee may move to Germany and will be subject to simplified requirements unlike in the general immigration procedure: there is no German language proficiency requirement and it is not required to prove the income required to sustain the family and the sufficient living space in Germany.

A quota for a refugee family reunification has been applied since 1 August 2018: visas are granted to no more than 1,000 people a month.

Refugee family reunification may be refused if the applicant was sentenced to 1+ year imprisonment or was convicted of bodily harm or murder. A spouse/partner will be denied a visa if the marriage has not been registered upon departure of the refugee from the country.

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