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Family Reunion – a guide

19 November 2019 James Ritchie Refugees

Those granted refugee or humanitarian protection status in the UK may be eligible to reunite with their husbands or wives here in the UK through a process known as ‘family reunion’.

This blog deals with the basics of how to prepare an application and the lesser known costs associated with applying. These costs may differ wildly depending on which country you are applying from. As such, this guide follows a broad application process and, where specifics are necessary, uses Gambia as an example.

 

Eligibility

An eligible sponsor is a person who is lawfully resident in the UK, has not yet obtained British citizenship, and has been granted either refugee status or humanitarian protection status.

 

Documentary evidence

You must supply a valid passport or travel document for your application to be valid. Depending on which country you are applying from, you may also have to supply a recent certificate confirming you do not have tuberculosis (“TB”), this is discussed later in the blog.  Other than these two items, there is no hard and fast list of evidence specified on family reunion in the Immigration Rules.

The onus, therefore, is on the sponsor to submit evidence which supports their relationship to the applicant. The standard of proof for this application is the balance of probabilities. This means that a decision-maker must be satisfied that it is more likely than not that the applicant is related to the sponsor as claimed. Evidence may include:

  • Marriage certificates;
  • Documents relating to accommodation or joint purchases;
  • Birth certificates;
  • Family photographs;
  • Communication records such as emails or letters; and
  • DNA evidence.

All evidence must include an official English translation as well as the original language version.

 

The cost

The Home Office does not charge an application fee or immigration health surcharge for family reunion. Whilst this appears to be a totally free application (which is unusual for the Home Office), there may be additional costs along the way that you need to be prepared for.

 

Additional costs

The tuberculosis test:

If you intend on entering the UK for more than 6 months, you may have to demonstrate you do not have tuberculosis (‘TB’). You can find out whether you are required to provide a TB test certificate by looking for your country on the government list in this link.

If your country is on the list, you must attend a government approved clinic and obtain a certificate. A TB clearance certificate is only valid for 6 months.  Some of the more prominent countries on the list are Congo, Iran, Iraq, and Vietnam.

Each country is different and there is a noticeable dissonance between each on TB test fees and where one can be tested. For example in Gambia, the test costs $110 for adults and $50 for children, and can only be carried out in their capital. In Armenia, the cost is not advertised. In North Korea, the test costs 550¥ (£60) for both adults and children, and can only be carried out in Beijing, China.

 

Providing evidence:

After submission, you must provide your documents to the Home Office’s commercial partner. The commercial partner is an organisation paid by the Home Office to manage the submission of visa applications outside the UK, this will either be VFS Global or TLSContact. The commercial partner you are directed to will depend on the country you are making the application in. A full list of all countries and the operating commercial partner can be found on our factsheet. You can provide your supporting documents by:

  • uploading copies of your documents yourself through the commercial partners website, free of charge;
  • taking your documents to your appointment where the commercial partner will scan them for you, for a fee; or
  • if your sponsor needs to submit evidence to support your application, they have the option to use an additional scanning service in the UK, for a fee.

In Gambia, if you cannot upload their own documents, you can expect to pay £20 per applicant for an Assisted Scanning Service. 

Details of this service can be found here for TLS Contact and here for VFS Global. Please note that the commercial partner price lists vary from country to country, the links provided are for Gambia and Pakistan respectively and do not reflect world-wide prices.

 

The appointment:

Getting an ideal date and time for your appointment will not always be simple. Opening hours of each application centre fluctuate between countries.  For example in Gambia, an applicant may only attend between 08:00-14:30 on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday. Therefore if an applicant cannot attend during these hours, they must pay for a Prime Time Appointment. The cost for this service per applicant is £88.13.

 

As you can see, although the application is supposedly free, the costs can still rack up. Take, for example, a Gambian refugee looking to reunite with her three children. She may require help uploading documents and cannot get an appointment during opening hours, she may be struck by what price the till reads:

  • 3x child TB tests, $150 (£118)
  • 3x Assisted Scanning Service, £60
  • 3x Prime Time Appointment, £264.39

Total: £442.39

Assuming you meet the generous eligibility requirements of family reunion, you should be aware that this is only the first step on an otherwise tricky application process which is most maddening where it is least legal.

If you would like more information on the immigration rules surrounding family reunion and legal advice tailored to your situation, we offer consultations and a full application service to provide advice and assistance on the best course of action to take to secure your position the UK. Please fill out our online enquiry form to get in touch.

 

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