Alternative Visa Routes For Family Members Of Refugees

Published date25 October 2021
Law FirmRichmond Chambers Immigration Barristers
AuthorMs Zarina Rahman

A previous article explained the rules and process for refugee family reunion. This article explores other options for family reunification that may be available to family members of refugees or people granted humanitarian protection, who are not eligible for refugee family reunion.

Who falls outside the scope of refugee family reunion?

The rules on refugee family reunion only include pre-flight spouses/civil partners and children under the age of 18.

This means that any relationships that arose after the refugee fled from their country of origin ('post-flight') are outside the scope.

Child refugees are unable to sponsor parents or siblings to join them in the UK. This has been criticised as being at odds with the UK's legal obligations under national and international law.

Extended relatives such as siblings, parents, grandparents and wider family members are also not eligible for refugee family reunion.

Other family reunification routes under the Immigration Rules

'Post-flight' partners and children

A refugee may sponsor their spouse, civil partner or fiance for entry clearance pursuant to Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules. They will need to meet more stringent eligibility criteria which include a financial requirement and English language requirement. The application fee is significant and the Immigration Health Surcharge is also payable. Dependent children can apply for entry clearance at the same time.

Parents, grandparents, siblings and adult children

Some extended relatives may be eligible for entry clearance as an adult dependent relative.

These applications are very complex and the person must require long-term personal care to perform everyday tasks as a result of their age, illness or disability; which they cannot obtain in the country they are living.

Child relatives

Paragraph 319X of the Immigration Rules allows children to join a refugee who is related to them (but not their parent) where there are compelling considerations which mean they should be permitted to enter the UK and suitable arrangements have been made for the child's care.

The UK sponsor will need to show that the child can be adequately maintained and accommodated by them without recourse to public funds.

Evidence will need to be provided to show that the circumstances are sufficiently compelling.

This could apply, for example, if a refugee has a niece or nephew living in a country where they have no remaining relatives and there is a civil war taking place.


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