When a person decides to relocate to a new country, it always means leaving loved ones behind, and in many cases, it also means joining other loved ones in the country. In the case of Ireland, there are various scenarios that determine the rights and entitlements for both the person already in Ireland and the family member hoping to join them. The individuals’ circumstances play a significant role in shaping the rights and entitlements for family reunification in Ireland. It also depends on factors such as immigration status and nationality. This process is particularly relevant for partners, children, parents, or siblings who wish to join their family members already living in the country. Since the process can be complex, despite seeming easy, understanding the relevant laws and seeking guidance is crucial to navigating this process successfully. This guide will focus on different nationalities across Ireland and how the family reunification laws apply to them. We will also add anything else that you ought to know on the subject, so keep reading to learn more:
Family reunification for Irish citizens
Regarding Irish citizens, family reunification follows a decision-making process outlined in the Non-EEA Policy Document on Family Reunification. Suppose your family member is not currently in Ireland. In that case, they can apply for family reunification through a ‘D Visa’ application from their home country or the country where they currently reside. This visa allows them to join you in Ireland for family reasons. On the other hand, if your family member is already in Ireland, the application for family reunification is made directly to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS). The application is categorized based on the nature of the family relationship, such as spouse, child, parent, or other relevant family ties.
So, what does one need to qualify? One of the major considerations for those seeking to reunite with their family members in Ireland is the financial circumstances for both the sponsor and the type of family seeking to reside in the country. Irish citizens applying for family reunification for spouses or children must have earned at least 40,000 euros over the previous three years combined before applying and should not have relied on state benefits for two years before the application. As for elderly dependent parents, Irish citizens must have earned 60,000 euros for one parent or 75,000 euros for both parents after tax for each of the past three years. In addition, detailed documentary evidence of the relationship history and dependency must be provided as part of the application process.
The application process
For Irish citizens seeking family reunification, the application process is pretty simple. For starters, applications through the ‘D Visa’, process in Ireland are conducted online via the INIS website, and the completed applications are then submitted to the local embassy or consulate where the family member resides. Applicants must ensure that all necessary original and supporting documents are sent within 30 days of the application submission to avoid delays or complications.
The processing times for ‘D Visa’ applications can vary based on the specific circumstances and the nature of the application. Once a decision is made, visa outcomes are typically published on the INIS website every Tuesday morning. In cases where the ‘D Visa’ application is denied, applicants have the right to receive a written explanation detailing the reasons for the refusal. This provides an opportunity to understand the grounds for the rejection and assess the possibility of appealing the decision. The appeal process allows applicants to challenge the refusal within two months of receiving the refusal letter.
The family member is granted permission to enter Ireland and join their Irish citizen family if approved. After arriving in the country, the family member needs to schedule an appointment through the INIS website if they live in Dublin or coordinate with their local Immigration Officer if they reside outside Dublin. During this appointment, they will register their permission to remain in Ireland, formalizing their status as a family member of an Irish citizen. In addition to the ‘D Visa’ process, family members of Irish citizens can apply for permission to remain within the State without leaving the country. This applies to Irish citizens’ spouses, parents, and de facto partners. The application involves completing the necessary forms on the INIS website and adhering to the guidelines specified in the Non-EEA Policy Document on Family Reunification. After submitting the application, the Minister for Justice& Equality evaluates the case and, if successful, grants permission to remain.
Family reunification for EU citizens
As the EU seeks to foster and maintain a sense of unity and cooperation among its member states, it has facilitated the free movement of its citizens within the region. This means that EU citizens who have relocated to Ireland and are exercising their free movement rights have a legitimate entitlement to seek permission for their family members to accompany them and reside in Ireland. The right of free movement by EU citizens in the country encompasses various activities such as employment, self-employment, vocational studies, or self-sufficiency.
With that said, what do the family members of these EU citizens need to qualify? So, the family members are divided into two main categories; qualifying and permitted.
- Qualifying family members – These individuals include immediate family members with a direct relationship with the EU sponsor. They are generally given more favorable treatment regarding visa and residency applications. We are referring to individuals like;
- Spouse/Civil Partner: The legally married or civil partner of the EU citizen.
- Children/Grandchildren: This includes minor and adult children and grandchildren of the EU citizen. Minor children are generally those under the age of 21 or still dependent on this individual.
- Parents/Grandparents: The parents and grandparents of the EU citizen, provided that he or she is financially supporting them.
- Permitted family members – The family members consist of individuals who have a close relationship with the EU sponsor but may not fall into the qualifying family member category. They still have the right to apply for a visa and join them in the host country. These persons can include the following;
- De Facto Partners: This refers to partners who are not married legally or in a civil partnership but have been living together in a durable and genuine relationship akin to marriage for a significant period.
- Dependent Family Members: These are family members dependent on the EU citizen due to specific circumstances, such as physical or mental disability or financial dependency.
- Members of the sponsor’s Household: Other family members living in the same household as the EU citizen but not falling under the other qualifying or permitted categories.
- Dependent Family Members on Medical Grounds: Family members who require the personal care of the sponsor due to severe health reasons.
The application process
When it comes to the application process, there are a couple of things that you may want to keep in mind. They include:
- Application for Residence Card – once the family member of an EU citizen is in the country, they can apply for a residence card through the EU Treaty Rights Section of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service. This residence card acts as official documentation of their right to reside in Ireland as a family member of an EU sponsor exercising their free movement rights.
- Qualifying Family Members (EUTR1 Form) – Qualifying family members are required to complete the EUTR1 form as part of their application for a residence card.
- Permitted Family Members (EU1A Form) – permitted family members, including de facto partners, dependent family members, and members of the EU citizen household, will also need to complete the EU1A form for their card application.
- Supporting documentation – In addition to the relevant application form (EUTR1 or EU1A), each application for a residence card requires one to provide supporting documentation to prove the family relationship or dependency and to demonstrate that the EU national is exercising their free movement rights in the State. The specific documents required may vary, but generally, they could include:
- Passport or national identity card of the EU citizen
- Proof of the family relationship, such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, or other legally recognized documents.
- Financial documents, if necessary, to demonstrate that the sponsor has sufficient means to support the family member during their stay.
- Evidence of the EU/EEA/Swiss citizen exercising free movement rights in Ireland is required to support the visa application for a family member. This can be demonstrated by proving the EU/EEA/Swiss citizen’s current residence in the State or a declaration confirming their intention to exercise those rights upon the family member’s arrival in Ireland. This information allows the visa officer to verify that the applicant’s family member will reside with the sponsor in Ireland.
If the documents you submit are not in English, they must be accompanied by a full translation containing the confirmation from the translator, the translation date, the translator’s name, and signature, as well as their contact details.
How long will it take?
The process of obtaining a residence card encounters notable delays regularly, which leads to processing times extending beyond the standard six-month period to even ten months. As a solution, the Minister for Justice& Equality has the authority to issue temporary Stamp 4 residence permission to family members awaiting the outcome of their residence card application. This temporary permission allows the family member to legally reside in the country while their application is being processed. In the event that the application for a residence card is successful, the Minister will issue a letter granting the applicant a residence card, known as Stamp 4EUFAM. This card is valid for up to five years, giving the family member legal and long-term residency status. Moreover, holding a residence card (Stamp 4EUFAM) comes with the added advantage of visa-free travel between European Union member states, allowing the cardholder to move freely within the EU when accompanied by their EU citizen family member. This privilege facilitates easy travel and mobility within the European Union for family members of EU citizens.
What happens when something goes wrong?
Not every time things will go according to plan! The host citizen may decide to leave Ireland, divorce may occur, or domestic abuse in the household may occur! So, what is the family member supposed to do, and will their residence status in the country be affected? In many cases, family members of EU citizens have the opportunity to retain their right of residence even under challenging situations. If the sponsor passes away, the family member may be eligible to continue residing in the country by applying for retention of a residence card. Similarly, if the EU citizen departs from the country, the family member can also retain their right of residence through the EU5 residence card application process.
Furthermore, in cases where the EU citizen sponsor obtains a divorce or annulment, the family member may still be allowed to retain their residence rights, acknowledging the importance of family unity despite the change in marital status. Lastly, in domestic abuse cases, the family member can decide to leave the household, and their residence status will still not be affected. In fact, one can go further and seek protection from the abuser with the relevant authorities. To avail themselves of these provisions, family members would need to apply for the EU5 residence card, which serves as evidence of their continued right to reside in the country even in the absence of the EU citizen sponsor. These measures aim to safeguard the well-being and rights of family members while in the country, which is a right extended to every Irish citizen.
Family reunification for UK nationals
Specific arrangements have been established for UK citizens who come to Ireland after December 31, 2020, and want to bring their non-EEA family members. To apply for this family reunification, a visa or preclearance must be obtained, depending on the visa requirements for citizens of your country of origin.
Before applying, you must already have a sponsor living in Ireland. This person must meet these criteria;
- Must be a UK citizen living or intending to live in Ireland.
- Must have the financial ability to support the family member financially.
- Should not have mainly relied on social welfare payments in the two years before the application.
- Gross earnings (before tax and deductions) must be above the Working Family Payment rates for the family’s size in the last three years.
- If the applicant is the spouse or partner of the sponsor, the sponsor cannot have previously sponsored anyone else for residence in Ireland within the past seven years.
- The conduct of the sponsor in Ireland, including any criminal record, can also be considered by the Immigration Service Delivery (ISD).
Who can apply?
There are three categories of applicants based on the relationship with the UK citizen sponsor:
- Category 1: Spouses, civil partners, and de facto partners (couples living together in a marriage-like relationship without being formally married).
- Category 2: Dependent children, including children of the sponsor or the sponsor’s spouse, civil partner, or de facto partner.
- Category 3: Dependent parents who are 66 years old or older, including parents of the sponsor or the sponsor’s spouse, civil partner, or de facto partner.
The application process
To apply for family reunification with a UK citizen sponsor in Ireland, applicants need to:
- Apply for a visa if required or preclearance if not required.
- Pay a fee of €60.
- Submit the application along with supporting documents.
If the application is approved, the applicant will receive a preclearance letter of approval (if not visa-required) or a ‘D’ long stay visa in their passport, granting permission to enter Ireland. Upon arrival in Ireland, the applicant must register with immigration and obtain an Irish Residence Permit (IRP) to formalize their legal residence status.
Family reunification for non-Irish and non-EU nationals
Regarding non-Irish/EU nationals in Ireland, the right to family reunification becomes a more complex legal matter contingent upon the individual’s legal residence status in the State. The specific rules and criteria for family reunification vary depending on various factors, such as the individual’s nationality, immigration status, and the type of protection they have been granted.
- EEA Nationals: European Economic Area (EEA) nationals who are citizens of EU member states, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, generally have a legal right to family reunification in the State. This means that if an EEA national legally resides in the country, they are entitled to be joined by certain family members, such as spouses, children, and dependent parents, under the EU law provisions on free movement and family reunification.
- Persons Granted Refugee Status or Subsidiary Protection: Individuals who have been granted refugee status or subsidiary protection in Ireland also have specific rights to family reunification. Refugees are individuals who have fled their home countries due to well-founded fear of persecution, while subsidiary protection is granted to those who face serious harm if returned to their home countries. These individuals are entitled to reunite with their family members under relevant national and international asylum and refugee protection laws.
- Non-EEA Nationals with Permission to Remain: Non-European individuals who come from countries outside the EEA and have been granted permission to remain in the State, for example, through a residence permit or other forms of immigration permission, may also have the opportunity for family reunification. However, the family reunification rules for non-EEA nationals can vary depending on the specific immigration status and the country’s policies.
The application process
To apply for family reunification as a refugee or subsidiary protection beneficiary in the State, you must do so within the first 12 months of being granted refugee status or subsidiary protection. The application can be made for family members who are either outside the country or already present within the State. To initiate the process, refugees or subsidiary protection beneficiaries should write a request to the Family Reunification Section of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), expressing their intention to apply for family reunification for a specific family member.
Upon receiving the request, the applicant will receive a family reunification questionnaire from the authorities. The applicant is required to complete this questionnaire and submit it along with the necessary supporting documentation to the INIS. The processing time for family reunification applications is typically around 12 to 14 months on average. If the application is successful, the family member seeking reunification will be informed and required to apply for a visa to enter the State. Sometimes, they may also need to apply for a travel document if their country of origin requires it. The visa application can be made online through the INIS website, and the processing time for visa applications is usually quick.
Once the family member arrives in the State, they must register their permission to remain in the country. This can be done by booking an online registration appointment if they are in Dublin or by visiting their local Immigration office if they reside outside Dublin. This registration process is essential to formalize their legal status and residency in the State.
What about non-EEA citizens?
Non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals who have been granted permission to remain in the State may also be able to apply for family reunification for certain family members. The guidelines for Non-EEA Family Reunification, as outlined by the immigration authorities, specify two main categories of non-EEA nationals entitled to seek family reunification and the eligible family members they can apply for reunification.
Category A sponsors, which include Critical Skills permit holders and researchers, are individuals with specific skills and expertise that are considered valuable to the country. To qualify for family reunification, these individuals must maintain their permission to reside in the State. The assumption is that they already satisfy the financial requirements for supporting their family members. In other words, their employment or skill level is deemed sufficient to provide financial stability for the family members they wish to reunite with.
Category B sponsors must demonstrate a minimum earning of €30,000 after tax for the previous two years to be eligible for family reunification. This minimum earning threshold may vary based on the number of children the sponsor has. The higher the number of children, the higher the financial requirement becomes. The purpose of this financial requirement is to ensure that the sponsor has the means to support their family members financially once they are reunited in the State.
In conclusion, family reunification for immigrants in Ireland exemplifies compassion, unity, and human rights. Embracing this policy enriches society, empowers immigrants, and fosters a stronger, more inclusive Ireland for the future. So, be sure to take advantage to take advantage of the opportunities provided!