Family Reunification

How can UNHCR Multi-Country Office in Canberra help me reunite with my family?

A legal service will be best placed to provide you with advice and assistance on family reunification processes in Australia. However, there are a couple of situations in which UNHCR Canberra might be able to offer assistance:

  • UNHCR Canberra can help you obtain evidence of registration for family members who are or were registered by UNHCR;
  • UNHCR Canberra can bring cases of children or family members in need of extra protection to the attention of UNHCR colleagues in the field; and
  • UNHCR Canberra can aid in contacting the appropriate colleagues in the field in case issues arise, for example in relation to DNA testing or gaining travel documents.

Visa options for Family Reunification in Australia

Refugee and Humanitarian Visa (Class XB)

Refugees previously resettled to Australia or others who have been granted permanent protection can apply for their family to be reunited with them in Australia.  

There is no cost associated with applying for this visa (with the exception of Community Support Program). However, the Australian Government allocates a maximum number of Refugee and Humanitarian visas that can be granted each year. Currently, there is 13,750 visas allocated for each program year. Typically, only 10% of applications are successful.

There are three main categories under this program:

  • Split Family Provisions – for proposing “immediate” family members.
  • Global Special Humanitarian Program –for proposing both ‘close’ and ‘extended’ family members.
  • Community Support Program – for communities and businesses, as well as families and individuals, to propose applicants with employment prospects (and their families) and to support their settlement in Australia. There are costs for this option.

Given the limited number of visas available for refugees each year, the demand for family reunification under the Program is very high and you are likely to face significant delays in processing times or have your visa refused based on it not being of high enough priority for the Government.

The way a refugee arrived in Australia will determine whether they are eligible to propose under the Humanitarian Program, what processing priority the application will receive and whether additional factors will need to be considered when assessing the visa application.  

Currently, refugees who arrived in Australia by sea and without a visa on or after 13 August 2012 are not able to propose family members for resettlement to Australia under the Humanitarian Program. There are no exceptions, and it affects both adult and child proposers.

More information on the Department of Home Affairs’ Refugee and Humanitarian Visas can be found here. The form 842 is required and it includes a lot of information about eligibility for a Refugee and Humanitarian Visa.  In most cases, if you are proposing family, you will need to also complete the form 681.

To understand more about the prioritisation of the humanitarian program, see also the Refugee and Advice Casework (RACS) factsheet.

Regular Migration Streams

Refugees can also sponsor family members through regular Migration Programs (outside the Humanitarian Program). An example of a visa in this stream is the Spouse visa.

Visa application charges apply, and applicants can also experience significant delays in processing times. However, the spaces available may be higher than the Special Humanitarian Program.

More information can be found at the Department of Home Affairs website: Explore Visa Options to Join Your family.

Where to get help with applying for family reunification in Australia? 

Free legal services that may be able to assist you to access the above visa options for Australia can be found on our legal help page: https://help.unhcr.org/australia/where-to-find-help/free-legal-help/

A list of Migration Agents that charge fees which can be significant can be found here: https://www.mara.gov.au.

Can members of my family be resettled by UNHCR?

Usually, the process for family reunification is separate to resettlement and is commenced from Australia in line with Government laws and policies. UNHCR is usually not involved.

If your family member’s case is being considered for resettlement, only limited weight can be given to external factors, such as the presence of family links in Australia as places are very limited.

If you require further information on whether resettlement may be available, we recommend that you contact UNHCR in your country of asylum directly.

A list of contact details for UNHCR offices is available at the following website: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/4a324fcc6.html.

More information on resettlement can also be found here.