Family Reunification Procedures

Family reunification brings together family members living in different countries. Refugee family reunification is when a family is reunited after being separated and at least one member of the family is recognized as a refugee, or complementary protection holder, by the country he or she lives in. This refugee can then apply for his or her family to join them in that country.


What is refugee family reunification?

Family reunification brings together family members living in different countries. Refugee family reunification is where a family was separated and at least one member of the family was recognized as a refugee, or complementary protection holder, by the country he/she lives in.  This refugee can then apply for his/her family to join them in that country.

Can I apply for family reunification?

Once your family member in the third country receives refugee or complementary protection status, they can then apply for eligible family members to join them. They will then have the status of a “sponsor” or “petitioner” for you if you are an eligible family member.

The family members eligible for family reunification depends on the country where the sponsor lives. Most national laws allow for spouses, parents of minor children and dependent children to reunify with the sponsor.  In some countries other dependent family members can also apply.  Eligible family members are often referred to as “applicants”.

Upon acceptance and issuance of relevant visas, families may travel to be reunited with their sponsor.  On arrival they will be granted a residence permit (the type of permit differs between countries).

Be mindful that specific deadlines and procedures apply, depending on the country where the sponsor resides.

Which countries have family reunification programmes for refugees?

Dedicated refugee family reunification procedures exist in most countries.

For more information on country-specific criteria and how to apply, please go to the Family Reunification sections for the destination country of the UNHCR help website. If you are seeking information about a family reunification program in a country that is not listed on the UNHCR’s help website, please search for “family reunification” on the government website of the related country.

To access legal assistance for family reunification procedures, you can apply for help from the International Refugee Assistance Project through this form.  

All services provided by IRAP are free of charge.