What is Family Reunification?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 January 2020
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"Family reunification" is a term used to describe the process of allowing family members to immigrate to a specific country in order to be reunited with family members who are already established in that nation. Since most nations maintain laws that place some limits on the immigration process, family members who wish to relocate and join with relatives in a new nation must meet the qualifications identified as part of those immigration laws. Doing so makes it possible for the nation to effectively manage the rate of immigration even as the state supports the ability of families to build new lives in a new setting.

The laws that impact the process of family reunification vary from one nation to the next, often based on the current conditions within that nation. Some will favor the immigration of close relatives while being less supportive of immigration efforts by distant relatives. For example, when the family reunification process involves allowing a spouse or a minor child of an immigrant into the country, the process is normally straightforward and easily managed, as long as the immigrating spouse does not currently have criminal charges or some other issue requiring resolution that would possibly bar the immigration process. At the same time, the family reunification laws may not have any provisions for cousins twice removed, former spouses, or others who are considered outside the state’s definition of a close relative.


It is not unusual for family reunification to be involved in the process of seeking asylum in another country. With this application, parents may send a child ahead to a new country, allowing that child to become naturalized and establish a home and job in that new setting. Once this is accomplished, the parents may apply for entry into the country, with the intention of also seeking asylum. Since a close relative is already established in the new country, the immigration process is normally a simple one, and the family can be reunited within a short period of time.

Different types of qualifications are required in order to comply with family reunification laws in different nations. In some cases, both spouses must be over a certain age in order for the immigration to take place. At other times, the laws may define specific types of relatives that are covered under the terms of the laws, including parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, and children. In some countries, family reunification laws even provide some provisions for engaged couples to be reunited in a new country, making it possible for the happy couple to be married in the nation that they plan on making their permanent home.


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