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Family reunification procedures

Family reunification is the procedure which allows family members of a third-country national residing lawfully in a certain EU Member State to enter and reside in that country. Its primary aim is to preserve the family unit, which in turn facilitates the integration of third-country nationals in the Member States and promotes economic and social cohesion.

Family reunification procedures are regulated, at the EU level, by the Directive on the right to family reunification. The right to family reunification applies to third-country nationals under refugee or migrant status. The Directive, however, does not include people in ongoing asylum application procedures (asylum seekers) or beneficiaries of a subsidiary form of international protection.

The Directive does not explicitly state a minimum age as of which children can be sponsors or beneficiaries in family reunification procedures. A “sponsor” is a third-country national whom the family members (the “beneficiaries”) want to join. In this respect, Article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights is relevant. According to the Charter, “every child shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis a personal relationship and direct contact with both his/her parents”.

Key aspects

Asylum legislation

  • In all EU Member States, except for the United Kingdom, unaccompanied children who have been granted refugee status can be sponsors in family reunification procedures without being constrained by a minimum age. No additional conditions, such as appropriate accommodation, health insurance or stable and regular resources are required, if they apply as a sponsor for family reunification within a certain period of time (usually 3 months) after being granted protection status.
  • Unaccompanied children under subsidiary protection are not covered by EU legislation on family reunification.
  • Married children cannot be sponsors in family reunification procedures including their parents.
  • In all EU Member States, children can be beneficiaries in family reunification procedures without a set minimum age. In Denmark, for children over 8 years, an integration capacity assessment is required, whilst in Germany such a requirement applies to children over the age of 16 years.
  • In many EU Member States (e.g. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Luxembourg or Sweden), only unmarried children can be beneficiaries in family reunification procedures.

Migration legislation

  • In all EU Member States, except for the United Kingdom, there is no minimum age for children, who are holders of a residence permit, to apply for family reunification as sponsors. No favourable treatment, however, is foreseen for children as sponsors. Children sponsoring others have to fulfil all legal requirements for sponsors, regardless of their age. Among others, they have to hold a residence permit as well as provide evidence of appropriate accommodation, health insurance and stable and regular resources. As a result, it is rather rare for a child to sponsor a family reunification procedure.
  • In all EU Member States, children can be beneficiaries in family reunification procedures without any minimum age requirements. However, Denmark requires an integration capacity assessment for children over 8 years, whilst in Germany such a requirement applies to children over 16 years.
  • In many Member States (e.g. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden), only unmarried children can be beneficiaries in family reunification procedures.

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Publication date: 24 April 2018

Minimum age requirements concerning children's rights in the EU - Specific data on Asylum and migration; Digital world (499.42 KB)