Families might find themselves in a situation where one person went first to a specific country, and his/her family-member has remained behind in another European country. In that case, you have the possibility to ask for family reunification. You apply in the country where you are, in order to go where your relative is. Attention! Currently no one can estimate how long the procedure will take until you are out of Greece and reunified with your family as more than 50,000 refugees got trapped in Greece.
What is Family Reunification?
Families might find themselves in a situation where one person went first to a specific country, and his/her family-member has remained behind in another European country. In that case, you have the possibility to ask for family reunification. You apply in the country where you are, in order to go where your relative is.
How do I apply for family reunification if my relative is still in the asylum procedure/ has received political asylum or subsidiary protection status?
The family member in the country where you want to be reunited to has to get registered for asylum. Attention! The date of arrival is not necessarily the same like the date of registration. Due to a work overload, authorities in many countries register asylum seeking refugees after days, weeks or even months. Tell your relative to send you a copy of the newest identity document he/she received from the authorities in the country he/she arrived and applied for asylum in order to cross check with an NGO in which stage of registration he/she is.
Before applying for family reunification, check what your relative has stated to the authorities concerning his/her family. Attention! It is crucial that he/she has mentioned to have relatives, in the best case he /she mentioned specifically you with your correct name, family name and date of birth (age). It is not possible to apply for family reunification if your relative has declared not to have any relatives alive. Attention! Get the exact information on your age he/she stated (if necessary get a copy from their asylum interview) and take care to write your and his/her name exactly as written already by him/her in the country where he/she already is and you plan to go.
Get an appointment at the Asylum Service in Athens, Thessaloniki or elsewhere in order to ask for family reunification. Attention! You will go typically through asylum procedure but apply for family reunification. In this process you can also apply for accommodation in a refugee camp, but currently there is a huge lack of available places, so only unaccompanied minors can access a camp after a currently unclear waiting period, depending on the availability of places, the urgency and vulnerability. Attention! The biggest problem is to get access to the Asylum Service in order to make an appointment.
Print a copy of the identification document of your relative. Take also any contact (phone number and address) of your relative and his/her lawyer or other supporters with you. Visit an NGO that can assist you in the procedure to make sure everything is going well.
If you are an unaccompanied minor it is highly crucial to state that your relative has been already your legal guardian in the past when you were still living al-together in your home country or while travelling together.
If you are 1-17 years old at the time your apply for family reunification and you are without any close family member in Greece you can apply for family reunification with:
A. Most efficient:
Parents – one parent – brother / sister or persons who were the responsible adults in place of the parents already before leaving the home country
B. Working well:
Uncle – aunt – grandparent(s) who can take care of you
If you are an adult you can apply for family reunification with:
A. Most efficient:
Spouse or your child, if they
- have refugee status/ subsidiary protection
B. Working well:
- if they are in the asylum procedure (marriage must have been already in the country of origin)
- have another right to stay
If you are an adult and your relative is also an adult but not your spouse, you can apply based on humanitarian grounds to:
A. Effectively but difficult: to your adult children, siblings, parent if you are pregnant or suffer a heavy disease or psychological problems, if you have a newborn child, if you are severely disabled, and in need of the support of your child which you should be able to prove by medical certificates
B. Very difficult: to other relatives
How can I prove my family relationship?
• Pages of your family-book, a marriage certificate, birth certificates, papers from your country of origin with the same family names, places of birth etc.
• Family photos
Attention! Authorities can ask for a DNA-test if you lack other proofs. You will be asked to cover the costs by yourselves. On the other side sometimes the procedure gets faster if you give the results of a DNA test. Attention! Names, dates and places of birth have to be the same as in the official papers.
How long will the procedure take?
From the day your application for family reunification gets registered:
1. Greece has three months to ask the other EU country for the family reunification. Attention! After three months from the moment you apply for asylum, you cannot anymore apply for family reunification!
2. The other country has another two months to send its answer back to the Dublin office in Greece.
3. After a positive decision, Greece has six months to “send” you to the country you applied to go.
In total, the maximum time according to law from the day of the registration of your application in Greece, is 11 months. Attention! There are right now a lot of people asking for asylum registration. So nobody knows how long it will actually take until one can apply for family reunification. Delays are certain. But in urgent cases the procedure might go also much faster.
Under which circumstances will the procedure be fast tracked?
A. Unaccompanied minors applying for family reunification from within detention can ask for a fast track procedure, where the answer has to be submitted within one month.
B. If you or your relatives are seriously sick (physically or mentally), get a doctor’s certificate and hand it to the authorities.
What rights do I have in Greece after I apply for family reunification?
You get the same rights as an asylum applicant.
• You can apply for housing in an open reception centre. Attention! Currently only unaccompanied minors can get a place. The open reception centres are no prisons. You can freely move in and out during opening hours. You will have the support of social workers and lawyers, you can learn languages and you have a bed in a shared room and food. It will take some weeks until a place is found currently.
• You have access to the public health system and get free medical aid in hospitals.
• You are also allowed to rent a room, flat, house.
• You are allowed to marry.
• Children can go to school.
If it takes long, will I not have too many expenses?
Renting a flat and getting food supplies if needed will cause expenses. But consider the expenses in money and the risks of leaving Greece clandestinely in comparison.
If I apply for family reunification and the border opens suddenly can I still go?
Yes. Applying for family reunification does not hinder you from moving on by yourself.
I have registered myself at the authorities, originally giving a wrong age. Can I still correct it?
You can correct your age during the family reunification application.
Attention! If you register as an unaccompanied minor, be aware that the Greek authorities have an obligation to protect you and put you in an open camp for minors. If no such place is available they can put you alternatively in detention until a place is found in an open camp (protective custody). Currently this has been reported to happen only in Idomeni and in some occasions in Thessaloniki region. Unaccompanied minors in the area of greater Athens do not have this problem at the moment.
In which direction will the family reunification be generally completed?
Since 2011, when Dublin returns to Greece were halted temporarily, family reunification always goes out of Greece! BUT, normally a family reunification should be carried out to the country where most of the family currently is, for example if you are in Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Croatia, Austria etc.
Attention! Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia are not included in the Dublin Regulation.
Will a family reunification harm my relatives?
A. Asylum case?
No, as long as you inform him/ her before applying and check exactly what he/ she said in his/ her asylum case in order not to say something contradictory and in order to write all your personal data correctly.
B. Living conditions?
No, as long as you can still apply to stay in a separate place, in case things don’t work out with staying together after reuniting.
Attention! If your relative feels nervous about the idea to apply for family reunifcation, give him/her a contact to someone who can explain him/ her the whole procedure so he/ she knows exactly what would happen.
Who cannot apply under this procedure?
Persons who applied for asylum and received another status than political asylum or subsidiary protection and persons who already have a national passport from the country of residence. Attention! In the latter case you have to ask the embassy of the country where your relative lives for family reunification.
What should I know for the period after I have reunited with my family?
When you arrive make sure you show every authority your family reunification paper. Go together with your relatives to present yourself to the authorities of the city where your relative resides. This is very important so that you won’t get in danger to be transferred to a different area of the country.
When you arrive in the receiving country, you will only then start your asylum application from the beginning, equal to all other newcomers. Only if your relative has already been granted asylum or another status, it is very likely that you will get the same status.
Attention! Even after the successful family reunification process it is possible that following minors will be age-tested by the authorities of the country where he/she finally arrived at, as it is not considered sufficient proof of age if the minor was age-tested in Greece where methods might differ from the ones applied by authorities in the receiving country. In such a case, immediately consult a lawyer.
NGOs providing legal aid and advise for family reunification:
ECOMENICAL REFUGEEE PROGRAMME
Provides legal assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.
Iridanou 20, first floor (close to train station: Megaro Mousikis or Evangelismos)
Tel.: +30 210 72 95 926
GREEK COUNCIL FOR REFUGEES (GCR)
A Greek non govermental Organization that supports asylum seekers and refugees in Greece.
Offers legal counselling and social assistance free of charge.
To make an appointment go there from Monday to Friday before 9 o’clock.
Exarheia (near Omonia)
Tel.: +30 210 38 00 990
NGOs providing support for family reunification of unaccompanied minors and vulnerable cases:
Near Amerikis square / Patission Street
from 10 to 17 o’clock
For contacts in countries where your relatives reside you can check here:
or you can write us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org so we can give you an advice where to ask.