Campaign for Change

Family Reunification


1. 1° The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a  moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law.

  2° The State, therefore, guarantees to protect the Family in its constitution and authority, as the   necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State.

   Article 41, Constitution of Ireland – Bunreacht Na hÉireann

For various reasons, those who migrate to Ireland – whether to work or to seek safety – are often forced to do so without their husbands, wives, children and other close family members. Conversely, Irish citizens may wish to get permission for a spouse from outside of the EU to join them here. Information on how to apply for family reunification is contained on our Know Your Rights Page here.

Our campaigning work involves highlighting the anomalies and injustices in the immigration system. Our campaigning work is based on the cases we see presenting to our free legal service, and consists of:

  • Lobbying the Department of Justice for legislative and policy change
  • Campaigning on the upcoming Immigration Residence and Protection Bill
  • Making submissions to international bodies
  • Referring strategic cases to the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA) for litigation

The Zambrano Case and the rights of  parents of Irish Citizen Children

Nasc has been to the fore on campaigning for the rights of Irish citizen children with migrant parents. Following the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the case Ruiz Zambrano v Office National de L’Emploi (C 34/09) which recognised the rights to reside and work in the State of non-EEA citizen parents of dependent Irish citizen children, Nasc were instrumental in having the right of unlimited access to the labour market for parents of Irish citizen children extended to Romanian and Bulgarian parents of Irish citizen children.

After their accession to the EU, Romanians and Bulgarians were given limited access to the Irish labour market and were generally required to obtain a work permit. This disadvantaged Romanian and Bulgarian jobseekers as only certain types of employment with a renumeration of €30,000 p/a and above were eligible for work permits.

Arguing that EU law prohibited the State from treating EU citizens less favourably than their EU counterparts, Nasc referred the case of a Romanian man with an Irish citizen child to PILA for litigation. The case was settled with the Department of Justice removing the requirement for work permits for all Romanian and Bulgarian parents of Irish citizen children. Subsequently the State removed work permit restrictions for all Romanian and Bulgarian nationals.

Nasc’s main campaign goals relating to family reunification are:

1. The replacement of the current discretionary system for Irish citizens and non-EEA citizens (with the exception of refugees and persons eligible for subsidiary protection) with a statutory framework.

At present Irish citizens and migrant workers do not have a legislative right to family reunification with immediate family members. These applications are decided on a discretionary basis by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS). This means that Irish citizens are treated much less favourably than their EU counterparts who are living in Ireland.

We believe that a framework facilitating family reunification for all legal residents of Ireland is desperately needed.

The INIS published their policy document Family Reunification Policy Document (see here for Nasc’s summary) on the 31st December 2013 which details, for the first time, the financial and other criteria that will be taken into consideration when deciding on an application for family reunification by a non-EEA citizen with an Irish citizen or non-EEA sponsor.

Although Nasc welcomes the publication by the INIS of their internal policy, we believe that this is insufficient and that the Minister for Justice and Equality should place the right to family reunification on a legislative footing.

Nasc calls on the Minister for Justice and Equality to implement clear and coherent rules on the rights of Irish citizens and non-EEA citizens to reunite with their families.

We believe that Irish citizens should have access to family reunification on the same basis as their EU citizen counterparts. We believe that Irish legislation in relation to family reunification for this category of migrants should be brought into line with the provisions of the EU Directive on the Right to Family Reunification. Ireland has opted out of this Directive, causing us to fall behind best practice in the EU.

2. Introduction of an independent appeals mechanism.

At present, no appeals process for those dissatisfied with an adverse decision related to family reunification exists – the only option at present is to initiate judicial review proceedings.

This is not an appropriate remedy as it extremely expensive for citizens to take a case to the High Court to judicially review a negative decision and it overburdens the High Court with immigration related judicial review applications.

We call for the introduction of an independent Immigration Appeals Tribunal to relieve the pressure on the Irish courts while offering an inexpensive, expedited appeals process to applicants.

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Related Links and Resources

  • INIS has recently published new guidelines for family reunification. More information about the guidelines is available on our Factsheet. Nasc has welcomed these guidelines but we have concerns about some aspects of the policy and on the implementation of the guidelines.  You can read more about our concerns here.
  • The MIPEX index assesses and compares integration policies worldwide. Ireland’s family reunion policies score very low – indeed on the overall ranking table, we rank the worst of the 31 countries (EU and North America) surveyed.
  • Click here to download Nasc’s submission (pdf) to Ireland’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations General Assembly (including family reunion concerns).
  • Watch our 3 minute Better Together video to meet Tracy, her husband Abdullah, and their baby Malika. Abdullah’s first application for permission to come to live in Ireland with his family was denied. Tracy made a second application with Nasc’s assistance, and she and her husband are now living in Cork together with their daughter.