Nasc welcomes introduction of new family reunification policy but has concerns

Thu, January 9, 2014

family reunificationNasc welcomes the introduction of the new family reunification policy published by the Department of Justice at the New Year. The document adds some clarity to an obscure but critical area of immigration law and policy. We hope that the development of this policy will lead to improved consistency in decision-making on family reunification both within INIS itself and the visa offices in Irish embassies and consulates throughout the world. However, after our initial inspection of the policy document, we have considerable concerns, which are outlined below.

There are several aspects to the policy which we welcome, however additional clarification on starting dates and details of administrative schemes is required. We welcome new measures such as the introduction of provisional entry to the State for the purposes of marriage, the introduction of standardised application forms, the introduction of interim administrative permissions for minors under 16, the references to the exceptional circumstances of domestic violence victims and the commitment to the establishment of a statutory appeals mechanism which will include family reunification appeals. We also note that the new policy allows for family members of sponsors to apply for residence in their own right after five years of residence in the State.

While we are pleased that the INIS has provided clarity on the necessary requirements to those who wish to reunite with elderly or dependent parents, we are concerned that the income thresholds of €60,000 net for one parent and €75,000 net for two parents for each of three years preceding the application will bar many Irish and immigrant families from reuniting with their parents.

We cautiously welcome the proposed introduction of a pre-clearance system for non-visa required nationals who wish to reside in Ireland and often times find themselves in a limbo situation while their application is being processed. However inclusion of this proposal without indicating when this measure may be introduced and confirming the interim current procedure may be confusing as it appears to contradict policy contained on other parts of the INIS website.

Issues of Concern

There are several points which we consider quite negative and potentially very harmful, including consistent reference within the document to decisions made by family members to voluntarily separate and that the State does not bear an obligation to reunite the family in these cases. We believe that this is not reflective of a modern global society where immigration for work purposes is increasingly common and where instant communication has made it possible for families to have close links and ties while living thousands of miles apart.

A major concern is the restrictive economic policies in places for people, including Irish citizens who wish to reunite with spouses. Comparatively, the income threshold is quite high and could effectively bar many people from applying for reunification with their family. For those who are ill or unable to work due to disability or old age there is no possibility that they will be in a position to meet the income requirement. Furthermore, we believe that the seven year bar on making a second spouse or de facto application is excessive. Worryingly, the policy document refers to the ineligibility of sponsors who are suspected of contracting a ‘marriage of convenience’ without referencing how or when it will be decided that a marriage of convenience has, in fact, taken place.

The inclusion of the INIS policy on DNA testing is welcome however important information regarding how long people may expect INIS to retain their bio-details provided in the DNA testing results is omitted. We would ask INIS to confirm that this information is used only for the purposes for which it is provided and is not shared with any other State or non State organisations.

In addition, there are a few points which suggest potential developments in the future that we will be keeping a close eye on, including the possible introduction of English language tests and knowledge of Irish culture and society. It is positive that the document mentions that long term residency should be available however no indication of when or how this might be done is included. There is currently no permanency of residence for non-EEA citizens.

Nasc CEO Fiona Finn comments on the new policy:
“We are delighted that after years of pushing for changes to family reunification policy, we are finally seeing some movement towards clarification of the existing policy. However there are some very worrying aspects to this document and several areas that require additional clarification.”

“We call on the Department of Justice to immediately amend the document to rectify the issues mentioned above. We also ask for the immediate introduction of the statutory appeals mechanism to ensure families are reunited as quickly and efficiently as possible. And finally, we will continue to campaign on behalf of Irish citizens, who remain in limbo without a legal right to family reunification with their loved ones.”

“We welcome the state’s recognition that the current system is in need of reform across a number of areas and look forward to the publication of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill which is promised to bring greater clarity to this critical area,” Ms Finn adds.