Directive 2003/86/EC entered into force on 3 October 2003 and applies to all EU Member States, except Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Denmark. Member States’ legislation had to comply with this Directive not later than 3 October 2005.
The Directive lays down the conditions for the exercise of the right to family reunification by third-country nationals residing lawfully in the territory of the Member States. The Directive determines the conditions under which family members can enter into and reside in a Member State in order to preserve the family unit. Member States are obliged to authorise entry and residence for an applicant’s spouse and unmarried children. Member States are given discretion to authorize entry and residence for other family members. Under Article 7(1) Member States may require an applicant to provide evidence that s/he has (a) accommodation which meets the general health and safety standards of the Member State, (b) sickness insurance, and (c) stable and regular resources.
The Directive provides that family members are entitled to access to education, employment, and vocational guidance. Member States are, however, permitted to take up to twelve months to “examine the situation of their labour market” before allowing family members to work. The applicant and the family members have the right to challenge a rejection of an application for family reunification. The Directive sets out specific provisions for the family reunification of refugees. Member States are permitted to confine applications from refugees whose family relationships predate their entry.
The Directive provides that refugees are exempted from meeting the requirements in Article 7(1). The Directive also provides that Member States may require evidence that a refugee fulfils the requirements in Article 7(1) where family reunification is possible in a third country with which the refugee or his or her family members have special links, or where the reunification application is not made within three months of the granting of refugee status. Determinations on applications for reunification must issue within nine months of the date the application was lodged. The time limit may be extended in “exceptional circumstances linked to the complexity of the examination”.
The Directive excludes from the right to family reunification people (a) whose asylum applications have not yet given rise to a final decision, (b) who have been granted temporary protection, and (c) who have been granted subsidiary protection. The Directive allows Member States to refuse family members on the grounds of public policy, public security or public health.