This study investigates family reunification policy, law and practice in Ireland. It takes account of the INIS Policy Document on Non-EEA Family Reunification as well as the recent commencement of the International Protection Act 2015, which introduced significant changes to family reunification law for beneficiaries of international protection. This study focuses on rules governing family reunification for non-EEA citizens.
In the global context, joining family is among the myriad reasons for migration, accounting for 30 per cent of all permanent migration into OECD countries in 2015. Family reunification promotes the integration of migrants already in the host country and is seen as an important feature of legal migration policy.
The study highlights some key differences between practice within the EU and Ireland. For instance, non-EEA family reunification at the EU level is governed by Council Directive 2003/86/EC of 22 September 2003 on the right to family reunification (Directive) in all Member States except Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. In Ireland, family reunification for beneficiaries of international protection is governed by the International Protection Act 2015 and for all other non-EEA nationals by the INIS Policy Document on Non-EEA Family Reunification.
In addition, first residence permits issued for family-related reasons represented the smallest category of permits issued in Ireland, coming after education, employment and other. In contrast permits issued for family-related reasons formed the largest category of permits issued in the EU.
This report indicates that a lack of a legal entitlement to family reunification for non-refugees is still considered a challenge by NGOs. The changes brought in by the International Protection Act 2015 which replaced the Refugee Act 1996, have also been met with concern from NGOs and UNHCR. The Act of 2015 removed the pre-existing category of dependent relatives and narrowed eligibility to spouses and children (and minor siblings in applications by unaccompanied minors). The removal of this category in the Act of 2015 has been met with concern from NGOs and UNHCR.