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Family reunification in France: Delays, regulations and  the bitter taste of separation

Family reunification in France: Delays, regulations and the bitter taste of separation

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Life Homeless Arab Migrants

Tuesday 12 December 202303:58 pm
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“We married out of love, but years of being apart have taken a toll on our relationship. We initially thought that the family reunification process was easy, but it seems that things are getting more complicated,” laments Amin A., a 30-year-old Moroccan living in Grenoble, south east France, after hearing about the new immigration regulations.

The impact of waiting

Amin, who was married in 2019 and welcomed a daughter in 2021, continues, “My patience is wearing thin. My daughter is growing up away from me. I fear that our marriage might end in divorce, as happened to some acquaintances who got tired of waiting. We undergo heavy, lengthy, and exhausting administrative procedures for our families to obtain reunification visas. And now, we face a new immigration law targeting family reunification.”

In addition to the psychological and moral pressure experienced by migrants wishing to reunite with their families, there is also a financial aspect that, according to Amin, has become burdensome. He explains, “I am currently managing expenses for two households from my salary, and I travel to Morocco three times a year. Airplane tickets are expensive, and the cost of living, whether in France or Morocco, is facing staggering inflation. I can't even save a single penny.”

"My patience is wearing thin. My daughter is growing up away from me. I fear that our marriage might end in divorce, as happened with some acquaintances who got tired of waiting" – Amin, a Moroccan father of two residing in France

Everyone has a unique story, but all immigrants seeking family reunification navigate a complex journey of challenges.

Current laws

Current family reunification laws for foreign residents in France permit spouses, children, and minors, contingent on meeting specific conditions, to enter France. The minimum housing space for two people must be 22-28 square meters, depending on its location. For each additional resident, 10 square meters must be added, up to a total of 8 people. For every person after that, 5 extra square meters are required.

The foreigner applying for family reunification must also have a residence permit for at least one year, or a permit valid for 10 years, or a receipt for the renewal of these permits.

This procedure can only be initiated after residing in France for at least 18 months. Subsequently, applicants must demonstrate adequate financial resources, and their place of residence is subject to inspection.

If any of the stipulated criteria is not met, the application may be rejected after a lengthy evaluation process that can take years, as experienced by Fatima, a 37-year-old Algerian residing in France for the last 13 years. She recounts, “I began the process in August 2019 after I got married in Algeria.”

She continues, “Upon my return to France in September 2019, I submitted my family reunification file to the Val de Marne office in Île-de-France. I then waited from October 2019 to July 2020 to receive the first letter requesting detailed documents about my social status. I never received a deposit certificate as required by the law. Later, after sending numerous reminder emails, an inspector, sent by my municipality, finally came to visit my residence on March 2, 2021, and request resource documents.”

However, luck was not on Fatima's side, as following a long wait, her request was met with rejection in April 2022. This compelled her to enlist a lawyer to redraft the file in July 2022, subjecting her once again to a state of helpless anticipation and waiting.

Protests and delays

The delay in processing files for foreigners seems to be a common issue across several states and regions in France. Many applicants have protested these delays. Last May, 200 people gathered to demonstrate in the Rhône prefecture, supported by the Lawyers' Union and associations in Lyon.

"Unfortunately, many French states often do not respect or adhere to the deadlines stipulated in French law. In this case, the only way to receive a response is perhaps to resort to the courts" – Yannis Lantom, a lawyer specialized in immigration

This demonstration was attended by specialized immigration lawyer, Yannis Lantom, who told Raseef22, “Unfortunately, many French states often do not respect or adhere to the deadlines stipulated in French law. In this case, the only way to receive a response is perhaps to resort to administrative courts to challenge the implicit refusal. On the one hand, the law has not been respected, and, on the other, there is no written refusal.”

According to Lantom, this delay “varies from one state to another. Sometimes it exceeds two years, while in some regions, it may not exceed six months.”

He rules out that this delay is due to a COVID-19 slowdown, saying, “We cannot continue to attribute all the problems to the pandemic, over three years later. It may have exacerbated it, but the real reason is the lack of sufficient staff to handle the large number of family reunification files.”

Tightened conditions for family reunification

Amid this hardship, things continue to worsen for new applicants of family reunification in France. On November 6 2023, the French Senate approved stricter conditions and procedures.

The most notable change is the extension of the required residence period for foreigners in France, from 18 months to 24 months, before they are able to submit family reunification requests for relatives. It will now be necessary to prove a minimum level of proficiency in the French language as well as health insurance for the applicant and their family. Additionally, the age requirement for a “sponsor” has been raised from 18 to 21.

A glimmer of hope

However, Camille Le Coz, Assistant Director and Researcher at the Migration Policy Institute Europe MPI, explained to Raseef22, “It is very possible that these measures formulated by the Senate last week may be challenged in the National Assembly as of December 11th.”

The Socialist, Environmental, and Leftist parties have already amended to remove the clause relating to the commitment of health insurance in the Senate, although this was rejected.

The situation of an immigrant could also change before December 11. An applicant might lose their job and suffer income loss, or have a child, in which existing housing conditions would no longer be suitable. The green light would thus remain red until the outlined conditions are met.

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