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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 3 April 2014

A clear legal regime for family members of non EU citizens

Migrants' right to family reunification is recognised throughout the EU. Common rules are in place on the conditions under which family members of a non-EU citizen, legally resident in a Member State, are allowed to enter and reside in the EU. Experience however shows the need to ensure greater coherence in the implementation of these rules.

That is why the Commission is presenting guidance for the correct and meaningful application of the Family Reunification Directive (2003/86/EC) across Member States while avoiding possible abuses.

"The right to family life is a fundamental right. Maintaining family ties is key to well-being and facilitates the integration of migrants who have arrived in the EU. It is important for happiness and well-being, and helps migrants integrating in society”, underlined Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.

Today's Communication follows up on a public consultation on family reunification of third-country nationals which urged the Commission to take further action towards achieving a more effective family reunification regime at EU level.

The communication addresses a wide range of issues that were identified during the public consultation and in the implementation report of the Directive.

The right to family reunification must be genuinely applied according to the rules of the Directive. While Member States retain a certain margin of appreciation when applying some of the optional provisions of the Directive, the guidelines will ensure that such discretion does not undermine the individuals' rights. At the same time the right to family reunification is not unlimited and guidelines allow for possible fraud and abuse by applicants to be tackled effectively.

Altogether they provide for a more transparent and clearer understanding of family reunification rules and common standards at EU level, including on:

  • The scope of the Directive (e.g. clarifying the definition and concepts applying for the migrants who benefit from the EU rules);

  • The submission and examination of the application (e.g. the requested evidence, the length of the procedures);

  • The requirements for the exercise of the right to family reunification (e.g. accommodation, sickness insurance scheme, sufficient resources, integration measures);

  • The entry and residence of family members (e.g. long stay visas and residence permits, access to employment);

  • The situation of beneficiaries of international protection;

  • Overall principles related for instance to the availability of information, the best interest of the child, abuse and fraud, the right to legal challenge.


The right to family life is a fundamental right guaranteed by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights, and protected by the highest courts in the EU.

Family reunification is a necessary way of making family life possible and migrants have the right to have their close family members join them if all the conditions of the Family Reunification Directive are fulfilled. Being close to one’s family helps creating socio-cultural stability, thereby facilitating the integration of migrants in Member States and promoting economic and social cohesion. Family members also offer practical support in the process of getting familiar with the new country.

Non-EU citizens who are family members of legally residing third-country nationals have the right to enter and reside in the EU if the sponsor has resided "for one year or more" with "reasonable prospects of obtaining the right of permanent residence". Member States may require the fulfilment of other conditions such as sufficient resources, adequate accommodation and sickness insurance, as well as "integration measures".

In 2011 the Commission launched a public consultation on how to improve the effectiveness of migrants' right to family reunification in the EU (Green Paper). More than 120 replies were received from NGOs, Member States, local and regional administrations, international organisations, social partners and individuals. In 2012, the Commission organised a public hearing which was attended by 230 representatives.

As a result, today's guidelines take into account the views expressed by the stakeholders in the public consultation, together with case law of the Court of Justice of the EU on the family reunification and other EU Directives, as well as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

In 2012, 364 929 family members joined a non-EU national in the 25 Member States that apply the Family Reunification Directive (all EU countries, but Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom). Of these there were 126 155 spouses or partners and 180 395 children.

Useful Links

Communication on guidance for application of the EU Directive on the right to family reunification

Cecilia Malmström's website

Follow Commissioner Malmström on Twitter

DG Home Affairs website

Follow DG Home Affairs on Twitter

Contacts :

Michele Cercone (+32 2 298 09 63)

Tove Ernst (+32 2 298 67 64)

For the public: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 or by e­mail

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