Under Hungarian law, the family reunification applicants are the family members of the refugees residing in Hungary, not the refugees themselves. The family members have to apply at the Hungarian consulate accredited to their country of origin or of residence. According to the law, family reunification applicants shall lawfully reside in the country where they submit the claim. Refugees’ family members are often themselves refugees in countries neighbouring the country of origin. In most cases, the family members stuck in the first country of asylum are unable to obtain a legal status there (and documentary proof thereof) that would be considered as “lawful stay” in the sense of Hungarian law. Therefore, the family members have to first obtain some kind of documents to prove the legality of their stay in the country where they reside.
Although family members are required to apply at the competent Hungarian consulate, it is the National Directorate-General for Aliens Policing (NDGAP, former Immigration and Asylum Office) that considers the application and makes the decision. The applicants are required to prove their relationships with the sponsors. The consulate records the biometric data of the applicant when submitting the application. The applicant has to verify his/her subsistence, accommodation, and a comprehensive health insurance (or sufficient savings to fund medical treatment) in Hungary, or the sponsor may do so by declaring that he/she undertakes the support of the applicant’s family member. The requirements regarding the volume of funds verifying the subsistence are not defined in the law. This causes uncertainty on the one hand. On the other hand, usually the income considered as sufficient must be quite high compared to the Hungarian labour market, and to the widespread practice of employment in the grey which makes it possible to verify only a part of the actual income. According to the Hungarian law, there is no time limit to initiate the family reunification.
In Hungary, only refugees are entitled to family reunification under preferential conditions within three months following the recognition of their status. They are exempted from fulfilling the usual material criteria: subsistence, accommodation, health insurance. No preferential treatment is applied in case of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. The reasons for fleeing their countries of origin of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are often similar to those of refugees. They rarely have the means to fulfil the strict material conditions for family reunification. It demands sacrifice and even luck to find a job or multiple jobs where the beneficiary could earn a salary that is high enough to meet the criteria of the family reunification. Consequently, the lack of any preferential treatment de facto excludes many beneficiaries of subsidiary protection from the possibility of family reunification, which often has a harmful impact on their integration prospects as well. In 2020, 5 families of subsidiary protection could reunite with the assistance of the HHC despite the difficulties detailed above. This trend is very promising in regards to respect of right to family life and right to family reunification, however the uncertainty of the expected financial means and the discretional right of the NDGAP to decide case-by-case about the sufficiency of these financial means remain.
The authorities are strict regarding the documents which makes family reunification more difficult. They request that all the documents bear an official stamp from the authorities, proving that they are originals, as well as an official stamp from the Hungarian consulate. All documents have to be translated to English or Hungarian and bear an official stamp, too, which is very costly. The decisions made by the NDGAP are predominantly based on these documents and there is relatively small space for other ways to prove family links. In 2020, some of the family members could not prove their family link with the sponsor because the submitted certificates turned out to be falsified/not accepted as original by the NDGAP without the family members’ knowledge of any falsification. The HHC requested the NDGAP to order DNA tests in some of these cases as DNA tests cannot be initiated by the applicants as of 2017, but they have to be ordered by the NDGAP. No DNA tests were ordered, and these family reunifications were rejected by the NDGAP based on submission of false data and attempted deception of the authority without considering other proof of the family link despite of a previous judgment banning this way of proceeding.
Hungary does not accept certain travel documents, such as those issued by Somalia for example. Nevertheless, unlike other EU Member States, Hungary refuses to apply any alternative measure that would enable for a one-way travel with the purpose of family reunification in such cases. Consequently, certain refugee families are de facto excluded from any possibility of family reunification based on their nationality or origin.
127 family reunification applications were submitted to the former IAO in 2016, of which 80 applications were approved and 30 appeal cases were pending at the end of the year. As of 2017 though no data have been provided by the asylum authority.
Section 47(2) TCN Decree.
The favourable rule was amended by Section 29 Decree 113/2016. (V.30).
Alternative measures applied by other Member States include the issuance of a specific temporary laissez-passer for foreigners (e.g. Sweden, Netherlands, France, Austria, Italy), the acceptance of specific travel documents issued by the Red Cross for the purpose of family reunification (e.g. Austria, UK) and the use of the so-called EU Uniform Format Form, based on Council Regulation (EC) No 333/2002 of 18 February 2002 on a uniform format for forms for affixing the visa issued by Member States to persons holding travel documents not recognised by the Member State drawing up the form (e.g. UK, Germany).
Information provided by former IAO, 20 January 2017.