Criteria and conditions
Under Hungarian law, the family reunification applicants are the family members of the refugee 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. This is particularly problematic for Afghans in Iran since many are not provided with documents in Iran and face danger if returned to Afghanistan. However, the Hungarian consulate in Tehran accepted in 2019 in two children’s case certificates which allow them to attend school legally as proof of residing lawfully by considering the issuance of those certificates as legal permission to stay given by conduct.
Although family members are required to apply at the competent Hungarian consulate, it is the National Directorate-General for Aliens Policing (NDGAP, former IAO) that considers the application and takes a decision. The applicants are required to prove their relationships with the sponsor and the necessary resources to return to their country of origin. The consulate records the biometric data of the applicant when submitting the application. The consulate must delete the data immediately when a rejection decision becomes final and enforceable. The final decision may be challenged in an administrative lawsuit. If the applicant wins the lawsuit, the NDGAP has to repeat the procedure. When the residence permit and the visa are granted in the repeated procedure, the consulate will record the biometric data again. It can cause financial and bureaucratic difficulties to the applicant to travel once again to the country where the application was submitted. However, the practice varies between consulates according to our experiences of 2019. Some consulates would delete the data right after the second instance rejection, some would wait until the court’s judgement on the family reunification. The sponsor has to verify his/her subsistence, accommodation, and a comprehensive health insurance (or sufficient saving to fund the medical treatment) of the family members. 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. 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 favourable conditions within three months following the recognition of their status. They are exempted from fulfilling the usual material conditions: 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 hardly ever have the means to fulfil the strict material conditions for family reunification. It demands sacrifice and even luck to find a job or jobs where the beneficiary could earn a salary that is high enough. 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.
The authorities are strict regarding the documents what 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 into 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. Hand written documents with correction of irrelevant data (made by the issuing authority) were considered as falsified in 2019 despite of a previous judgment banning this way of proceeding, and the family reunification was rejected by the first and second instance authority without considering other proof of the family link. This is particularly relevant to DNA tests, which cannot be requested by the applicants as of 2017, but it has to be ordered by the NDGAP.
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 are pending. Data for 2017, 2018, 2019 were not 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.