Recognised refugees may apply for family reunification in Malta according to national legislation. “Family members” include the refugee’s spouse and their unmarried minor children.
Only refugees may apply for family reunification, since the Regulations specify that subsidiary protection beneficiaries are excluded from this provision: “The sponsor shall not be entitled to apply for family reunification if he is authorised to reside in Malta on the basis of a subsidiary form of protection…”. The exclusion of subsidiary protection beneficiaries from family reunification was raised as a major concern by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. In 2016, the Immigration Appeals Board ordered the competent authorities to allow a beneficiary of subsidiary protection to reunite with his wife on the basis of his work contract (with a public entity), granting employees such a right. This case remains an exception.
In November 2018, JRS Malta, aditus foundation, and Integra foundation, supported by UNHCR Malta, published a report titled Family Unity: a fundamental right. The report examines national law and policy on family reunification for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection in light of European and human rights law, and concludes that current law and policy in Malta is highly questionable when set against these standards. The report highlights that the current blanket ban on family reunification for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection raises serious human rights concerns. The organisations urge the Government to review the existing legislative framework and to grant beneficiaries of subsidiary protection the right to be reunited with their families in Malta under the same conditions as refugees or, as a minimum, under the same conditions as refugees who married post-recognition.
Applications must be addressed to Identity Malta, who has to give a written notification of the decision no later than nine months after the lodging of the application.
In order to be able to apply, applicants need to provide evidence of their relationship with family members, and they need to have an accommodation regarded as normal for a comparable family in Malta as well as a sickness insurance. Moreover, applicants are requested to prove stable and regular resources that are sufficient to maintain the sponsor and the members of the family without recourse to the social assistance system in Malta which would be equivalent to, at least, the average wage in Malta with an addition of another 20% income or resources for each member of the family.
In practice, refugees are not requested to fulfil the material conditions if they apply within three months of obtaining their status. Refugees who are applying to be joined by family members in Malta are only required to present the refugee status certificate; official documents attesting the family relationship; full copies of the passports of the family members; and the lease agreement.
Refugees whose family relationship post-dates the grant of their status, or whose application for family reunification has not been submitted within a period of three months after the grant of said status, are required to present additional documents such as an attestation by an architect confirming that the applicant’s accommodation is regarded as normal for a comparable family in Malta and which meets the general health and safety standards of the country and a confirmation of stable and regular resources which have not been obtained by virtue of recourse to the social assistance of Malta and which shall be deemed to be sufficient if they are equivalent to the national minimum wage in Malta.
This procedure also applies to family members who are already in Malta, including those who are here illegally. In such cases, ID Malta will request the applicant to get clearance from the PIO in order to process the applicant. If not, the applicant’s only option is to leave the country to apply from abroad. This scenario was reported to be very common since the IPA tends to split family applications and reject one or more family members while still granting protection to some others.
Despite the law providing that family members of the refugee enjoy the same rights and benefits, this does not translate in any actual right to residence and the only way is to apply for family reunification.
The procedure is particularly long, and applicants have reported waiting for more than 2 years for a decision on the reunification. ID Malta’s answer time to any queries, even on a simple update about the stage of the application was also reported to be one of the main obstacles to the procedure. In some cases, NGOs and lawyers reported that ID Malta requested the applicant to reapply after several months or years as documents were allegedly missing.
In 2021, Identity Malta accepted 10 applications for a total number of 12 people.
 Family Reunification Regulations, LN 150 of 2007, Immigration Act Cap 217, 2007, available at: http://bit.ly/2kC9tiH.
 Regulation 3 Family Reunification Regulations.
 Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Letter to the Minister for Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement of Malta, CommHR/NM/sf 043-2017, 14 December 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2o5Bwr6.
 “Family unity: a fundamental right”, a Project Integrated 2018 Policy Paper on the right to family reunification or beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, JRS Malta, aditus foundation, Integra Foundation, funded by UNHCR Malta, November 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/3dtBlyX.
 Regulation 12 Family Reunification Regulations.
 Information provided by Identity Malta, 2017.
 Regulation 20(2)(a) Procedural Regulations.
 Information provided by Identity Malta, April 2022.