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Family-reunification

 


Family reunification

Impact of the health crisis on family reunification procedures

The Covid-19 health crisis has created an unprecedented situation that raises many questions. This document contains the questions most frequently asked to the Immigration Office.

Expiry of a visa issued before the entry into force of the travel restrictions (March 18, 2020)

a) "D" visa issued for family reunification

If family members who hold a "D" visa are prevented from travelling before the expiry of this visa, they can apply for a new visa at the competent Belgian diplomatic or consular post. 

It can be issued automatically under the following conditions: 

  1. after the post has checked the administrative status of the sponsor in the national register (validity of the identity card or residence permit, absence of cancellation),
  2. if the sponsor has not expressly informed the post or the Immigration Office of his opposition to the applicant's arrival, and
  3. upon presentation of a completed, dated and signed visa application form and a copy of the travel document with the expired visa.

The handling fee and the administrative fee do not have to be (re)paid.

b) "C" visa for marriage or cohabitation in Belgium

If the future spouses or registered partners who hold a "C" visa are prevented from travelling before the expiry of this visa, they can apply for a new visa at the competent Belgian diplomatic or consular post. 

It can be issued automatically under the following conditions:

  1. after the post has checked the administrative status of the future spouse or partner in the national register (validity of the identity card or residence permit, absence of cancellation),
  2. after the post has checked the intention of the future spouse or partner to continue the marriage or legal cohabitation project (written confirmation of the project), and
  3. upon presentation of a completed, dated and signed visa application form, a copy of the travel document with the expired visa and a travel health insurance valid for 90 days.

Validity of the decisions of the Immigration Office to grant a visa for family reunification

The period of validity of the decisions of the Immigration Office is automatically extended by 3 months. Until further notice, a decision is therefore valid for 9 months (6 months + 3 months). As a result, posts that received positive decisions but were unable to enforce them due to travel restrictions are allowed to issue the visa if the decision was made less than 9 months ago.

If the decision was taken more than 9 months ago, a case-by-case review is necessary. Apart from the administrative status of the sponsor (validity of the identity card or residence permit, absence of cancellation), the Immigration Office will check whether the conditions for family reunification are still being fulfilled and whether the sponsor has not specifically expressed his opposition to the applicant's arrival. 

Family members prevented from submitting their application - Period of validity of certified documents 

If family members had prepared their case but were prevented from applying because of travel restrictions, a distinction must be made between, on the one hand, civil status records issued abroad (birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce certificates, death certificates or equivalent documents) and foreign judgments and, on the other hand, other supporting documents issued abroad (certificate of celibacy, criminal record extract or equivalent document, medical certificate). 

a) Civil status records

Civil status records remain valid, even if they were issued more than 6 months before the application was submitted. These records may be legalised provided that the competent consular official responsible for legalising the documents still has the specimen of signature of the foreign authority whose signature needs to be legalised.

If these records have already been legalised, the legalisation remains valid even if it was made more than 6 months before the application was submitted.

A parental authorisation also remains valid if the person who gave it has not specifically expressed his or her opposition to the child's departure and definitive settlement in Belgium. 

b) Other supporting documents

These records reflect a factual situation that may have changed since they were produced. That is why the certificate of celibacy, the criminal record extract or equivalent document and the medical certificate must be drawn up within six months before the application is submitted. Therefore, if necessary, the family member will have to update his or her file before applying for a visa. 

The criminal record extract must be legalised.

Submission of visa applications

The submission and processing of visa applications has gradually resumed "on a global scale". The prerequisite for this gradual recovery is that the outsourcing partner whom the embassy or the consulate work with (VFS Global or TLS Contact) must be operational again.

As family reunification is subject to conditions (such as an age requirement), a family member could lose his/her right to family reunification or be required to meet more severe conditions because he/she is or was prevented from introducing his/her application at a time when he/she was still eligible for family reunification or was required to meet less severe conditions

The purpose of this communication is to reassure persons involved in a family reunification procedure and those who are temporarily prevented from starting the procedure.

The Immigration Office will consider the actions taken by the States to fight against the spread of the virus and the conditions under which the situation will be normalized. These factors will be regarded as exceptional circumstances that prevented the submission of the application at a time when a family member had a right to family reunification or was required to meet less stringent conditions.

However, there will be limits to the extent to which these factors can be taken into account.

If the age requirement was no longer met by the time the COVID-19 measures came into force, these measures cannot be used as a reason for the late submission of the application. This restriction also applies to family members who had not submitted their application within a period of time allowing them to benefit from less strict conditions, as well as in cases where the health crisis has increased the delay in the procedures prior to the submission of an application. Furthermore, the family member will have to prove that he/she has taken all the necessary steps to submit his/her application when this is possible again.

Finally, the possible impact of the health crisis on the situation of the sponsor will also be taken into consideration. Indeed, a temporarily unemployed sponsor may momentarily have difficulty proving that he/she has stable, regular and sufficient income, housing or insurance.

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