Family reunificationKarolina Grot | 24. 6. 13
Michał Górski, author of one of the expert articles, has analyzed the legal regulations concerning the institution of family reunification. In th article „Family reunification in practice – Polish case” he emphasized the fact that the number of residence permits granted for family reunification in recent times has increased, and now stands around 5-7% of all the resident permits granted in Poland. The expert wrote that even though family reunification might be concerned as a relatively easy form of obtaining a residence permit, in practice there are many obstacles which foreigners from third countries have to face. He enumerated the difficulties related to obtaining formal approval for a family reunion – e.g. the obligation to stay in Poland for at least two years before the date of application or to demonstrate entitlement to a flat, proof stable and legitimate income sufficient for the whole family. Health insurance for all family members is also required.
According to his article Polish NGOs criticize some aspects of implementation of the Family Reunification Directive. The main point of criticism includes introducing a maximum 5-year period before becoming eligible for autonomous residence permit and not including broader family bonds, such as relatives in the direct ascending line, adult children and unmarried partners. However, especially for the latter, the Polish Act on Foreigners allows granting a residence permit based on “other” reasons, which proves to be a relatively often practice (the requirements are similar to those described above). What is interesting, the same type of permit may be granted for a nuclear family member, when the two-year-stay requirement for a sponsor is not met. However such interpretation complies with the Constitution of Poland, which says that “Marriage, being a union of a man and a woman, as well as the family, motherhood and parenthood, shall be placed under the protection and care of the Republic of Poland”, and other binding international laws. This type of residence permit is not always worse than family reunification one, especially from the perspectives of obtaining residence permit for the EU long-term residents.
Topics raised in the article written by Michał Górski were also addressed durign the seminar „The foreigners’ right to family life in Poland - the institution of family reunification in practice” organized by the Institute of Public Affairs and the Association for Legal Intervention (ALI) in August 2013. The event brought together representatives of non-governmental organizations, members of the public administration, foreigners, researchers and journalists. Patrycja Mickiewicz (ALI) highlighted the fact that, despite recent changes in the Polish legislation in this area for many foreigners residing in Poland it is still very difficult to fulfill the requirements to exercise the right to family reunification. She stated that the New Act on Foreigners might change this situation to some extent. It will for instance abolish the requirement about entitlement to a flat, which is currently a serious problem for most of foreigners.
An expert from the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology dr Hanna Bojar presented the outcome of her research included in the publication "Social and Cultural Dimension of Family Reunification in Poland". In her speech she underlined the fact that family reunification should be an important part of integration policy, as family migration is conducive to integration into the society of the host country, since the functioning of immigrant children in the school system forces the extension of the social and institutional contacts. In her opinion the rules governing family reunification should take into account cultural differences, such as the obligation to care for elderly parents. Therefore, it is necessary to extend the circle of family members entitled to this form of legalization of their stay in the hist country.
Hanna Bojar also prepared an expert article within this project module, in which (among other statements and conclusions) she emphasized the fact it is necessary to recognize different categories of immigrants in terms of feasibility of the statutory conditions for family reunification. Requirements imposed on the applicants for family reunification are relatively difficult to meet, especially with regard to the conditions and ability of the family to ensure a permanent source of maintenance and a legal title to their property (e.g., due to the reluctance of host society to rent apartments to foreigners from the third countries). Failure to fulfill these conditions often becomes a major obstacle to the realization of this fundamental right of integrity of the family. Although reports about the situation of migrants in Poland bring relatively positive conclusions concerning the implementation of the right to family reunification, the same reports also indicate the main difficulties in other areas of the integration of migrants, especially their place on the labor market. If a steady income is one of the relevant terms of the statutory use of the institutions of family reunification, it means that some of the migrants from the unstable labor markets may not even attempt to use this institution. In practice, family reunification is becoming an institution accessible only to those migrants whose socio-economic status is relatively high and stable, while the access is difficult for those migrants who are in a disadvantaged social situation, access to it is difficult.
According to the article ”The logic of paper marriages” written by Agnieszka Sitko, foreigners expressing their will to obtain a residence permit on the basis of family reunification can benefit from such a solution. However, there is also a space for the abuse of the right to family reunification in Poland as well as other EU countries. This situation is also sometimes determimed by the fact that becuase of the existance of certain formal barriers migrants are loooking for a way to circumvent the law. One of the examples of such an abuse is a marriage of convenience. The author states that the price of this type of marriages can be very large and final concequences of such a decision of a given foreigner and a Pole can be quite harmoful for both sides.
The main conclusions gathered during the seminar and presented in articles about the family reunification in Poland were confirmed by the personal experiences of migrants, who were invited to share it within the project. Interviews with a Polish migrant from Iraq and with a young woman from Vietnam indicated difficulties in this field.
The Polish migrant pointed out that difficulties of family reunification are often a determining factor in the rejection of Poland as a potential country to study and further development. Woman from Vietnam indicated significant cultural and linguistic differences that are hard to overcome and may determine a negative decision on the extension of residence permit for a family member in the host country.
The article has been written as part of the project Migration to the Centre supported by the by the Europe for Citizens Programme of the European Union and the International Visegrad Fund.
This article reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
 National Contact Point to the European Migration Network in Poland, Misuse of the Right to Family Reunification in Poland, Table 6; See also: Dane liczbowe dotyczące postępowań prowadzonych wobec cudzoziemców w latach 2009 – 2011 [Statistical data regarding administrative procedures involving foreigners in years 2009-2011], http://www.udsc.gov.pl/Zestawienia,roczne,233.html . Cf. completely different data on EU document regarding Green Paper. The reason for this huge difference is not clear, but the data in article come from the root, i.e. Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs and Office for Foreigners and thus seem more reliable. It must be noted however, that at the time of writing this article, the author could not tell which data are accurate with the complete certainty.
 Stowarzyszenie Interwencji Prawnej, Uwagi do stanowiska Rządu Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej do Zielonej Księgi w sprawie prawa do łączenia rodzin obywateli państw trzecich zamieszkujących w Unii Europejskiej, [Association for Legal Intervention, Opinion on Polish Government’s position regarding the Green Paper on the right to family reunification of third-country nationals living in the European Union],