From pillar to post: family reunification in sloveniaAida Hadžiahmetović | 12. 6. 13
Who are the family members?
Conditions for the reunification of family members are provided in the International Protection Act and the Aliens Act. Under the current legislation, temporary residence permit of family members can be obtained if a person, who wants to bring his/her family members to Slovenia, has a permanent or temporary residence permit, except if the temporary residence permit is issued for seasonal work.
Under the current law, the family members are defined according to various kinship categories. For a family member, however, may exceptionally be considered another alien’s relative if specific circumstances are in favor of family reunification in Slovenia.
The Ministry of Interior has recently announced some important changes to the regulation of these issues in the International Protection Act and the Aliens Act, both acts being still in the process of inter-ministerial coordination. If the proposed changes will come into force, the law will narrow the circle of recognized family members and will no more include the open category “other relatives” of an alien (as mentioned in previous paragraph), regardless of the specific circumstances. The whole issue of the reunification of family members will be transferred from the International Protection Act to the Aliens Act. NGOs and refugee counselors have proposed that persons with subsidiary protection should apply for reunification of family members under the same conditions as refugees (i.e. that they are not obliged to provide financial resources for each family member). Unfortunately, in the current governmental proposal, the beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are treated as equivalent to ‘ordinary’ aliens. Furthermore, family life of immigrants will become more complicated due to the fact that members of one and the same family will have a range of different rights. A new restriction will be also a time limit imposed to the reunification of family members: this right will have to be consumed within six months after obtaining international protection.
Basic conditions for obtaining a residence permit for family members
In order to obtain a residence permit for the members of his/her family, a migrant must comply with certain conditions. He/she must have a passport valid for at least three months longer than his/her intended stay in Slovenia. He/she must also have adequate medical insurance to cover at least emergency medical services, and sufficient means of living, which cannot be lower than the minimum income in Slovenia (for the moment it is € 261.65 per capita). In addition a photo and a certificate of no criminal record from the country of origin (if issued) have to be submitted. At a diplomatic mission or the Consulate of the Republic of Slovenia abroad, the family member also has to give two fingerprints for their digital capture. Migrant who wants to bring his/her family members to Slovenia must also prove that a kinship relationship exists between him/her and the family members. The application for family reunification may be submitted at a diplomatic mission or the Consulate of the Republic of Slovenia abroad or at an administrative unit on the territory of Slovenia, in the area where he/she resides or intends to reside. A temporary residence permit for family reunification to a family member of a foreigner is issued for the same period than it has himself, but for no longer than one year. This permit is renewable for a maximum of two years. A temporary residence permit of a family member of an alien who has acquired permanent residence permit as a holder of an EU Blue Card is issued and renewed valid for three years.
On the 31st of December 2011 44,253 third-county citizens had valid temporary residence permits in Slovenia. Employment and family reunification are main reasons for migration to Slovenia.
Table: Reasons for issuing temporary residence permits to third-country citizens as of 31. 12. 2011
Source: Migration and Integration Directorate Statistical Report 2011 (Ljubljana, March 2012, p. 13)
In 2011, the number of valid permits for temporary residence in Slovenia decreased by 2.1% compared to 2010. On the other hand, in the same year the number of first temporary residence permits on the grounds of family reunification increased by 21% compared to 2010. Out of all reasons for the purpose of temporary residence in Slovenia 26% were issued for family reunification.
Difficult family reunification for migrants under international protection
The procedure of family reunification under the International Protection Act is time consuming and complex; since the adoption of the act only two people have successfully completed it. Most problems arise by proving kinship, obtaining passports of family members in the country of origin and payment of travel expenses. In both successfully completed procedures, travel costs were paid by the UNHCR.
Currently there are several pending cases of refugees attempting to exercise the right to family reunification in Slovenia. In two cases, the permit of the reunification has already been issued, but the realization has still not occurred. Currently, there are still six people waiting for the decision whether they will be allowed to reunify with their family; among them two former and four current unaccompanied minors. It already happened in the past that a minor was denied family reunification because in the course of the procedure he/she became adult. Unfortunately, this practice of the Ministry of Interior repeats although in our opinion it is in direct contradiction with the UN Convention of the Rights of Child and Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Envisaged legislative changes will exacerbate the situation
International Protection Act in article 17 specifies that persons granted international protection status have the right to family reunification, i.e. refugees and persons with subsidiary protection. As already mentioned, also in this area legislative changes have been recently proposed by the Ministry of Interior. The proposed amendments provide the transfer of legal regulation of family reunification of refugees and persons with subsidiary protection (currently under this Act) to the Aliens Act. Such transfer will significantly worsen financial situation of persons granted international protection because they would have to provide accommodation for family members by themself and not through the Ministry of the Interior as is the case now. The proposed change is even more surprising when we know that by now only two persons have been granted family reunification in Slovenia. Moreover, family members will not automatically ‘inherit’ the status of person with international protection as is currently the practice in the (still) applicable law, but the state will treat them as ‘ordinary’ foreigners. As a result of this change the reunification of family members would be almost impossible. A person applying for family reunification would be required to provide € 261.65 per month for each family member (as is currently officially set minimum income per capita in Slovenia), family members will have the right to only 180 hours course of Slovenian language for free and not 300 hours (plus additional 100 hours, if necessary) that they currently have.
Reunification of family members of migrants
will probably continue to disturb public opinion and experts in Slovenia for a
long time. Shifting this topic from one law to another and the related tightening
of the conditions for family reunification could lead immigrant families to the
edge of despair. The task of non-governmental organizations is to try to
prevent the planned changes of the existing legislation or at least mitigate
them. Right now representatives of several non-governmental organizations are
preparing amendments that would not further aggravate the already difficult
situation of migrants. Our goal is to prevent the adoption of the changes which
will worsen the situation of migrant families. We hope that we will be able to
prevent the introduction of new provisions on family reunification, which would
have been in most cases almost impossible to meet.
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.
 International Protection Act: http://www.uradni-list.si/1/objava.jsp?urlid=201111&stevilka=450 (Slovenian only)
 Prescribed kinship relationships are as follows: alien’s spouse, registered partner or a partner with whom the alien is living in a long-term relationship; minor (under the age of 18) unmarried children of aliens; minor unmarried children of alien’s spouse, registered partner or a partner with whom the alien lives in a long-term community; parents of a minor alien with whom he/she lived in a family community before arriving to Slovenia; adult unmarried children and the parents of an alien, an alien’s spouse, a registered partner or a partner with whom the alien lives in a long-term community, whom this alien, under the law of his/her country, is obliged to provide.
 It can be demonstrated for example by the original certificate of marriage or birth certificate of the child.
 An additional problem is that the employment of persons with international protection is extremely difficult. Most of them do not have formal diplomas and certificates that would allow them to facilitate employment.
Aida Hadžiahmetović is a fellow of Slovenian Philanthropy, an NGO that supports migrants, asylum seekers as well as other vulnerable social groups, is involved in international development programs and promotes intergenerational cooperation and voluntary work.