I propose to take Questions Nos. 249 and 250 together.
The International Protection Act 2015, which was fully commenced on 31 December 2016, brought about significant reforms to our international protection process. The most significant of these was the introduction of a single application procedure. By replacing the previous multi-layered and sequential process, the single application procedure brings certainty at a much earlier stage to those who qualify for protection. In turn, this provides for timely reunification with immediate family members to support those granted international protection to begin their new lives here in Ireland.
In aligning our application procedure with other EU Member States, the Government was also mindful of the need to align our family reunification provisions. The EU Family Reunification Directive governs family reunification in the Member States, with the exception of Ireland, the UK and Denmark. In so doing, we considered it appropriate and humane not to impose the economic conditions on sponsors. In addition, unlike some EU Member States, our family reunification provisions apply equally to beneficiaries of both types of international protection: refugee status and subsidiary protection status.
In order to apply for Family Reunification, an applicant must have a current declaration as a Convention Refugee, Programme Refugee or they must be a current beneficiary of Subsidiary Protection. The sponsor must make an application within 12 months of being granted one of the above, or from the date of their arrival in the State as a Programme Refugee.
Under Section 56 of the International Protection Act, the following family members are eligible for family reunification (with relevant criteria in brackets):
- Spouse (the marriage must have subsisted on the date the application for International Protection in the State was lodged);
- Civil Partner (the civil partnership must have subsisted on the date the application for International Protection in the State);
- Parent(s) and their children (under 18 and unmarried) if the sponsor was under 18 and unmarried on the date the application for family reunification in the State was lodged; and
- A child of the sponsor, who is under the age of 18 and unmarried when the sponsor made an application for Family Reunification in the State.
Under Sections 56 and 57, a person may apply for permission for member(s) of their family to:
- Enter and reside in the State where they are living outside the State; or
- Reside in the State where they are already in the State on the date the application was lodged.
- Where an application for Family Reunification is granted, family members will be given permission to enter and/or reside in the State for not less than one year, provided the sponsor's permission is in force and the sponsor is entitled to remain in the State.
However, it also remains open to me to exercise my discretion under the Non-EEA Policy Document on Family Reunification to waive the economic conditions for sponsors applying for extended family members. My Department will continue to examine such applications on humanitarian grounds on a case-by case basis.