Reunited family
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The GRC Tracing Service for refugees

Family reunification and subsequent immigration of relatives

The number of people fleeing from armed conflicts, violence and human rights violations, as a result of natural and man-made disasters or because of dwindling habitats has never been higher than today. Family ties are torn apart and relatives often find themselves separated from each other in different places around the world. Many legal and factual hurdles often have to be overcome before relatives can live together again.

The International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement defines refugees as migrants, and describes them as “persons who leave or flee their habitual residence to go to new places – usually abroad – to seek opportunities or safer and better prospects. Migration can be voluntary or involuntary, but most of the time a combination of choices and constraints are involved.”

Have you and your family also fled? The GRC Tracing Service offers you support and competent advice.

Family reunification of and to refugees

Have you been granted protection status and a residence permit in the Federal Republic of Germany after your flight and now hope that your relatives can come to join you so that you can live together as a family again?

The concern of relatives for family members who are separated from them is often paralysing and the longer the process of family reunification takes, the more their fear grows that relatives could embark on dangerous escape routes.

In the Residence Act (AufenthG), the term “family” is used primarily to describe the nuclear family – spouses/registered civil partnerships, underage unmarried children and their parents. Subsequent immigration is much more difficult or even impossible for other family members. The International Tracing Service Network of the worldwide Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) interprets the term “family” more broadly: In many socio-cultural contexts, a family includes all people who live under one roof or maintain close relationships with one another and who have an ongoing emotional dependency and a sense of mutual acceptance.

The legal provisions and definitions of the Residence Act apply to family reunification in Germany, to which the GRC Tracing Service is also bound.

If you want to have your family reunited with you, please contact a support centre of the GRC Tracing Service as soon as possible and immediately after you have been granted a legal protection status to obtain information about the legal possibilities and requirements.

Legal foundations and options

Depending on a number of different actual circumstances, different conditions apply to family reunification:

  • What protection status and residence title have you been granted, e.g. refugee status, subsidiary protection, national obstacle to deportation, etc.?
  • What is your relationship to your family members, e.g. spouse, minor child, brother or sister, etc.?
  • Did you submit an application for family reunification in time?
  • Where are your family members currently based and what is their status there?
  • Do you have documents to prove your identity and the family relationship?
  • Etc.

The requirements for family reunification of and to refugees are regulated by national laws, e.g. the Residence Act (AufenthG). In addition, EU legislation, e.g. Directive 2003/86/E (Family Reunification Directive), also plays a major role in the interpretation of national law. When examining the possibility of family reunification in your situation, the case law of German courts and the European judiciary, e.g. the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), must also be taken into account.

Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013, the so-called Dublin III Regulation, regulates the responsibility for examining asylum applications within the European Union as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. If your family member is already in one of these countries and has submitted an asylum application there on which a decision has not yet been taken, there may also be a possibility of family reunification under this regulation. The regulation contains rules on how family unity can be preserved or established in the asylum procedure.

How can the GRC Tracing Service help you?

The GRC Tracing Service advises and supports you in understanding the legal options and individual requirements regarding family reunification and in mastering the challenges of the procedure. The Tracing Service counsellors address your personal situation, are empathetic, work confidentially and always act in consultation with you. If you wish, the GRC Tracing Service can also advise you anonymously.

The GRC Tracing Service offers you the following assistance:

  • Comprehensive advice on the legal requirements and practical issues of family reunification
  • Advice and support for family members already living in Germany during the process of family reunification
  • Help with filling out and compiling the necessary applications pertaining to family reunification as well as support with related problems
  • Establishing contact and conducting correspondence, including with the German missions abroad and the competent immigration authorities
  • Support with regard to practical issues of family reunification, also in the families' countries of transit and origin, through cooperation with the International Tracing Service Network of the worldwide Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as well as other regional and international organisations, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the International Social Service (ISS).
GRC Tracing Service: Counselling ethnic German repatriates

Establishing contact and preparing for counselling interviews

Do you have a family reunification request of and to refugees? Please contact a support centre of the GRC Tracing Service near you.

Furthermore, the GRC Tracing Service Hamburg Office is the central information and support centre for family reunification of and to refugees. The counsellors are in close contact with the GRC Tracing Service Head Office in Berlin as well as nationwide with the GRC Tracing Service support centres in the GRC regional and district branches.

The GRC Tracing Service Hamburg Office also provides telephone advice on questions of family reunification of and to refugees for refugee and migration counselling centres of the GRC nationwide as well as for voluntary helpers and counselling centres of humanitarian organisations and associations such as the Arbeiterwohlfahrt (AWO), Caritas or Diakonie.

  • Contact

    German Red Cross
    Tracing Service Hamburg Office
    Meiendorfer Straße 205
    22145 Hamburg

    Fax: +49 (0)40 / 4 32 02 -249
    E-Mail: fz(at)

  • Phone contacts

    Ms. Sieglinde Duderstadt
    Phone: +49 (0)40 / 4 32 02 -176

    Ms. Inge Filipski
    Phone: +49 (0)40 / 4 32 02 -221

    Ms. Birgit Giese
    Phone: +49 (0)40 / 4 32 02 -202


    Ms. Selamawit Haile
    Phone: +49 (0)40 / 4 32 02 -205

    Mr. Mustafa Mohammed
    Phone: +49 (0)40 / 4 32 02 -201

    Ms. Samireh Ahmadi
    Phone: +49 (0)40 / 432 02 -182

  • Office Hours

    In person / by telephone: 08:30 am to 4:00 pm


Please make an appointment to arrange a personal consultation (appointments can be made at short notice) and have the notification of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) ready. Please bring the following documents with you to the agreed consultation:

  • The decision of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) on your protection status
  • Your residence permit
  • The personal details of your family members who wish to join you (copies of passports) and their contact details (telephone, e-mail, address)
  • Appointment confirmation from the German mission abroad for your relatives, if already available

Please come with an interpreter if necessary (no underage children).

Consultations in Tigrinya or Arabic are possible by prior arrangement.

Specialist Information

The GRC Tracing Service's specialist information on family reunification of and for refugees addresses current legal and factual developments and challenges in the area of family reunification and provides - based on these developments - counselling guidance. The selection of topics is based on the experiences gathered by the support centres in the area of family reunification of and for refugees as well as on the development of case law on selected topics. In addition to the presentation of background information, special emphasis is placed on the provision of practical advice in the irregularly published specialist information.

Information material

We have compiled information on international tracing and family reunification of and to refugees in a publication. You can order this publication from us in different languages.


The files are only available for download as viewing copies. If you are interested, please use our order form.

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