Immigration service to be less strict with family reunification applications

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) will look into giving more refugees the “benefit of the doubt” in some instances when they apply for their families to join them. The service will also be more lenient with evidence proving a family connection. This should help shorten the waiting times for family reunifications. A third of family reunification requests are currently taking longer than the statutory decision period of six months. 

Refugees – asylum seekers with a residency permit – can apply for direct family members to come to the Netherlands. According to the IND, coronavirus-related travel restrictions made it difficult for family members to get a visa at a Dutch embassy abroad in the past two years.

The restrictions also made it more challenging to come to an interview or for a DNA test, the service said. Proportionally, more requests are being granted, according to the IND. The service said it had received about 250 applications for family reunification every week in recent months.

To make up for the waiting times, the service said it would temporarily limit “certain additional investigations” in pending applications. That should speed up a decision in some 9,000 applications. “An example is no longer conducting a DNA test if the biological family connection is plausible,” the IND said in a statement. 

Refugee organization VluchtelingenWerk “is happy and relieved that the IND is taking measures to shorten the waiting time for family reunification.” According to the aid agency, thousands of refugees are waiting for family reunification, and their loved ones are often in unsafe situations. 

“We are pleased that from now on, the IND will be more flexible with the burden of proof to demonstrate the family connection so that decisions can be made more quickly,” Vluchtelingenwerk said. “This method gives refugees the benefit of the doubt and offers more room for the human dimension in asylum policy.”

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