The Equality Challenge
Edited by Sonia Morano-Foadi and Micaela Malena
Chapter 15: Language skills as a requirement for family reunification of spouses in Germany: respecting respect for family life?
In 2003, Directive 2003/86/EC on the right to family reunification (hereinafter: the Family Reunification Directive or FRD) entered into force. The Directive provides third-country nationals legally resident in the European Member States with a right to be joined by their third-country national (TCN) family members. With transposition of the Directive into national law, Member States ‘for the first time have a detailed set of rules on the right to family reunification in their national legislation’. The family reunification legal regime was already quite advanced in Germany, compared to some other EU Member States, when the Directive entered into force in 2003. Even before this, German law provided the TCN core family members, i.e. the spouse and minor children, with a right to join their TCN family members. Although granting entry and residence depended on the fulfillment of certain admission criteria, it left no discretionary power to the authorities on the decision to grant family reunification it self. Language skills as a visa requirement were already known in German family reunification law. Since 1990 minor children above the age of 16 have been required to have a command of the German language before joining their parents or the parent enjoying sole custody. However, for spouses such an admission requirement was not obligatory.
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