Austria: Stricter rules on family reunification will come into force this week

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The stricter rules on family reunification announced by the Austrian government will come into force this week.

The number of DNA tests will then be ‘massively increased’ by decree, announced Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP) at a press conference on Friday, from the current one per cent to around 50 per cent. The tests will also have to be conducted locally in the relevant embassies, and applicants will initially have to pay for them themselves.

‘We’re doing a planned square,’ Karner used traffic police jargon when promoting the measures. With the stricter measures, the ‘mandate of the Federal Chancellor’ Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) is being implemented. The approval of the coalition partner is not required, as a decree from the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, both of which are led by Turkish ministers, would suffice. The Greens have already criticised the announced measures.

Spouses and partners, as well as underage children, are affected by family reunification. In the future, they will have to take a DNA test from Austrian Embassy staff in their country of origin if there are any doubts about the authenticity of documents, which is often the case, according to the Ministry of the Interior. A visa will only be issued once a positive probability prognosis has been made. Further checks are carried out after entering the country and applying for asylum in Austria.

For now, applicants will have to bear the cost of around 250 euros. These will only be refunded if the result is positive. However, more documents will also be required for family reunification. In the future, the authorities can also request birth and marriage certificates. Karner would like to see another tightening of the law in the long term: the age of spouses should be raised to 21, as in Sweden.

The Minister of the Interior believes the EU has a role in other legislative changes. For example, he would like economic self-sufficiency to be a prerequisite for family reunification. The Director of the Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum (BFA), Gernot Maier, wants to ensure that the measures that have now been enacted at short notice are effective, as he announced. He is certain that there will not be a staffing problem due to the DNA tests.

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