The pandemic has separated tens of thousands of families and couples who are no longer able to bring their relatives and partners abroad. According to the Federal Foreign Office, German diplomatic missions only issued 2,753 family reunification visas between March and June.

In the four years before, German embassies each issued more than 100,000 such entry permits. This corresponds to an average of 33,000 visas for a period of four months, to which the current figure refers.

The Federal Foreign Office explained the rapid decline with travel restrictions, flight bans and restrictions on public life in the countries of origin. For this reason, the passport and visa offices at many German diplomatic missions abroad have only been able to work to a limited extent or in emergency mode since the pandemic broke out.

The hurdles are significantly higher for refugees

German citizens or people from non-EU countries who have a residence or settlement permit can bring relatives to Germany. This applies to the spouse or registered partner and common minor children. Minors can also bring their parents back to Germany. More generous regulations apply to EU citizens than to people who come from countries outside the European Union.

Refugees who have received protection in Germany can also catch up with relatives in Germany. However, the hurdles are usually much higher here. This can be seen, for example, from the so-called subsidiary beneficiaries, i.e. people who have not been granted asylum, but who face the death penalty, torture, persecution or other dangers at home. For this group of people, Germany has been restricting immigration to a thousand relatives per month for two years.

In order to curb the corona virus, EU states such as Germany had agreed to a ban on entry for citizens of almost all non-EU countries in mid-March. Restrictions for some countries were relaxed in early July. In principle, it is also possible for people from countries that are not on this "positive list" to bring spouses or close relatives to Germany. But this requires a visa. Short-term visits to spouses or close relatives are also permitted under certain conditions.

Unmarried couples have been separated for months

The situation is even more difficult for unmarried couples who live in different countries. Many have not been able to see their partner for months. With the hashtag #loveisnottourism ("Love is not tourism"), people on social media draw attention to the problem and the unequal treatment.

Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer (CSU) meanwhile wants to stand up for the EU Commission for relief. "I am in favor and I am committed to that we will promptly relax the entry bans for unmarried couples," said the CSU politician to the Passauer Neue Presse . "But that should be done across Europe and that is primarily the responsibility of the European Commission." If no European solution is found in the coming weeks, Seehofer wants to push ahead with easier entry at the national level.