The security of permanent residence may be a fundamental step on the path to full citizenship and better integration outcomes. Most immigrants are long enough settled to apply—and most have in many major, longstanding and new destinations.
How easily can immigrants become permanent residents?
The path to permanent residence is halfway favourable for integration in MIPEX countries. After 5 years, most residents can apply for a long-term residence status and rights equal to national citizens, but only after proving that they are self-sufficient. Those in need of help or unable to pay the high fees are left with temporary status, with neither the necessary support nor opportunities to further their integration.
Permanent residence is a normal part of the integration process in top-scoring countries, such as Canada, most Latin American countries (Brazil, Chile and Mexico), Nordic countries (Finland and Sweden),and a few other European countries (Hungary, Iceland, Slovenia, Ukraine). 16 countries have traditionally granted permanent residence upon arrival or after just a few years, so that migrant workers, families and refugees can start their settlement process with secure and near-equal rights. In contrast, many newcomers are ineligible for permanent residence in China, Denmark, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and Turkey. Newcomers are unable to meet restrictive and costly conditions in a long list of countries: Albania, Austria, Croatia, Czechia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, France, Greece, Latvia, Malta, Norway, Poland, Russia and the UK.
Countries rarely reform their legal routes to permanent residence. The limited major reforms of recent years have been driven by the politicisation of immigration. Brazil, Estonia, Macedonia, Russia, and Turkey have removed previous restrictions, while Austria, Denmark, Korea, Norway, Poland, Ukraine and the US have imposed new ones. Immigrants in MIPEX countries have been slightly more likely to face a few new restrictive conditions (7 countries, -15 points on average) than to see minor improvements in their eligibility, support or rights (5 countries, +17 on average). The trend is to extend the conditions that were once reserved for citizenship to permanent residence. For example, language requirements have been tightened and income requirements made even higher, making it as difficult for immigrants to become permanent residents as it is for them to become citizens.
- Most—but not all—temporary residents have the right to become permanent residents after 5 years (or slightly sooner) in most EU countries, in traditional destination countries (Canada, New Zealand and US), Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico), some Asian countries (India, Indonesia and Russia) and a few European countries (Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Ukraine).
- In traditional countries of immigration, nearly all temporary residents can apply earlier under discretionary schemes, without the right to permanent residence.
- The wait for permanent residence is exceptionally long and unfavourable in China, Denmark, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and Turkey.
- The conditions for becoming a permanent resident are radically different for immigrants across MIPEX countries.
- Immigrants benefit most from the inclusive and flexible approach to permanent residence in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Finland and Spain.
- 27 countries impose a language assessment, while 23 others do not. In Australia and Iceland, immigrants are required to take a language course but do not have to take a test.
- Demanding economic resource requirements - e.g. requiring income linked to employment or no use of social assistance - are likely too high for many immigrants to succeed in 25 countries.
Security of status
- In 24 countries, the procedure for renewing permanent residence is automatic. In 27 it is renewed upon further application, leaving immigrants only halfway secure in their new status.
- In 21 countries, applicants can obtain a permanent secure status for their entire lives.
- This status is critically weak in Israel, where the original requirements apply at the point of permit renewal. Permanent residents experience a slightly insecure status in countries such as India, Indonesia, Russia and several Central European countries.
- The permitted period of absence from the country is equal to or more than one year in nearly all MIPEX countries (the only exception is Indonesia). In 24 countries, the period is greater than three years.
- Residence is relatively secure in Western Europe, though never as secure as it is for national citizens. Authorities in most countries retain discretion to refuse or withdraw a permit even after decades, although personal circumstances must usually be considered and there exists the possibility to appeal.
- Permanent residents enjoy equal access to social security and assistance in 43 MIPEX countries, as in 2014, with a strong improvement in access to social rights in Moldova.
Policies and integration outcomes: What do we learn from robust studies?
The MIPEX scores on permanent residence say a lot about whether a country recognises itself as a country of immigration or denies this reality. Permanent residence policies seem to matter most over the long-term for immigrants to put down roots in their new country and secure more stable employment.
The importance of permanent residence has been considered by a few researchers in around 20 independent scientific studies linking MIPEX to integration outcomes, but much more research is required. Restrictive policies on permanent residence can trap immigrants in precarious jobs and legal statuses. Under inclusive policies, immigrants are more likely to stay long-term, settle down and secure better jobs.