The Norwegian government wants to set an age limit of 24 years and an income requirement of over NOK 300,000 (USD 48,400) per year before a married couple would be eligible for family immigration. Marriage migration academic Helga Eggebø warned the proposal released for comment late last month could dramatically impact on couples whose relationships span Norway’s borders.
The proposal also sought to increase the time a person had to be married before they had the right to remain in Norway on an independent basis, from three to five years. “There’s little reason to be surprised by these proposals,” Eggebø wrote in a commentary in newspaper Aftenposten on Sunday. “Both changes were clear from the government’s platform and cooperation agreement with the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF) and the Liberals (Venstre).”
Heggebø argued increased income requirements by the former government in 2010 had already let to a clear increase in the number of rejections, and a strong bias had emerged. She said the latest proposal would only strengthen the trend. “Those who are married to immigrants, women or people under the age of 30, are to the greatest extent denied the right to live the family life they have chosen for themselves,” she said. “Even though the regulations are neutral and the same for everyone on paper, in practice it’s an advantage for older Norwegian men and their spouses.”
“It is moreover worth noting that NOK 304,500 in annual income is above the minimum salary for unskilled full-time worker, employed for example in kindergartens, the health sector and within cleaning,” she said.
Limit forced marriages
Heggebø said the rationale behind the age and income limits was to prevent forced marriages, something that had generated much public debate. It was designed to put Norwegian citizens with immigrant parents in a better position to refuse if their parents tried to subject them to an unwanted union. Heggebø argued the measure was misguided.
“What has not been so clear in the public debate is that Norwegian citizens with immigrant parents constitute approximately 3 percent of those who marry foreign citizens,” she said. “Further, evaluations from Denmark show that the effect of the 24-year age limit is primarily more rejections, and that many married couples settle in Sweden. The effect when it comes to preventing forced marriages is very unclear.”
May force women to remain in abusive relationships
Under the current so-called “three year rule,” someone who moves to Norway through marriage gets a temporary resident permit which is revoked if the couple splits within three years. The minority women’s movement has long campaigned against the rule, arguing it gave marriage migrants uncertain legal status and made them dependent on the marriage.
“In all too many cases this leads to women who are exposed to violence, threats and infringements feeling forced to remain in the marriage,” Heggebø wrote. “Exception rules exist for those who are exposed to serious mistreatment over time. But the rejection percentage is high (37 percent in 2011) and research in the field shows that these exceptions are not sufficient in protecting this group. Nevertheless the government wants to make the three year rule into a five year rule, and therefore make five year’s dependency on the marriage statutory.”
Heggebø criticized both the former and current governments’ positions on marriage migration, arguing the sharpened requirements that began under the former Labour (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) coalition looked set to become more onerous under the Conservative/Progress (Høyre/Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) government’s new proposal. She said the KrF, Liberals and Socialist Left (Sosialistisk Venstreparti, SV) had done little to temper the trend, despite having policies of strengthening the right to family life and making it easier for people to marry despite national borders.