Permanent Residents without Citizenship: Denizens

(This is a current extract from the Patterns of Power Repository.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition02/6732.htm)

As a result of migration, there are many people living in a country for long periods without having taken a decision to become citizens; such people are classed as 'denizens' in the terminology of this book (in contrast to people who visit for much shorter periods, for example less than six months, who are classified as 'visitors'). 

Denizens might be employed and own property, so they might pay as much in tax as permanent residents.  The aspects of governance which apply to them are politically determined: their entitlements from the host society and their responsibilities to it.  For example, there might be a time limit on how long denizens can receive benefits (

Within the EU there are regulations which are designed to let people live and work wherever they choose.  Many people who would otherwise be classed as denizens are treated as ‘citizens of Europe’, and have many of the benefits of national citizenship in the country where they reside,[1] although there are regulations to prevent so-called 'benefit shopping'.[2]

There is a case for strongly encouraging people who want to stay in a country to become citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities that citizenship entails, even if they wish to retain a nationality (and passport) belonging to another country.  Both the people concerned and the society in which they live would benefit by their becoming citizens in this political sense of the term:

·      If denizens are living in a country which has not conceded citizenship to them, they have to obey the law and they usually have to pay tax, yet they may not be allowed to vote. 

·      There is a case for reducing the weight given to the views of denizens during a consultation process (though it would be a mistake to ignore them completely: it would create resentment).

A policy of inclusivity would make a clear path to citizenship available to all denizens, perhaps after a short qualifying period.   They would then feel that they were part of the society in which they lived and they would be much more likely to behave supportively towards it. 

© PatternsofPower.org, 2014                                                 

[1] For example, in April 2014 the family benefits of an EU citizen were as follows:

“In the EU, the country responsible for your social security, including family benefits (child benefits, child-raising allowances, maternity/paternity leaves, and so on), depends on your economic status and your place of residence – not your nationality.” [emphasis as published]

This information was at http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/family/children/benefits/index_en.htm.

[2] The EU directive 2004/38/EC of 29 April 2004, “on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States”, declares that socio-economic rights for denizens are limited to 3 months on arrival – so as not to “become an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State” (item 10, on p.5).  This directive, which prevents people from moving just to obtain better benefits, was available in May 2014 at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2004:158:0077:0123:EN:PDF.