Permanent Resident Status: Denizens

Long-term visitors to a country can usually apply for permanent resident status, giving them additional rights and responsibilities

As a result of migration, there are many people living in a country for long periods without having 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 usually need residence permits and work permits.

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 restrictions on their access to 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 are entitled to many of the benefits of the country where they reside – as described in Help and advice for EU nationals and their familyEU directive 2004/38/EC, though, includes regulations to prevent people becoming “an unreasonable burden” on the social assistance system of the host Member State.

There is a case for strongly encouraging people who have permanent resident status to become citizens.  This would give them 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.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6732.htm.