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Justice and Home Affairs Committee

Corrected oral evidence: Family migration

Tuesday 11 October 2022

10.05 am


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Members present: Baroness Hamwee (The Chair); Lord Blunkett; Baroness Chakrabarti; Lord Dholakia; Lord Hunt of Wirral; Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws; Baroness Pidding; Baroness Primarolo; Lord Ricketts; Baroness Sanderson of Welton; Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia.

Evidence Session No. 4              Heard in Public              Questions 3447



I: Professor Audrey Macklin, Professor Faculty of Law, University of Toronto; Dr Saskia Bonjour, Associate Professor in Political Science, University of Amsterdam; Dr Helga Eggebø, Research Professor, Nordland Research Institute.



  1. This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and webcast on



Examination of witnesses

Professor Audrey Macklin, Dr Saskia Bonjour and Dr Helga Eggebø.

Q34             The Chair: Good morning and welcome to the House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee evidence session on family migration. Joining us online we have Professor Audrey Macklin of the University of Toronto, to whom we have been particularly brutal by having her do this at 5 am where she is. We have Dr Saskia Bonjour from the University of Amsterdam and Dr Helga Eggebø from the Nordland Research Institute in Norway. Thank you all very much for joining us.

Almost all of us have questions that are prepared, but any members of the committee may want to come in to follow up points that are made. We will obviously have to keep an eye on the clock. These things are always so interesting that there is inevitably a danger of overrunning.

I start by thanking our witnesses for their written statements. We have written evidence from each of you already, which will probably enable you to be brief on the first context-setting question. In your jurisdiction, does who counts as family for immigration reflect contemporary attitudes and understanding of family?

Dr Helga Eggebø: Yes. You may say that regulations reflect a contemporary understanding of family in the sense that same-sex couples and cohabiting partners have the same rights to marriage migration as heterosexual couples. However, in practice, we know that non-normative couples often struggle to access family migration.

For further information, I could refer you to two of my publications that focus on the question of family migration and how it relates to contemporary norms of intimacy. The brief answer is “Yes, formally, but in practice it is “Not always.

Dr Saskia Bonjour: In the Netherlands, “the family” in family migration is defined as the nuclear family—the partner, whether same-sex or a different sex, married or unmarried, and minor children. Refugee children can also bring their parents over. There are lots of different family forms that are not captured by this, and I would like to highlight two.

The first is the extended family and, in particular, elderly parents. Only in extreme circumstances of dependency can the admission of elderly parents be considered in the Netherlands. The normal care that ageing brings with it is not sufficient; there has to be severe illness and the family has to prove that there is no family member, relative or professional institutional option of care in the home country. That is very prohibitive.

Secondly, there is the issue of multi-parent families. Lots of families in the Netherlands are recomposed or “rainbow families”, where there are more than two adults taking care of children. That is another family form that is not taken into account in migration law and policy.

Professor Audrey Macklin: To add to what Saskia and Helga said, there are only a couple of differentiations in Canada. The economic class—that is, someone who immigrates as a skilled worker—can bring their family members as accompanying family members. However, that family consists only of a spouse or conjugal partner, including of the same-sex, and children under the age of 22.

Here I take the opportunity to correct an error in the memo I gave you. I kept referring to the maximum age of children under this criterion as 23. I do not know what I was thinking, so scratch out 23 in all those and put in 22. That applies to people who are entering and bringing their family with them.

For people who are already in Canada as permanent residents or citizens and who are sponsoring family members to come over as permanent residents, the family includes those I just referred to plus parents or grandparents.

To add a couple more elements to this, until the early 1990s we also had a category called “assisted relative”. This person did not enter as a relative but as a member of the economic class; they got extra points in the economic class for having a relative already in Canada.

Regarding the resettlement of refugees from abroad, in an informal way when selecting families there is an emerging practice of trying to resettle the extended family—that is, the family that functionally operates as a family in the country of origin or first refuge. That may be different from the conventional nuclear family. I think value is placed on bringing them all for resettlement with the view that it is better to do that now, both for the healthy integration of those people and to reduce demands, claims or requests for future family reunification for those other family members.

The Chair: Thank you all. One issue in the UK regarding all immigration law is how much is a matter for the Executive, rather than part of our primary or secondary legislation. A lot is in rules and does not pass before parliamentarians. What you have said about the selection of applicants and practice probably chimes with some of what we may end up commenting on.

Q35             Baroness Chakrabarti: In the United Kingdom there are now “bespoke”—I might say “exceptional”—immigration pathways, such as the Homes for Ukraine scheme or the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme. These exist alongside and outside the mainstream processes. They each define and approach the concept of family and who qualifies for it differently. I wonder whether you witness any similar trends in your jurisdictions and have any other comment on this development.

Dr Helga Eggebø: Over the decades Norway has had several bespoke schemes as well as general changes in immigration regulation in response to crises. After 2016, immigration law was overhauled significantly in response to the refugee crisis. Most of those regulations were ordinary and permanent ones.

However, regarding bespoke schemes, usually they are less favourable to migrants than the ordinary ones. One example is a group of Iraqis who were granted temporary protection between 1998 and the 2000s and did not have the right to family migration. Ukrainians are also granted this form of temporary protection, but they have the right to family migration. To my knowledge, family is defined in the same way as in ordinary legislation for this group.

The most noteworthy difference for Ukrainians is that they do not need a visa to enter Norway, which makes a huge difference. Recent reports from some of my colleagues show that Ukrainians in bespoke schemes are consistently treated more favourably and given more rights to self-determination in the Norwegian asylum and integration system compared to other asylum seekers. That is very interesting and important in this regard.

Baroness Chakrabarti: Would anybody else like to comment on that?

Professor Audrey Macklin: I can only say quickly that in Canada the important dividing line is whether people come with some unique temporary status versus the ordinary route from temporary to permanent residence. That temporary status versus permanent status of, for example, the primary applicant can affect the ability to reunite with family, to the extent that choices are made about allocating people into temporary versus refugee or permanent-resident categories, and that becomes the basis upon which access to family reunification is allotted.

Dr Saskia Bonjour: In the Netherlands we do not have these context-specific pathways. Nor did we ever have these kinds of temporary schemes for specific groups until the EU temporary protection mechanism was mobilised for the Ukrainians. I do not even think that Ukrainians need to mobilise family migration in the Netherlands, because all Ukrainian nationals get a residence permit upon arrival, so all family members can use that same entry path.

The Chair: I gather that, in Norway, Afghan nationals’ relatives no longer have to apply in person in Afghanistan for a visa application; we are very aware of how close to impossible that would be, because there is no visa application centre in Afghanistan. Helga, did this come about because of Norwegians protesting generally, or was it from the sector? Did the Government have a moment of enlightenment? Perhaps I should not put it so much at one end of the spectrum. How did that happen?

Dr Helga Eggebø: I am not sure I can explain that exactly at the moment, to be honest. I would probably have to look into it. That would have to be my answer. I am sorry about that.

Q36              The Chair: Do not apologise. That is okay.

I had hoped that Fiona Shackleton, who is a family lawyer, could be here to ask about the protection of the best interests of the child in immigration processes. Can you talk to us about how children’s best interests are protected in practice in your jurisdictions, whatever the law has to say, given that you mentioned the distinction between what is formally the law, or the rule, and practice?

Dr Helga Eggebø: Probably in line with other European countries, the best interests of the child are supposed to be a so-called primary consideration, according to Norwegian immigration law, which draws from international law. In practice, however, restricting immigration will, in many cases, finally override the best interests of the child. In Norway, this has been particularly on the agenda in cases concerning the deportation of parents or the regularisation of irregular migrant families on humanitarian grounds, given the child’s connection to Norway. In particular in these cases, it has stirred quite political debate and negotiations about how to prioritise or not prioritise the best interests of the child.

With regard to checklists and more specific criteria for consideration, there are checklists in Norwegian immigration law for a specific paragraph regarding humanitarian grounds. Otherwise, the more general checklist of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, from the UN system, should also be taken into account in cases in Norway. However, there is some legal debate about whether such checklists are useful or whether they turn into box ticking and prevent the more holistic or individual assessment.

I do not think there is any existing research figuring out exactly when and how, and in how many cases, immigration regulations override the best interests of the child, because the cases are so specific and different. But there is political controversy about this issue, given that it is supposed to be a primary consideration but it turns out that it is being overridden or overruled by immigration considerations in many cases anyhow.

The Chair: It is a primary consideration, not the primary consideration.

Dr Helga Eggebø: I think you are right about that, but I could check.

Dr Saskia Bonjour: In the Netherlands, there is no specific integration of the check on the best interests of the child in Dutch legislation or regulation at the moment, so the reference is mostly to the UN convention. There is an ongoing debate with parliamentarians, who have proposed a Bill, which is a work in progress, on how to integrate it. There is a lot of discussion about whether a separate ground for admission based on the best interests of the child should be included, or indeed whether some kind of compulsory check should be mainstreamed across migration policy. That is a metaphoric and legislative discussion at the moment.

In practice, something that has changed and has made a major difference for children with Dutch nationality is that they are much better protected against being separated from a parent. In the Dutch interpretation of the jurisprudence of the EU court—notably the Chavez-Vilchez ruling, and everything that followed from that—anyone who is caring for a child to the extent that the child depends on that care has a right of residence derived from the citizenship rights of that child. That means that even if there is another parent who is caring for the child—in many cases the mother—the father, if they are involved in practice in caring for the child, will also have grounds for staying. That is a practical check into what the father, in this case, or the parent does on a day-to-day basis with the child, which will then result in residence grounds for that parent.

For non-Dutch children, there are many problems relating to the delays and the prolonged separation that comes from the lengthy procedures, and from problems with proof such as documentation, and things like that.

Professor Audrey Macklin: The best interests of the child is incorporated into the determination of what is called humanitarian and compassionate discretion. In Canada, this was the product of the Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence. Humanitarian and compassionate discretion, which is often called H&C, is a last-ditch source of, well, humanitarian and compassionate discretion, as it describes, to admit somebody who is not admissible, to not remove somebody who is otherwise removable. So in cases where it is either the parent who is a non-citizen of a citizen child, or even a non-citizen child being removed from Canada, H&C is often where one goes.

So it is, as we describe here, a kind of checklist into the best interests of the child, with a view that they do not always, or necessarily, outweigh the other interests that might favour removal.

The interests that favour the child remaining are typically highly specific to the child, their family circumstance, their life and, if a parent is being deported, the parent’s relationship and so on. The counterweight is a more generic interest in enforcing immigration law. Rarely does it attach to anything specific with respect to the case, other than that the person being deported is deportable. Therefore, there is a weight attached to enforcing that law that permits deportation.

There is also a requirement to take the best interests of the child into account in detention situations. A general principle is that it is not in the best interests of children to be detained. There is a general commitment to reducing, if not eliminating, the detention of children that has not entirely happened. It is a commitment that has not been statutorily enshrined in an enforceable form. It stands as a policy, an aspiration, which operates to a greater or lesser effect.

The Chair: We have been joined by Baroness Shackleton. When she has caught her breath, I will ask her if she has a specific point on this.

Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia: Can I make an unreserved apology? I have been here since 9.38 am, sitting in the Library. I thought this started at 10.30 am, but I am deeply sorry to everybody for being so late.

The Chair: I know that all of this is close to your heart, so even though you have not been able to hear quite all of it, do ask anything you would like to ask. I can give you a moment by asking another question myself.

Q37             Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia: There is one question I would like to ask, if I may. Since we have left Europe, is there anything we should be trying to negotiate? I know Lugano is not working any longer, but are there any statutory requirements that you would like our Government to ask for to protect children in this situation?

Dr Saskia Bonjour: I do not know if you had a chance to hear what I just said, but Dutch minors have benefited from EU jurisprudence on the derived rights of parents to stay with their citizen children. If the rights of British citizen children to have their parents with them are not sufficiently protected now, it is certainly worth looking at what that looks like in other EU countries and whether that is something you could use.

Dr Helga Eggebø: EU family members will, after Brexit, have to apply for more regular family migration regulations rather than pursuing the more favourable EU route that has been and still is available in other European countries. I do not know about negotiations—I guess you will have to figure that out—but I guess there will be upcoming protests by EU citizen family members who might now struggle to access family migration in particular, due to the income requirement. That would be a rule that I would expect to affect many couples and families, at least.

The Chair: We will come to finance in a moment. On the best interests of the child, can I ask each of you whether a lot of litigation and individual cases have been required to ensure that best interests are protected? Audrey, you are nodding.

Professor Audrey Macklin: There has been lots of litigation on what constitutes the best interests of the child and how much value or weight to add on enforcement and the value of what gets called programme integrity. It is litigated on quite often in Canada.

Dr Helga Eggebø: In general in Norway—I think this is probably quite different from the UK—the courts do not play a central role in interpreting or developing immigration law. It is left mostly to the immigration administration and the Immigration Appeals Board. That makes a huge difference. But cases are sometimes brought before the court or High Court, and it interferes usually only on questions of process, not the individual considerations. The courts usually look at the process of making sure that these considerations are taken into account.

Dr Saskia Bonjour: There is also plenty of litigation and jurisprudence on this question in the Netherlands.

Q38             Lord Blunkett: Thank you for being with us. We have long had a policy—inconsistently applied, it has to be said—that denies what is called recourse to public funding in this aspect of our immigration policy. Do your three jurisdictions have similar policies, and are they applied consistently? From your own research, what has the perceived outcome been?

Professor Audrey Macklin: I hope I am answering your question correctly. Just jump in and tell me if I have misunderstood it, but you are looking at the measures Canada takes to ensure that people who are sponsored as family members are not drawing unduly on the public fisc.

Lord Blunkett: That is correct, although we do not apply it to certain areas of public provision.

Professor Audrey Macklin: Of course. Nor does Canada. Canada’s general approach is this. A sponsor of a family member can be a permanent resident or a citizen; the rules are identical. The family member will fall into the categories I have described of spouse/conjugal partner; a child of 22 or under, with some exceptions; or a parent or grandparent. There is some concern that the family of the sponsored member does not become a fiscal burden. The state addresses that, first, by setting a low-income cut-off, which is calculated based on low-income rates throughout Canada. That used to be called the poverty line. That low-income cut-off becomes the threshold income that a sponsor has to reach.

That low-income cut-off is waived for sponsorships of spouses and dependent children—children under 22. For parents and grandparents, the sponsor has to earn 130% of the low-income cut-off, but that is still not at all comparable to the UK level; it is a low, moderate level. The sponsor also has to qualify as sponsor by not being in receipt of income assistance at the time of the application, although that does not include disability assistance. There are various other criteria for eligibility.

As part of the sponsorship agreement, however, a sponsor gives an undertaking to the Government that they will, in effect, provide financial settlement support to the family members being sponsored, for varying periods from three to 10 years. That depends on the age and class of entry. I can explain more, if you want. In the sponsorship undertaking, the sponsor effectively promises the Government that, if one of the sponsored members of the family class ends up drawing on social or income assistance, the sponsor, during the period of the sponsorship undertaking that I have just described, is obliged to repay the Government the amount paid out.

To summarise, the low-income cut-off is quite a low income requirement, plus an undertaking to reimburse the Government if any of the sponsored family members go on social assistance during the term of the undertaking.

Lord Blunkett: Is that repayment enforced?

Professor Audrey Macklin: Yes. Often, it is the provincial governments in Canada that pay out social assistance. If the agreement is breached, it can be enforced by whichever government wishes to do so, but it is more often the provincial government. No recent data has been produced on the rate of default, both how often it happens and what size. There have been conversations over the last few years about how better to monitor it, as it seems a bit haphazard, but that is all I can tell you.

Dr Saskia Bonjour: In the Netherlands, there is an income requirement that applies to all family reunification, except for refugees. The requirement is that income is independent, sustainable and sufficient. “Sufficient” means that it has to be at least the minimum wage, which at present is €1,750 for a family. What “sustainable” is taken to mean depends a bit on the form of income, but generally it should be available for at least the 12 months to come. “Independent” includes quite a broad range of forms of income, from working wages to business, to property, but also to social security—unemployment, disability or retirement—but not welfare benefits.

Only the individual sponsor’s income counts for the first admission. At the second stage, when family members apply for permanent residence, the income of all members who live in the householdso the parents and the partner if they live in the same householdcan be counted.

With regard to consistency of application, it is interesting that, in administrative practice, again as a result of jurisprudence, the court has basically forced the Dutch administration to look at individual circumstances. There is a notion that a sufficient income for one family may not be sufficient for another. When denying admission on grounds of income, the administration has to show that it has really looked at the individual case. For instance, if someone cannot prove that they will have exactly 12 months of income next year but can prove that they have never used any public benefits in the past, the administration should take these kinds of circumstances into account.

So I do not know if you would call it inconsistent, but it is directed to look at the individual circumstances of each family, rather than applying the rule as it is laid down on paper.

Lord Blunkett: When I was in Government, I discovered quite often that public policy and humane outcomes did not always match. Sometimes consistency can be a block to doing the right thing. Helga, would you like to comment?

Dr Helga Eggebø: In Norway, we do not have a rule on no recourse to public funds that is comparable to that in the UK. In general, all migrants have a right to access most benefits as they become legal residents. In line with the egalitarian legacy of the Scandinavian welfare state, most social benefits are universal and cover migrants.

However, the concern about migrants, in particular family migrants, becoming a burden on the welfare state is very much present. To address that, Norwegian legislation includes two separate income requirements. First, there is an income requirement for sponsoring family migrants. It is indexed annually and is currently £24,800 a year. I suspect that might be among the highest in Europe relative to income level. In addition to this income requirement, it has to be documented on tax reports for the previous and the upcoming year. There is an extra rule, which is that you are disqualified from sponsoring a family migrant if you have received certain means-tested welfare benefits. That is the first income requirement.

In 2017, a second income requirement was introduced for permanent residency. All migrants, regardless of admission category, are subject to this. It means that you have to demonstrate an income that is more or less the same as the one for family migration—slightly less, at £24,000. That income has to be proved by the individual migrant, not by the entire family as Saskia pointed out for the Netherlands. Also in this case, you are totally disqualified from applying for permanent residency if you have received certain means-tested welfare benefits in the past year.

These two income requirements are the main ways to address the concern that migrants are becoming a burden on the welfare state.

Lord Blunkett: I think, Chair, that we have identified the real difficulty in the way in which these are applied. We have something called a habitual residence test, which comes on to the agenda from time to time and is a nightmare in how it is applied.

The Chair: I am struck by the greater flexibility—I was going to say “less of a blunt instrumentin some of the applications that we have heard about, but perhaps I should not go down that route at this point.

Q39             Lord Hunt of Wirral: Compared to the Home Office in the UK, could you describe the institutional status of the immigration authority in your jurisdiction? In a way, we are seeking to explore with you the immigration authoritys institutional culture and how it is influenced by political events. Perhaps we might come to Helga first, because in your written evidence you talk about how the regulations have become more restrictive. Can you give us a bit of background on the immigration authority and its status in your jurisdiction?

Dr Helga Eggebø: As I mentioned earlier, I will underline again that the courts do not play a central role in Norway. Very seldom are cases brought to court, and for different reasons, which have to do with how the legal system is organised in general. But applications for residency are assessed by the Directorate of Immigration and appeals are handled by the Immigration Appeals Board. Laws are, of course, passed by Parliament, but immigration regulations and, more specifically, instructions, as we call them, are made by the Ministry of Justice and Security. It cannot, however, interfere specifically in individual cases. Formally, the appeals board and immigration administration are politically independent and are supposed to rule according to existing legislation.

The institutional culture of the Directorate of Immigration has been found in research to vary quite a lot between its different sections. Some sections or units have been found to have developed a culture of disbelief, while others operate more on an assumption of truthfulness. The different institutional cultures that have been found to exist relate to country portfolios and the number of arrivals. The number of arrivals from specific countries has consistently influenced how individual cases are practised in general.

I hope that addresses your question, but please follow up if there is anything else.

Q40             Lord Hunt of Wirral: Perhaps we might go to Canada next. Audrey, I was struck in your written evidence that things are changing at the moment. I think you said that the extent of change, particularly with temporary work permit holders and international students, exceeds the scope of the brief note you gave us. Could you expand a little on the institutional status and culture and how it is influenced by increasing demands?

Professor Audrey Macklin: Sure, and if my answer does not address the concerns you are raising, please let me know and I will circle back. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is the government department that, broadly speaking, manages people coming in. It handles applications for permanent residence, family reunification, temporary entrance for tourists, international students and temporary workers. We also have a proliferation of provincially led programmes. There is a long-standing one in Quebec, but now there are programmes known as provincial nominee programmes which supplement that, so there is a kind of array developing.

Until about 20 years ago, enforcement operations were rolled into the work of what is now Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. However, post-9/11 that was hived off and handed to a more policing branch of the federal government, along with the RCMP and other similar organisations such as our security services. It is called Canada Border Services Agency, which is straight-up enforcement. It is at the border and sees itself as enforcing and removing. There is a bifurcation in our immigration system, with admission on one side and exclusion and enforcement on the other. It used to be united.

Part of the functions of our immigration system are hived off to independent tribunals. The Immigration and Refugee Board manages refugee adjudication, as well as having an immigration appeals division that handles appeals to removal orders, refusals of family reunification and other aspects of the immigration side. We also have an immigration division that deals with detention. All three are part of the independent tribunal—the Immigration and Refugee Board—which operates in a quasi-judicial fashion.

Regarding the effects of all this, like many immigration bureaucracies it is chronically understaffed. According to a recent report I have read, morale is very low and it does not have enough resources. Access-to-information requests against Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada are greater than against every other department of government combined, because they are not able to keep up. They do not provide information in the first instance, requiring people to seek access-to-information requests, and so on. That gives a sense of the struggles around this.

With respect to the migration of temporary workers, Canada used to have a points system which everybody talked about as the “industry standard”—a system measuring human capital and admitting people as permanent residents. In the last 10 to 15 years, that programme has been eroded considerably in favour of models that admit people on a temporary basis as workers and then, one way or another, facilitate the transition of some to permanent residence.

It has also become increasingly dependent on international students and the very high tuition that they pay. Universities become dependent on that revenue, and that becomes a temporary entrance category, with the prospect of a transition to permanent residence. That alters the orientation of the work that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship does. I do not know if that addressed your questions.

Lord Hunt of Wirral: Yes, it did. So, you are creeping towards the United States model, are you?

Professor Audrey Macklin: We are creeping towards what I would call a two-step migration policy, with one important difference so far, which is worth emphasising. In the United States, when someone wants to adjust their status to get a green card, an employer has to petition on their behalf. That obviously creates or exploits a significant imbalance of power between the worker and employer. In Canada, the worker themselves applies to government to make that transition, so they are not beholden to any particular employer to transition from temporary to permanent status. By that point they would often hold an open permit and could work for any employer.

Lord Hunt of Wirral: That was really helpful. Saskia, would you like to give us the Netherlands’ perspective?

Dr Saskia Bonjour: Migration law and policy in the Netherlands is obviously made by Parliament and the Government together, but within government it is by the Ministry of Justice and Security and not by the home affairs ministry.

The implementation of policies and decisions on applications for immigration or naturalisation are taken by the Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst—the Immigration and Naturalisation Service—a government agency that is an independent, separate organisation. There is also Dienst Terugkeer en Vertrek, which is a separate service that manages returns policies.

The question on institutional culture is so interesting and makes me feel that there is more research that I need to do. I did some research on family migration policies from the 1950s until the early 2000s. It was not on the implementation services but on the policy-making part. Especially in the 1950s and 1960s, you could see very clearly that civil servants in the Ministry of Justice and Security felt that it was part of the institutional culture to want to control migration: to control the inflow and to have a certain suspicion inherent in the approach towards applications.

I also saw that in the Netherlands from 1990s onwards, especially in the 2000s, the political atmosphere moved towards much more restrictive policy preferences. Civil servants could sometimes act or attempt to act as a brake or counterforce on certain particularly restrictive propositions, especially in reminding politicians of the legal frameworks they have to work within.

Q41             The Chair: Audrey, you mentioned students, and I want to ask each of you a question briefly; I am sorry that we have not given you notice of this. Within the last few days, our Government have indicated that they want to look at whether students could bring their dependants with them and how many they could bring. Higher education is key to our economy and international student fees are very important to the higher education sector. Is students bringing dependants an issue, and have there been any recent changes in any of your jurisdictions? I know that this question is coming out of the blue.

Professor Audrey Macklin: I have been looking into whether those admitted as international students can bring their spouses and partners. I recently asked someone about this. I think it is an issue in transition, but I do not think there is a general ability to do it.

To be candid, that is less of an issue with undergraduate than graduate students. Graduate students are often adults and married, so they can bring their spouses, so that is not the issue. The issue is whether those spouses can get work permits. I believe there is a move to enable them to get open work permits, because it is obvious both that there is benefit to the international student in having family with them and that what is good for the student is good for the institution in which the student is enrolled. The spouse who comes will be able to provide a certain amount of support through living and working there, which will, in turn, assist with family support—if they can get a work permit, find a job and so on.

There is a move in that direction, but I apologise, as I do not have the last word on that. I underscore that my guess is that this issue is primarily for graduate students.

Dr Helga Eggebø: There is a difficult double bind for students here, because they have to fulfil the income requirement for family migration, but if you earn that kind of money, you are disqualified from the student loan. There is also a maximum amount of money that you are allowed to earn on a student permit. I would have to check the details of how that is practised, but there is obviously a difficult double bind going on.

On recent changes, there is a proposal being discussed that international students from outside the EU will no longer have free higher education in Norway as the situation is now. If students from outside the EU were to pay, it would drastically change the composition and number of international students.

The Chair: It is a very complex area.

Dr Saskia Bonjour: Our situation is similar to Norway’s. Students, like temporary labour migrants, are allowed to bring their family, in theory. They are also exempt from the integration requirements. Other family migrants have to pass a test on the Dutch language and knowledge of society before being granted a visa, but family members of students and labour migrants do not. However, they have to meet the income requirements. The student has to meet them, because the individual sponsor has to meet the income requirements; it cannot be the parents or the incoming partner. Their incomes do not count. As in Norway, there is a limit on how many hours you can work. I think that a student, on a student visa, may not even be able to work at all. I will have to check. It is very difficult for students to meet the income requirement.

Professor Audrey Macklin: To clarify, there is no income requirement for students in Canada in the same way.

The Chair: This may be an issue everywhere, but you might not be seeing, as we are, that there is a limit on the number of children who a student might bring.

Q42             Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: Thank you, all three of you, for giving us your expertise in a complicated field. How much does it usually cost an immigrant to settle in your respective jurisdictions on a family visa? I am thinking about application fees and the other costs incurred.

Dr Helga Eggebø: The application fees are significant, in particular for family migrants. It costs £900 to sponsor a spouse at the moment, and this rate has increased a lot over the past decade. I think there has been about a 12-fold increase, but please consult the written statement for more information about that. You also have the cost of renewal, which is about £224 each time. Finally, there is £324 to apply for a permanent residence permit. In addition, embassies and actors operating on behalf of Norwegian embassies are allowed to charge different extra fees for receiving and sending passports and applications to embassies and the immigration administration. Those fees vary a lot between embassies, and there is no specific official information defined about them.

Also, it may cost a lot to travel to Norwegian embassies or mission stations abroad to submit the application. There is also the cost of travelling to Norway if the application is finally approved. In particular for refugees and their family members, these costs of travelling are known to be a significant hurdle, as well as the application fee. That sums up to quite a lot of money for many migrant families and migrants.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: Helga, you mentioned renewal fees. How often is the renewal required?

Dr Helga Eggebø: That is an extremely interesting and relevant question. Until 2017, there was a waiting period of three years before you could apply. Some categories of migrant had to apply every year, and others could have a temporary permit of at least two years. Now, with the introduction of the income requirement for permanent residents, existing income statistics indicate that many family migrants and refugees will not, individually, have that amount of money after three years—more likely 10 years or even longer. In that prolonged, temporary situation, people will have to pay their renewal many more times more than twice, as was the situation before. The combined effect of different requirements would make it both difficult and very costly for many migrants.

This is very interesting now and will be in the future. I am part of a group that is investigating the exact effect of that income requirement on permanent residency. We will see that in a couple of years. In line with Audrey’s statement, I would also say that there is a general push towards prolonged temporariness for migrants in Norway.

Dr Saskia Bonjour: About 10 years ago or a bit longer, there was a moment of very sharp increase in the application fees and, I think after court rulings, a sharp decrease, as the application fees should reflect the actual costs of the administration. It is now €207 for a residence permit for adults, which includes the visa application, and €69 for minor children. Then there is the civic integration exam abroad, the registration for which costs €150. Only people 16 years and older have to take that integration exam, so reunification with one partner would cost €357 in fees, and reunification with a partner and three children below 16 would cost €564. As Helga just said, there are all the additional costs of travel, preparing for the exam, the time that it takes and the extra trips to the embassy required. They are not mentioned in those figures.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: Audrey, how does it work out in Canada?

Professor Audrey Macklin: I will divide this into two. There are fees for people who are applying for permanent residence along with their family members, then there are people who are already permanent residents or citizens in Canada who are applying to sponsor family members and bring them in as permanent residents. I think you are interested more in the latter category, and I will address that first, or do you want both? It does not make a huge difference.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: I would like both but, if you could, deal with the second category first.

Professor Audrey Macklin: It does not make a huge difference, actually. When a principal applicant is applying for permanent residence and wishes to include their spouse/conjugal partner et cetera and children under 22 in that application—in other words, eligible family members—the principal applicant pays $1,365, as does the spouse. If the child is under 22, or over 22 but not able to support themselves financially due to a physical or mental condition—that is the criterion for sponsoring kids over 22—it is $230 for each of those children. That $1,365 I just mentioned includes $500 for what is called a right of landing fee. If you subtract that, I guess you are at $865, as it is actually $865 plus a $500 right of landing fee.

As I have described it, $865 is cost recovery; $500 is just taking more money, not cost recovery. For a family sponsorship, where you have a permanent resident or citizen sponsoring family from abroad, which might include parents or grandparents, the total cost, including the $500 landing fee, would be $1,580 for the spouse, or common law or conjugal partner, $155 per child and $1,580 per parent or grandparent. In all these cases, the $500 for what is called the right of landing fee would also be waived for protected persons—that is to say, refugees. I have noted that that is not paid in respect of dependent children, in any event, but it is also waived for protected persons.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: Can I ask something that relates to the more general picture? It is interesting that Canada takes a higher age for children than in Europe—22. I assume that that relates to the reality of dependency, particularly if people go on to study, acquire qualifications and so on. I am interested in Canada choosing to have a higher cut-off, because we are experiencing that a lot here just now. Families come who have children who are just beyond 18—they are 19 or 20—who are not getting in and are often left behind in very trying circumstances.

Professor Audrey Macklin: I can elaborate on the history of that, if you like.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: Please do. I would like to hear about the rationale in Canada. I am sure I can guess, but I would like to hear it from you.

Professor Audrey Macklin: Until about 2008 or 2009, when a new Government were elected, the age had been 22, as I have described. That was for two reasons. First, as was often the case, it enabled kids to finish their university education, at which point of their lives they are still financially dependent, are possibly living at home and are very much incorporated into the family unit. Secondly, conscription was more common than it is now. In countries where children were conscripted and had to serve two to three years in the military, they would not be released until they were close to 22, sometimes. That was an additional reason, but conscription has diminished as a rationale, although it still exists in some countries.

Then the Government we had for about nine years from 2007 dropped the age to 19. Their rationale was that children are adults by the time they turn 18 and that, after that, if they want to go to Canada with their families, they can go to university and their families can pay international student fees. In that way, the Government can get more money out of them. That lasted for a little while. Then a new Government came in and essentially restored the status quo ante. This idea of dropping the age was a way to separate young people who, in effect, lived in conditions of interdependence with their family. Requiring those newcomers to pay international student fees if they wanted to be with their child and their child was destined for university was really a money grab. That was abandoned.

The other thing that was demographically obvious in Canada was that kids were staying at home for longer and longer. The evidence was showing that, far from kids emerging as adults by 18, in fact they were staying at home and living, studying and working at home for much longer than in the past. There was a local, demographic, social trend that undermined the claim that 18 was a more appropriate age at which to declare somebody no longer a dependent child.

Q43             Baroness Primarolo: Thank you very much for the fascinating comparisons we are having this morning between the different systems. I want to ask a more general question from looking at your respective systems. Can you identify substantial or main criticisms of the family migration policies that operate in your respective jurisdictions and how they might compare with the UK? We have touched on some—income, the best interests of the child and delays to family reunification—but I wonder whether particular problems caused criticisms of your systems. Saskia, you identified the question of delays to family reunification in your evidence, so I will ask you to start, but it is an open question about whatever you think is relevant about the practice, not the theory.

Dr Saskia Bonjour: I was going to start by talking about the delays, which are a major problem that everyone agrees about, including the Immigration and Naturalisation Service itself. It is understaffed and has too few resources. That is a general problem with public service in the Netherlands at the moment. The service is technically obliged to decide on a family reunification application within six months, and there are significant fines the Dutch Government have to pay if it does not. A lot of money goes into paying these fines so the Government have now decided to extend the period the administration can take to make the decisions, which does not help the family to reduce their fees. That is a really big issue.

In all cases, time is of the essence to family life, but in cases that are about children in precarious situations or elderly parents in extreme dependency, it can sometimes be too late: parents may die before the administration takes a decision.

There are also income and integration requirements, and a lot of discussion about whether they do what they are supposed to do. They are supposed to make sure that people integrate into Dutch society properly and live here according to certain standards, but there is a lot of discussion about unintended selection effects. First, large categories of people are not able to meet these requirements, even when they make efforts to. Another point is that research has shown that, to meet income requirements, people may stop their studies, which reduces their life chances and prospects in the long term.

Another contentious issue is that of independent residence permits after the break-up of relationships. That has been on the agenda since the 1980s and it keeps coming back, because it has never been solved. This is very much about the way in which the legal dependency that the state imposes reinforces forms of dependency within families, particularly of women on their husbands. It is very much a feminist issue of women’s emancipation.

Most recently, two months ago, the Dutch Government decided to make family reunification dependent on housing. Refugees’ families can come to the Netherlands only if independent housing is available for them or if they have waited at least 15 months for housing to be available. The idea is that this is a temporary measure. It is very much contested. I have very strong opinions about whether this is legal; I do not think it is. All legal experts who have expressed themselves in the Netherlands agree that it is contradictory to EU law, but it is happening anyway. That is hopefully a temporary measure, but it is very controversial at the moment.

The Chair: Just for clarification, Saskia, when you talked about fines being levied, it sounded as if the Government were fining themselves. Maybe you can write to us afterwards to explain that, because I am a bit confused.

Baroness Primarolo: That is a very good question, and I would like to hear the answer to it. I want to go to Helga next. It was interesting that Saskia was pulling out decisions that showed that the policy undermined integration, which is supposed to be at the centre of it. Could you compare and contrast us with Norway on those issues?

Dr Helga Eggebø: Several of the criticisms mentioned in the case of the UK are similar to Norway. There is criticism of family separation and the highly selective and perhaps discriminatory effects of the income requirement, given that, for example, women on average earn a lot less than men and migrants earn a lot less on average than the majority of the population. There has been criticism and delays, as Saskia mentioned.

The specific criticism that Saskia mentioned which has been on the agenda of the women’s movement, in particular the migrant women’s movement, is exactly the same. The issue of dependency has been a prolonged criticism from the women’s movement. In particular, it affects women and people who are subject to domestic violence. That issue keeps coming back and back in new hearings over the decade. I could also mention that the waiting period, which used to be three years, has now been extended to five years for family members of refugees.

Turning it around, perhaps the noteworthy tendency here is the lack of criticism. For example, when the income requirement for permanent residency was passed in Parliament, there was a noteworthy lack of criticism, both from organisations responding to the public consultation process and in Parliament. There had been many disputes on that five-year or three-year waiting period because of dependency. In reality, the income requirement for permanent residency is likely to lead to a much longer waiting period. That effect was not considered at all in the process of consultation and decision in Parliament.

When it comes to the integration effects, similar to other European countries, being an incentive for integration is a major stated aim of many restrictions. This is also the case in Norway for both income requirements. There has been a recent evaluation of the income requirements for family migration, and the results show that it does not contribute to economic integration on the individual level. The consequence is rather that both the number of applications and reunifications have dropped significantly. Family separation seems to be the actual result of those policies as opposed to the stated aim of being an incentive for integration.

Baroness Primarolo: Audrey, I see you are nodding a lot there. Are there some similarities with Canada?

Professor Audrey Macklin: Here is an important difference: we do not have an income requirement for permanent residency. When spouses are sponsored as permanent residents, they have full permanent residence; it is not conditional. A previous Government experimented with that, but it was retracted, and the status quo ante was restored.

When talking about the chronic problems of mismanagement, delay and underresourcing, which are absolutely present in Canada too, it is important to consider that a culture of suspicion that promotes a proliferation of additional requirements and forms of surveillance and testing, simply adds to the cost and administrative burden. That increases and exacerbates the delays that ultimately delegitimise the system. One can see, at least in Canada, a very demoralised bureaucracy about which there are many complaints. It is also to do with escalating demands on what they are expected to do to process applications that might not be necessary, depending on one’s perspective, but add to the burden, which increases the delay, which leads to more complaints about the system.

Something else I will throw in because it has not been mentioned is increased costs for things such as DNA testing. If you, for example, question the validity of a parent-child relationship, in Canada one of the chronic problems is that the system will demand many forms of proof—documentary and otherwise—and only at the end of that will it say, “We’re not satisfied and we need DNA testing”. First, it could have been asked for at the outset, and, secondly, what they find acceptable becomes extraordinarily expensive for the applicants. It could be done differently, but that is just a little example of what I am thinking of here. Saskia has something to add.

Dr Saskia Bonjour: DNA testing is free in the Netherlands when it is part of the family reunification procedure.

Professor Audrey Macklin: That is a good way of showing how things could be done differently in different places.

Baroness Primarolo: It is indeed. I am conscious of time, but I thought that the culture of suspicion which Audrey identified, which adds to delays and problems if we are not careful, sums up very succinctly the challenges we face. Perhaps I should leave it at that so we can move on.

Q44             Lord Ricketts: As we draw to the end, this is another open question and one to invite you to turn this telescope around, look at the UK from your vantage points and perhaps tell us anything that you think is noteworthy in a positive sense—if there is anything—about the UK system. Is there anything that stands out as a particular worry, as you look at it? Many of the criticisms you mentioned, such as delays, understaffing and low morale, are very common here as well, but is there anything in the UK system that stands out as positive or a particular matter of concern? It is a very open-ended question.

Dr Saskia Bonjour: The first thing I was thinking about was the income requirement, how high it is and the hurdle that it poses. You have asked whether there is something positive. I will think about it some more, but nothing immediately comes to mind.

Lord Ricketts: That in itself is quite a revealing comment. Professor Macklin.

Professor Audrey Macklin: I am afraid that I am in the same position as Saskia. I am sorry; I am not trying to pick on you guys. What strikes me about the UK system is that it seems to desire to prevent and deter families from living together. I appreciate a concern about the fisc; I appreciate a concern about the authenticity of relationships, for example. Those elements exist in all systems, but they have been taken to a point at which they no longer serve that purpose but serve a different purpose, which in effect is to prevent families from being reunited in the UK. It is not for me to say why that is, but that is certainly how it appears.

In Canada, I guess because it is a secular society, it was understood from the get-go that families are vital to nation-building, not just demographically but socially, economically and politically. They are not understood as second-rate economic actors. Sometimes I get the feeling or impression—I admit that my knowledge is superficial, so you can tell me if I am wrong about  this—that families are being measured against the standards that are applied to economic immigrants and are found wanting. This in turn becomes a justification to make it ever more difficult for them to reunite.

I will just say this to the extent that Canada is a comparator for you. Canada is also interesting, because it has such a high proportion of economic immigrants—people who are selected and admitted as permanent residents for their prospective labour market contribution. That stands out as a significant human capital model and is seen as somehow offering something that other systems do not.

I want to point out that about 60% of our immigrants are for economic reasons, about 35% are for family and the rest are humanitarian—or something like that. If you look at that 60% who are economic actors, over half of them are family members of the primary applicant. So, in fact, about one-third of people who are admitted to Canada as permanent residents are admitted as kin; they are admitted on the basis of a kinship relationship with somebody who is entering or is already in Canada. That is just a way of saying that, even in countries that one looks to for having prioritised economic integration, in fact almost two-thirds are admitted because of a family relationship.

Lord Ricketts: That is very interesting. Family reunification and economic benefit are not incompatible, by any means. In fact, they can reinforce each other.

Professor Audrey Macklin: Absolutely, and I have one tiny example to build on that. Frankly, Canada is in constant competition with other countries to attract so-called economic immigrants. Candidly, we are all in competition with the United States for that, because it has the most powerful economy. One of the ways in which Canada has done that with some success over the years is by ensuring a better family reunification and family accompaniment policy. We are saying to somebody, “Yes, we want to hire you. We want you to come and your partner will be able to work immediately. You have the possibility of sponsoring parents”. These are things that make Canada attractive to economic immigrants. Canada has marketed that.

Lord Blunkett: We do not have time to address this this morning, but part of the background to the UK’s historic policies was arranged marriages and the consequences of them to family reunification. We need to understand that.

The Chair: I think we also ought to say for the transcript that Saskia was nodding throughout Audrey’s evidence.

Lord Ricketts: Yes, the body language was very clear. Briefly, Dr Eggebø, is there anything else you want to add on the view of the UK system from Norway, either a positive or critical comment?

Dr Helga Eggebø: I can be brief about that. I guess a positive depends on the aim of the policy. Income requirements are very effective for restricting and preventing access to family life. From a Norwegian perspective, it is noteworthy that the UK and Norway apparently have quite similar very high income requirements.

We talked about the rule for no recourse to public funds earlier, and that is noteworthy in the sense that it is very different from the situation in Norway, which has a more universal benefit-oriented system. Since we have spoken about the legal dependency of spouses and partners, I would expect the rule for no recourse to public funds to contribute to economic dependency, adding to the situation of legal and social dependency that many marriage migrants face.

Q45             Baroness Sanderson of Welton: This is the last question, so I shall try to be brief. Thank you very much for your time today. This may have been partly covered, but what are the most important lessons we can learn from your respective jurisdictions? Professor Macklin, you sort of answered that for us on the last question, so perhaps I could ask you, specifically with regard to your jurisdiction, to tell us a little bit about the Atlantic Immigration Program and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, which have been held up as examples of best practice?

Professor Audrey Macklin: Thank you for that question. I did not come prepared to talk about it at all.

Baroness Sanderson of Welton: I realise that; I apologise.

Professor Audrey Macklin: I will bluff a little here and say that Atlantic Canada is an area I used to live in and it is a net exporter of people. It really wants immigrants. The north really wants immigrants. It is important to appreciate that these are designed to attract and retain people. One of the complications of retention is that, once you become a permanent resident, you can move anywhere you want in Canada. Over the years, there has been a series of programmes, and one of the places that has been successful on this is Manitoba; it was an early mover.

The idea is that of really understanding that we need you; we are not just doing you a favour by admitting you to our country, so you ought to be perpetually grateful to us. We actually need you, want you and want your experience here to be positive so that you stay. That requires both a mind-shift and a wraparound commitment, which these communities have made to achieve that. They are described as pilots, but there is a little risk in having innumerable pilots that never become permanently entrenched. I cannot say much more about where they stand fiscally, but a couple might be worth highlighting.

Baroness Sanderson of Welton: That is helpful and relates back to your last comment about lessons to be learned and, rather than deterring and preventing, being more open and welcoming. Dr Eggebø, is there anything you could add from Norway?

Dr Helga Eggebø: First, I would like to mention with regard to the previous question about applicants that I can confirm that sponsors are now allowed to submit applications in Norway on behalf of the applicant. This makes sense; it is reasonable, given the situation. I would also add that this reasonableness could probably be extended to other countries where this possibility is not available.

Given the lesson from Norway, and we have already touched on the point about integration, the stated aim of many of the restrictions introduced in the past decade is to promote integration at an individual level. According to the existing evidence, these restrictive measures do not seem to have a positive effect on integration at an individual level. Rather, as I mentioned, the number of applications and family reunifications has dropped, which would of course lead to family separations. We could add to the question about legal insecurity and temporariness that comes from the new requirements for permanent residency. Many actors have criticised how these issues may make integration more difficult for individuals and families.

What I think is going on in the Norwegian political context is that the more aggregated effects of different requirements introduced gradually one by one in different sections of law do not seem to be taken seriously into account in parliamentary debates or public hearings.

In the longer perspective, eroding migrants’ civil, political and economic rights could risk undermining the egalitarian foundation that is key to the Norwegian welfare state. As my colleagues and I argue in a forthcoming paper, the possible societal effect of eroding egalitarianism could perhaps be taken more seriously into account, rather than just assessing specific requirements one by one. That might be a key lesson from the Norwegian case.

Q46             Baroness Sanderson of Welton: Again, as you say, it relates back to the overall societal attitude and whether it is welcoming or not.

Finally, and again not wishing to direct, the committee is interested in the EU Temporary Protection Directive. Dr Bonjour, could you tell us a bit about how important it has been to have that, particularly in times of recent crisis?

Dr Saskia Bonjour: It has been crucial. It has changed everything for Ukrainian refugees. Certain progressive political voices are saying, “Look what we can do for refugees when we want to”. For Ukrainian refugees who arrive in the Netherlands, first, there is no visa requirement, as Helga mentioned earlier, so they can travel safely in their own cars, or on trains paid for by Dutch Railways. Immediately when they arrive, they get a residence permit, for I think three years, which also allows them access to the labour market. It makes all the difference in the world. There is a lot of research going on into the politics of why this protection mechanism, which has existed for a long time, is being mobilised now for the first time and has not been in the past.

Baroness Sanderson of Welton: There is a lesson for us all to learn from that.

The Chair: Thank you very much, but that was not quite the final question. I want to check whether committee members who are online want to ask any questions. I know that Lord Dholakia does.

Q47             Lord Dholakia: Thank you, Chair. This very much follows on from the question you asked and is about the trade agreement and migration policies.

The present Prime Minister, when she was the Foreign Secretary, negotiated a trade agreement enabling the entry of 120,000 students to the United Kingdom last year. Against that, universities are actively trying to recruit people from India to come to the UK and study here.  The Prime Minister has one point of view on this particular approach; the Home Secretary has clearly indicated negative views.

I am keen to find out about the situation in Canada. A large number of Indian students visit Canada. Are the trade policies in Canada likely to be impacted by the type of decision we take in this country?

Professor Audrey Macklin: I do not know enough about trade relations with India to answer that question in the Canadian context. I can certainly say that there are very large numbers of Indian students coming for a university education. There is a concern, arising not so much about students from India but about students from China, about Canada becoming too dependent on any particular source country, because of the political implications, but I have not heard enough about any direct linkage on the trade front to be a good source of information on that. I apologise. I can try to find out.

The Chair: Thank you. We cannot expect you to know everything.

Lord Blunkett: The instinctive answer is that you will get more Indian students if they are put off coming here.

The Chair: Yes.

Professor Audrey Macklin: We are a very popular destination; that is for sure.

The Chair: Can I ask our witnesses if there is anything that we have left out that we should pursue now? Please come back to us afterwards if you suddenly think, “I wish I’d said … ”. No. Thank you all very much indeed. That will provide a lot of material for us, initially to read because it has been quite dense. That is not a criticism; it is a compliment. So thank you all.