Earned citizenship and fairness

In many Western countries, it has become standard to demand immigrants that earn their right to citizenship by coming to meet a set of citizenship requirements. Moreover, many European governments justify the citizenship requirements on the grounds of fairness, because they are not discriminatory and because the demands of the requirements are to immigrants’ individual efforts. This trend invites exploration of whether this practice is justified. We argue that citizenship requirements are justified from a liberal viewpoint only if differentiated to adjust for factors that are unmoved by the individual exercise of responsibility but have a strong impact on the chances of fulfilling citizenship requirements – such as age, prior education, economic cycles, and ethnic discrimination. Upon this, we develop a differentiated model for fair citizenship requirements inspired by the typological work of John Roemer. The model allows for different degrees of demandingness but preserves respect for fairness in so far as it differentiates requirements on the background of age, education, economic cycles, and ethnicity.

Kristian Kriegbaum Jensena and Lasse Nielsen, “Earned citizenship and fairness“, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 2023.