Accepted Paper:

Binational couples experiences of bureaucratic procedures: legal consciousness and participation   


Laura Odasso (Aix-Marseille Université)

Paper short abstract:

The paper presents the experiences of binational couples’ bureaucratic procedures for obtaining a residence permit or the nationality in three European countries during 2000s. If these couples suffer from differential treatments, they also show and develop interesting forms of legal consciousness.

Paper long abstract:

In the wake of restrictive reforms of family migration policies in many European countries since the 1990s, new specific conditions to fulfil and procedural changes have been introduced for binational couples ‒ those formed by a European citizen and a third country national (TCN) ‒ that want to formalise their union and, then, obtain a permanent residence right for the TCN spouse. These policies represent an internal "border-network" that couples have to overcome. Meanwhile, non-governmental organisations have emerged which offer support to binational couples helping them to become aware of their rights.

Based on more than five years' researches (2009-2016) in France, Italy and Belgium on the socio-institutional representations of binational couples and their encounters with the State authorities, the paper aims to provide an insight to the experiences of binational couples' bureaucratic procedures for obtaining a residence permit or the nationality. Some couples feel that immigration authorities treat them differently depending not only on their "legal status", but also on their supposed belonging (to a culture, a social class, a religion, etc.) and on their sex. They perceive differently the stigmatization regarding their romantic and family choices. The encounter with migration law reshapes the feeling of belonging to the national community for the nationals and the sense of "being there" of their foreign partners. Nevertheless, the members of the couples show and develop some forms of legal consciousness that, sometimes, lead them to act collectively in non-governmental organisations that defend their rights reshaping the meaning of their "being (semi)citizens".

Panel RM-MRB10
The bureaucratic routes to migration: migrants' lived experience of paperwork, clerks and other immigration intermediaries