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Guest professor explores citizenship and naturalisation


It is more than just following in the footsteps of other leading academics that brought Guest Professor Maarten Vink to Malmö University, it was also the opportunity to research migration and citizenship using Sweden’s unique resources.

Maarten Vink

Normally based at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, he is currently the Guest Professorship in Memory of Willy Brand at Malmö University’s Institute for Studies of Migration, Diversity and Welfare.

Parallel to holding lectures while at Malmö University, Professor Vink will be working on a research project that seeks to understand the relationship between migration, citizenship and naturalisation.  

“For an immigrant, becoming a citizen and getting a passport of a developed, democratic country can really make a difference to their life. However, we should not see citizenship as a miracle solution that deals with all the challenges of integration. This is what I am interested in: to what extent can citizenship help immigrants integrate into society?

“Institutional and societal contexts are important and in order to understand those you need to compare, and I want to see to what extent we can observe similar patterns in other countries,” he said.

Fully understanding the Swedish context

In Sweden, as in other Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, unique data is available to use in Vink's research project.

“In order to answer this ‘chicken and egg’ question of whether citizenship really leads to better integration or whether the more integrated immigrants are the more likely they are to naturalise, we need to track people over time. 

“We need to look at their situation before and after naturalisation and for that you need certain data. Once an immigrant comes to Sweden, they are registered and get a personal number. After, we can track how long someone lives in the country, whether they have a job, their level of income, and what type of housing they live in — there is even information on whether people participate in elections at a municipal level. 

Tracking people over time

“Crucially, there is information about the citizen status: whether they are only a citizen of the country from which they come or whether they acquire Swedish nationality. By using this data we can track people for ten or more years and see if there is a causal effect of citizenship acquisition. There is unique data registered here and it has enormous research potential."

The research project ‘Migrant Life Course and Legal Status Transition’ (MiLifeStatus) is a five-year project running from 2016-2021 and funded by the European Research Council. It will investigate eight countries: Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Canada and the United States.

“It is a pleasure and a privilege to be here at Malmö University at the MiM institute. It is an internationally well-known research group and this professorship has had a pedigree for a number of years, so it is an honour to be here and take up this position,” he added.

Text: Adrian Grist

Last updated by Adrian Grist