Semi-legal family life: Pakistani couples in the borderlands of Denmark and Sweden



In 2002, the Danish government introduced new legislation on family reunification to restrict the transnational arranged marriages that were occurring among some immigrant groups. Since then, thousands of people have emigrated from Denmark to Sweden where, as citizens of the European Union, they are entitled to family reunification. In this article, I introduce the concept of semi-legality to describe the situation whereby Pakistani transnational couples commute on a regular basis between their legal residences in Sweden and their places of work or networks of friends and family in Denmark. The married couples subjected to this mobile lifestyle are always in a process of becoming illegal, which is the consequence of ‘overstaying’ in Denmark or ‘understaying’ in Sweden. Besides its legal aspects, a semi-legal status also has significant moral implications that not only restructure marriage patterns and family life among Pakistani immigrants but also have long-lasting effects on the relationship between minorities and majorities in Denmark.