Prof. Péter Szigeti illuminates challenges for elderly immigration in latest publication

Recent decades have seen increase of immigration restrictions across multiple countries

Lauren Bannon - 22 May 2024

A newly published paper by Assistant Professor Péter Szigeti of the University of Alberta Faculty of Law explores the unprecedented and largely unnoticed challenges to immigration policies for elderly parents and grandparents of citizens and permanent residents across multiple countries.

"Immigration in general is a contentious issue these days, with research suggesting that people tend to hold firm to their views despite evolving evidence or global migration shifts," says Szigeti. "As an immigrant myself and someone who frequently ponders the dynamics of transnational and even transcontinental families, I am acutely aware of the human toll of frequent family separations, and I aim to bring attention to this aspect."

In "No Country for Old Men: Restrictions on the Immigration of Elderly Family Members," published in McGill Law Journal, Szigeti delves into these challenges and their implications for families, examining the history and current policies of immigration rules in three types of immigrant-receiving countries: traditional settler states (such as the United States), modern settler states (such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand) and liberal states (most European and East Asian countries). 

Szigeti outlines various methods through which countries have intensified restrictions on elderly immigrants, including lowered quotas for immigration, stricter sponsorship requirements, high-income demands, and stricter policies on health conditions and risks. 

He argues that any attempts to justify these restrictions have relied on simplistic, narrow economic reasoning. This trend has been especially evident over the past two decades, with immigration policies mainly driven by enhancing a country's economic growth through labor market-driven immigration programs. 

These policies have led to detrimental outcomes, such as an increase in citizenship-for-sale schemes and attempts to restrict family-based immigration, undermining the multi-generational nation-building aspect of immigration and diminishing human values.

In the article, Szigeti also surveys alternative ways in which elderly immigrants enter countries to join their families, such as entering as tourists or as investors. It also explores the risks such types of entry pose on individuals, such as lack of social services or the opportunity to become permanent residents.

Szigeti concludes that there is a notable absence of convincing legal, political or economic rationales for the limitations imposed on elderly immigration. He advocates for the reversal of these measures, emphasizing their unfair nature and the need for change.