Of all EU Member States, Luxembourg has the largest part of its population as foreigners, mostly other EU citizens. A 2008 law on reception and integration of foreigners tried responding to Luxembourg’s previously low-scoring policies, civil society recommendations, peer reviews and visits to neighbouring countries (BE, DE FR). It established the Reception and Integration Agency (OLAI) and a future voluntary integration contract.

With recent reforms, Luxembourg made the 2nd greatest progress on integration of all 31 MIPEX countries (after GR), increasing its MIPEX score 8 points overall and overtaking in rank FR, DE, IE and SI. Luxembourg nearly doubled its score on nationality, like GR, with immigrants taking paths to citizenship similar to other established and reforming countries. The way EU law was transposed granted clearer rights for all non-EU families to reunite and participate fully in society, but granted more rights to fewer long-term residents. Beyond that, residents saw negligible improvements (e.g. political participation). Luxembourg’s integration strategies are weakest at promoting non-EU residents’ mobility in the labour market and protecting all residents from discrimination.

Timeline - What's Changed

+2 December 2008
Political participation
Law on reception and integration of foreigners.
+14 August 2008
Family reunion
Immigration Law transposes family reunion, grants basic rights.
-1 August 2008
Long-term residence
Immigration Law grants greater rights to fewer long-term residents.
+32 October 2008
Access to nationality
New Law on Luxembourgish Nationality.
+1 November 2008
Law on Equal Treatment – increase in protection against victimisation.
+3 November 2008
Labour Market Mobility
New State information centre (Guichet Citoyen) provides information on recognising qualifications.
0 December 2008
Reception and integration
New law creates OLAI, voluntary integration contracts.
+38 December 2008
Long-term residence – rights
EU Law on recognition of qualifications transposed.

Key Findings

  • Naturalised migrants and third generation benefit from secure status; all citizens enjoy dual nationality following 2008 nationality law. 
  • Transposing EU law grants basic rights to family reunion sponsors and families. 
  • While long-term residents have better rights and qualifications recognised, fewer can apply as eligibility is restricted. 
  • Access to the labour market remains among the most restrictive of all countries. 
  • A migrant child has good access to an intercultural education but specific needs may not be fully addressed. 
  • Below average discrimination protection, equality body too weak. 
  • Immigrant consultative bodies may be a little more representative, depending on implementation. 
  • Non-EU nationals unable to stand for elections, unlike in 13 MIPEX countries.  

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

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    Equal access?

    Several new countries are working to provide basic equal access (e.g. HU, PL) as major European countries of immigration do (e.g. Nordics, NL, DE, ES, PT). In Luxembourg, only EU citizens benefited from the decade-long work to open the public sector, with pressure from European institutions but opposition from public service confederation (CGFP). The contradictions with integration goals are becoming more apparent following debates on letting migrants stand in future elections: non-EU nationals could become mayors, but not hold any of the municipal posts under their administration.

    A major weakness in Luxembourg’s integration strategies, non-EU residents have unfavourable access to the labour market (see box) and few measures targeting their specific situation. Non-EU residents with the right to work are excluded from the public sector (unlike in 21 of the 30 other MIPEX countries), several areas of the private sector (unlike 25) and self-employment (unlike 19). What jobs they find may be outside or below their qualifications, despite limited government efforts (see also CA, PT). Non-EU employees generally enjoy the same workers’ rights and access to general support to improve skills. Most established immigration countries, such as neighbouring FR, DE, NL, are introducing complementary measures targeting needs of foreignborn and -trained workers. 

  • Show Family Reunion

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    EU law: basic rights and security

    Luxembourg, one of the last to transpose EU law, had as its objective to fulfil ‘obligations’ from the Directive, with little parliamentary debate and changes. Before, no law governed family reunion for non-EU residents. While no specific period of residence was required to apply, in practice family reunion was accepted only for long-term residents (after more than 5 years). After EU minimum standards applied, Luxembourg followed general trends in established immigration countries.

    Since transposing EU law in August 2008 (see box), non-EU families enjoy better and clearer right to make their home in Luxembourg. Sponsors can apply for their families after 1 year (as in most MIPEX countries), subject to fulfilling the necessary conditions. Reuniting family members will benefit from equal education and social opportunities as their sponsor. Integration prospects for both sponsor and family are now slightly favourable. However, these prospects can be delayed so long as procedures do not have maximum time limitations (unlike DE). The fact that spouses and adult children are not entitled to automatic autonomous permits after 3 years (unlike BE, Nordics, CA) can have unfavourable consequences for gender and family equality. 

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    Welcoming new pupils

    Luxembourg is one of very few countries with favourable means to welcome newcomer students and their parents: CASNA. This public institution informs newcomer parents about the school system and is trained to assess students’ prior learning and place them in the right school and year. CASNA helped approximately 500 new students during the 2007/08 academic year. Luxembourg also provides intercultural mediators, most of immigrant background, to assist with communication between teachers and parents.

    Average for established immigration countries, Luxembourg provides better access for newcomer children and intercultural education for all, but faces as many challenges addressing new needs and opportunities in school. All newcomers have at least initial access to schools, good introduction from CASNA (see box), some mother tongue support and ad hoc assistance from intercultural mediators. All are not guaranteed full and quality language support (e.g. BE, CA, Nordics, US) to learn Luxembourg’s 3 official languages like most Luxembourgers. A 2009 ordinance acknowledged newcomers’ challenges becoming fluently multilingual—a first in 40 years. Unlike Luxembourg, other leading countries bring immigrant cultures into the classroom (e.g. BE, CA, NO) and work to diversify schools and teachers (e.g. DK, DE, SE). 

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    Improving policies to consult immigrants?

    Immigrants may find the future National Council on Integration more representative of their experiences, following the 2008 Law, although changes must be implemented. With consultative bodies dating back to 1975, the new version will include more foreign residents, with only 8 Luxembourgers. Both the president and vice-president may no longer be appointed, but elected by member majority vote. The body already enjoys favourable rights of initiative and a representative composition in accordance with census figures. For other models, see NO, DK and NL (national).

    As the MIPEX country with the largest foreign population, Luxembourg provides nearly favourable opportunities for them to participate in politics, but behind NO, FI, IE and NL. Non-EU residents’ voting rights are only average among established immigration countries. They are unable to stand in elections (as in 13) or be systematically informed of their political rights (as in FI, NO, PT, SE, UK). One of Luxembourg’s strengths for integration is its support for immigrant civil society through State funding (like 10 others) and full political liberties (like 19). Foreigners may be better represented in future consultative bodies at both national and local level, although their powers will depend on implementing measures (see box). 

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    Transposing long-term residence

    Long-term residents now cannot have their permit withdrawn on economic grounds. They may have better chances on the labour market, with full access, like Luxembourgers and EU citizens, to procedures recognising non-EU qualifications. The 2008 Law explicitly restricted the non-EU migrants who can apply for long-term residence, including refugees, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, formally limited residents and students (see also FR and UK). In contrast, other countries are improving long-term residence access for temporary migrants and students that they work to attract (e.g. AT, BE, ES).

    Compared to family reunion, the way Luxembourg transposed EU obligations in 2008 had little positive integration impact on longterm residence. Fewer groups are now eligible for greater rights (see box). Those with 5 years’ residence and eligible permits can apply under slightly favourable conditions. Voluntarily participating in an integration programme can only help immigrants in the review of their application. If rejected, they are not guaranteed the right to learn why and appeal (unlike in 24 countries). If accepted, they acquire average equal rights as in most European countries, but little residence security. For example, Luxembourg does not protect minors and residents settled there since childhood from expulsion (unlike in BE, FR, NL, SE). 

  • Show Access to Nationality

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    Luxembourg citizenship, once a major barrier for immigrants, has transformed into slightly favourable opportunities for long-term integration and democratic inclusion. The 2008 Nationality’s Law acceptance of dual nationality (like 17 other MIPEX countries) and limited jus soli (14) doubled the country’s MIPEX nationality score. Luxembourg followed some major European trends, with reforms just since 1999 in DE, BE, SE, FI, PT and GR.

    Applicants no longer need to renounce their previous citizenship, a major disincentive for naturalisation that immigrants and NGOs opposed for years. According to the law, applying for dual nationality proves immigrants’ willingness to contribute to Luxembourg’s future, without severing their ties to their or their parents’ home countries. Naturalised citizens face fewer, clearer grounds for rejection and withdrawal. They may lose their status if they committed fraud, but may not if becoming stateless. Jus soli was hesitantly accepted for the third generation, while all 14 others doing so also accept it in some form for the second generation.

    As a compromise within the conservative party to open jus soli and dual nationality, naturalisation was put further out of reach for the first generation. The minister reduced residence requirements from 10 to 5 years in 2001, and then raised it to 7 in 2008. Both times, changes were justified as the ‘European average’ (below 7 for the EU’s established immigration countries). Spouses of citizens no longer have better options for citizenship, as they do in most (19) countries. The government argued that all should wait just as long for naturalisation.

    After the longer wait, the procedure should be quicker because of legal limits (previously 2+ years) but more complicated because of new conditions, such as an exacting criminal record check. If applicants receive free courses and test questions in practice (see CA, DE, US), the required citizenship course would provide a favourable learning environment. But the language requirement may be too limited in scope for many applicants actively participating in society. Only 6 countries explicitly require such a high level, which, in Luxembourg, can now only be taken in Luxembourgish (not French or German, both official languages).

  • Show Anti-discrimination

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    All residents in Luxembourg are less protected from discrimination than on average in Europe. The Centre for Equality of Treatment has weak powers (unlike in e.g. BE, FR, NL), while the State makes few legal commitments to equality (see SE, UK). The Centre is slightly ineffective for providing victims real assistance, without the mandate to represent them in court (unlike in 12), initiate its own proceedings (16) or provide alternative dispute resolution mechanisms (12). Other enforcement mechanisms have improved to meet European averages, now that victims receive full protection against victimisation. Luxembourg’s legal definitions and fields of discrimination fall behind in explicitly outlawing nationality/citizenship discrimination (17), which is necessary to guarantee equal opportunities in countries of immigration.