The Two-Year Trap
A critical study of the Swedish Alien Act’s two-year rule and its implications for intimate partner-and structural violence
Marriage migration contests the normative boundaries of marriage and is therefore becoming object to vast regulations. The Swedish Alien Act’s two-year rule is one such regulation, that is implemented to weed out “fraudulent marriages” among marriage migrants. This rule entails that upon arrival, the migrant is granted a temporary residence permit. In order to be eligible for a permanent residence the relationship has to last a minimum of two years. There are exceptions to this rule, one being the so called “violence-exception”. This means that a continued residence permit can be granted prior to the timeframe, if the relationship ends due to violence. However, due to excessive requirements, the violence-exception seldom applies in practice. Thus, rendering women trapped in a no-win situation, where her choices are whether to stay in an abusive relationship, or leave, at the probable risk of deportation. This phenomenon has been referred to as “the two-year trap”. This study seeks to explore in what ways the two-year rule may create a trap for women experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV), while discussing how structural violence and IPV may connect within the two-year rule. Based on a critical text analysis, the main findings conclude that the legislation and accompanying framework enables a situation of entrapment. The ways in which the overarching documents are written allow a power imbalance where men can utilise the legal system for their advantage, while migrant women are left vulnerable and at added risk of violence. This situation is created out of a lack of knowledge regarding IPV among the legislative and implementing bodies, while the will to sustain a regulated migration contradicts the obligation to ensure migrant women’s equal human- and citizenship rights.