The article was originally published in December 2021 in Danes Worldwides printed members’ magazine, DANES.
Text: Lisbeth Kjersgaard – Legal advisor in Danes Worldwide
There are different paths to obtaining Danish citizenship, and the requirements on foreign nationals depend on the specific circumstances. For example, the process towards Danish citizenship is different for asylum seekers than that for Nordic citizens, which is different from the path for children. Therefore, this article only provides general insight into what the path to Danish citizenship might look like for many – but certainly not all – foreigners.
If you are a foreigner or have a family member who wants to become a Danish citizen, we recommend that you seek specific advice based on your personal situation. It is also important to keep in mind that the rules on residence permits, permanent residency and citizenship are frequently changed.
The path to citizenship outlined in this article is called “naturalisation” and is different from the automatic Danish citizenship conferred at birth to children with a Danish parent.
In general, a foreigner must have permanent residence in Denmark before they can be eligible for Danish citizenship by naturalisation. Therefore, the path to Danish citizenship can be divided into three steps: residence permit, permanent residence, and citizenship by naturalisation. Each step is outlined below.
First and foremost, the foreigner must have a residence permit before they can move to Denmark. This permit can be obtained in various ways. Among members of Danes Worldwide, it will typically be a residence permit based on family reunification. Couples must meet certain requirements to qualify for family reunification. The requirements pertain to marriage, personal finances and language skills, while factors such as education and employment may also be considered.
Another type of residence permit is granted when a foreigner obtains employment in a field on the official “positive list” of fields lacking qualified labour in Denmark. Currently, there are many educational backgrounds and professions on the positive list, such as mechanical engineer, nurse and librarian.
The most types of residence permits are granted for a limited period, typically with the possibility of renewal. If the residence permit is not renewed before expiry, the foreigner is no longer permitted to reside in Denmark.
Temporary residence permits can also be revoked if the foreigner no longer meets the eligibility requirements. For example, a residence permit based on family reunification is revoked if the foreigner divorces from their spouse or an employment-based permit is usually revoked if the foreigner becomes unemployed.
Rules on family reunification in Denmark
To obtain family reunification with a spouse/partner, the couple must meet the following basic requirements, as well as the integration requirement (see later in article):
- Spouse/partner is a Danish citizen (other rules for people with permanent residence permit, and for refugees).
- Both persons must be at least 24 years old.
- Valid marriage or cohabitation (1.5 years).
- The foreign spouse must have visited Denmark at least once.
- The couple must have suitable housing in Denmark at their disposal.
- The Danish spouse/partner must not have been convicted of violence against a spouse/partner or a child in the past 10 years.
- The Danish spouse must be financially self-sufficient.
- A bank guarantee of around DKK 100,000 must be provided.
- The foreign spouse must pass two Danish language tests after obtaining a permit based on family reunification.
Permanent residence permit
A foreigner with a permanent residence permit may reside in Denmark without having to renew their permit. This also means that the foreigner is no longer required to meet the individual requirements of the temporary residence permit. It can be said that the foreigner now has their “own” residence permit, which is no longer dependent on continued marriage, maintaining employment, etc.
As a rule, foreigners must have lived in Denmark for at least 8 years to be eligible for a permanent residence permit. However, this can be reduced to 4 years if the foreigner meets all of the “supplementary requirements” (see below).
To obtain a permanent residence permit, it is also required that the person has not committed a crime and has no debt to the public sector. The person must also have been employed for a number of years and must not have received certain types of social welfare benefits in the last 4 years prior to applying for permanent residence.
It is a requirement that the foreigner has passed a Danish language test (“Prøve i Dansk 2”).
The foreigner must also meet two of the following four requirements, which are known as the “supplementary requirements”: Passed a high-level Danish language test (“Prøve i Dansk 3”); employed for at least 4 of the past 4.5 years; an annual income above a certain minimum threshold; “exhibited active citizenship” (participation in board work, etc.); or taken a test on Danish culture, history and society (“Medborgerskabsprøven”).
At least 4 of the 6 requirements must be met:
|The Danish spouse/partner||The foreign spouse/partner|
|Passed Danish language test (“Prøve i Dansk 3”) which is a mandatory requirement.|
*This requirement can also be satisfied if the Danish spouse/partner has passed e.g. “folkeskolen”
and/or “gymnasiet” in Denmark.
|Must speak English at a B1 level or have passed the (“Prøve i Dansk 1”).|
|Five years of full-time employment in Denmark||Full-time employment for at least 3 of the past 5 years.|
|Six years of schooling in Denmark where one of the years must be taken at an institution above elementary school (“Folkeskolen”).||Passed at least a one-year higher education programme.|
Danish citizenship by naturalisation
Persons with Danish citizenship have the right to vote in Danish Parliamentary elections (if they reside in Denmark) and the right to move in and out of Denmark without restrictions.
As a rule, foreigners must have permanent residence in Denmark to qualify for Danish citizenship.
In addition, the foreigner must typically have lived in Denmark for at least nine consecutive years. A number of exceptions apply, however; for example, the residence requirement can be reduced to six years for those with residence based on family reunification, depending on the duration of the marriage.
There are also requirements on compliance with the law, no debt to the public sector, and that the foreigner has not received certain public benefits in a period leading up to the application.
It is also a requirement that the foreigner speaks Danish at a relatively advanced level (“Prøve i Dansk 3”) and that they have been in fulltime employment or self-employment for 3.5 of the last 4 years and are still employed.
Lastly, the foreigner must pass the citizenship test, which tests knowledge of Danish culture, society, etc.
The citizenship process concludes with a constitutional ceremony involving an in-person gathering and a handshake.
As you can see, the path to Danish citizenship is long and it requires a great deal of preparation. If the goal is to become a Danish citizen, it is important to know the relevant rules so that you can prepare in time.
We hope that this article gives foreigners (and, if applicable, their Danish spouse/partner) a good understanding that it takes a lot of work and patience to achieve the goal, so that they can avoid any unpleasant surprises in connection with applying for Danish citizenship.
Households that are members of Danes Worldwide are very welcome to contact the association’s Legal Advisors with questions of a legal nature. The Advisor Team will answer these enquiries or forward them to our external expert panel.
Danes Worldwide offers a range of advisory services from a panel of carefully selected professionals, including a psychologist, lawyer, pension adviser, accountant, priest and international school consultant.
The legal department also offers paid services to assist members with cases and applications involving family reunification, Danish citizenship, etc.
Please direct enquiries regarding family reunification to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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