According to a letter sent to MPs by the Danish Green Card Association (DGCA), a copy of which was given to The Local, one of the association’s main concerns about the government’s 26-point plan is that the new rules will be applied retroactively to current green card holders.
"Only the existing rules should apply to us. The new rules should be applicable to fresh applicants only. This bunching of old applicants with new applicants should not take place,” Kingsley Ezeoma, a member of DGCA’s reform team, told The Local.
“Many green card holders will be affected by the new rules when applying for a second extension. A key condition to be put in for a second extension of our green card will force many of us to leave Denmark," Ezeoma added.
Currently, green cards are first issued for three years and can be extended by another year. After than point, it can be extended by up to four more. The new changes, which are due to take affect on January 1st, would see the green cards only issued for two years.
According to DGCA members, the new rules for a second extension make it mandatory for applicants to earn more than 315,000 DKK annually. With a majority of green card holders working in odd jobs to pay their bills, they say it will be difficult for these applicants to get a second extension in 2015, forcing them to leave Denmark.
"Applying rules retroactively is not acceptable in a leading European country. Green card holders do odd jobs while still learning the difficult Danish language in the hope that one day, they will get a professional job with their language skills,” Ezeoma said.
When the government announced the changes to the green card scheme in June, it was done with an acknowledgement that the green card “hadn’t functioned as intended”.
The scheme has been criticised by both green card holders and Danish businesses alike, as many of the foreign workers who come to Denmark with impressive professional backgrounds end up in menial jobs.
A researcher at the University of Copenhagen found that nearly 80 percent of all highly-educated foreigners who enter the country on the scheme end up in unskilled positions, work under the table or end up jobless.
According to the DGCA, many end up taking the menial work out of necessity.
“We do odd jobs only to make ends meet until a better prospect comes up. We have invested heavily in building our lives here and consider Denmark home,” Ezeoma said.
Ezeoma told The Local that DGCA has planned a conference on October 22nd for green card holders to discuss solutions to this problem and work on presenting a unified message to parliament at their November demonstration.
The government’s changes will make it tougher for foreign workers to enter the country on a green card by imposing tougher requirements on salary and language skills. The overhaul will also seek to streamline the application process for those who have educations that match the areas in which Denmark has a shortage of qualified workers.
There are currently around 8,000 foreign workers in Denmark under the green card scheme.