I am an American whose family is here on the Green Card Scheme. I want to relate to every person serving on parliament’s Immigration and Integration Affairs Committee [Integrationsudvalget, ed.] the significant personal and financial cost that the retroactive application of the extension rules will impose upon current green card holders.
The new extension rules
(particularly the extension rule requiring a green card holder to earn at least 315,000 kroner annually in order to obtain a second extension), absolutely should not be applied to people who came here based on the prior representations made by the Danish government. To do so is fundamentally unjust, financially harmful, discriminatory and will discourage anyone, no matter how talented or needed, from coming to Denmark.
Government should make life predictable, not arbitrary. Government should not foster the financial destruction of a family. Just like people should abide by their promises, so should government. We don't trust people who violate business deals; we should not trust governments who violate business deals.
In my family, my husband is the actual green card holder, while I (Juris Doctor from the University of Wisconsin with sixteen years as a licenced attorney) am technically the accompanying spouse, although I qualify for a green card in my own right (we did it this way because it was cheaper for me to apply as an accompanying spouse). We arrived in Denmark with our two daughters, aged six and ten, in April of this year.
I had an excellent position as an attorney back home and was rather high up in state government. I made $84,000 [about 500,000 kroner, ed.] per year, plus excellent fringe benefits (pension, vacation, health and dental insurance, life insurance), which brought my effective salary up to over $110,000 per year [655,000 kroner, ed]. My husband delivered lectures and wrote institutional histories on commission. We had our home paid off (and we owned another home outright as well) and were financially settled. However, for philosophical reasons we sought to come to Denmark.
We walked away from the financial security we had in America to come to Denmark, based on representations made by Danish Immigration Service and the Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment [Styrelsen for Arbejdsmarked og Rekruttering, ed.] that extension of my husband's green card would be based on him working an average of ten hours per week, that neither none of us would commit any crimes, and that we would not request or accept any money under the Active Social Welfare Act [aktivloven, ed.]. There was no requirement that people would need to earn at least 315,000 kroner annually in order to obtain a second extension.
Coming to Denmark cost our family close to $40,000 [240,000 kroner, ed.], not counting the tens of thousands of dollars in income we have lost as a result of me resigning from my position in state government to come here. We cashed in my deferred income of over $20,000. We cashed in the savings plans we had put together for our daughters' future university education. We used both my savings and my husbands's savings.
Now that we are here and have walked away from our financial security, and now that we have infused tens of thousands of dollars into the Danish economy, the Danish government is changing the rules and is pulling the rug out from underneath us.
Suddenly we are told that in order to get our second extension, my husband will need to make at least 315,000 kroner annually. This was not in any way, shape, or form part of the deal at the time we spent money applying, nor was it at the time we spent money coming here. This income requirement simply should be inapplicable to people who made their decision to spend money applying and then coming here prior to the reforms being enacted.
Both of us were fully aware that it would take us 4-5 years to establish ourselves in Denmark. We both were fully aware that he would not be getting a teaching position until he learned Danish. We know that I will need to learn Danish, plus take additional law classes on EU contract law and international taxation, before I can even be hired as in-house counsel. It was our plan to take whatever jobs were available while we learned Danish, which we estimate will take us two to four years.
Based on the representations made on the New to Denmark website
(which is maintained collectively by the Danish Immigration Service and the Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment), we knew that we qualified for the Green Card Scheme. We knew that (at least under the rules in effect now and the rules in effect when we applied in 2013) we would qualify for both of the extensions. However, there is no way that people like us will earn enough money to qualify for the second extension under the new rules. We are not engineers. We are not IT professionals. We are not doctors or dentists. People like us need several years to learn the language before anyone will hire us for a professional position in our fields.
Had we known that the Danish Parliament intended to enact new extension rules and apply the new extension rules to people like us, we never, ever, would have even applied for the green card at all.
Had we known that the Danish parliament intended to enact new extension rules and apply them to people in our situation, I never would have resigned from my attorney position in Wisconsin. I never would have cashed in my deferred income. We never would have cashed in our daughters' educational funds. Although we don't like the US rates of gun violence, we would have taken our chances with that in the US and kept my good attorney position there, which I can never get back.
Had we been able to foresee that the Danish parliament would apply the new extension rules to people who had come here based on different representations, we never would have interrupted our daughters' education in the United States. They were in a good school and were progressing well. But based on the representations that the Danish Immigration Service and the Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment made, we decided that it would be in their long-term interests for us to come to Denmark and for them to learn Danish.
Had we been able to foresee the new income requirement of at least 315,000 kroner annually, we never would have infused tens of thousands of our American dollars into the Danish economy; we would have just stayed home.
It doesn't escape me that the proposed expulsion of green card holders not earning least 315,000 kroner annually does not include any financial reparations for those green card holders who infused foreign money into the Danish economy (application fees, travel fares, housing costs far in excess of the costs back home and so forth) based on the Danish government's prior representations. If I had wanted to spend a small fortune in Denmark and then return to my home country, I would have just come as a tourist.
Like many Americans, I am, myself, a genetic melting pot. My ancestors were mostly Christian, but a few were Jewish. What the Danish government is planning to do to green card holders who don't earn enough money brings to mind the repeated expulsions that my Jewish ancestors faced from almost everywhere they lived in Europe. For Denmark to keep the tens of thousands of dollars we have infused into its economy, but then expel us for not meeting new terms that were not part of the original bargain is the same sort of maltreatment-by-tyrant that my Jewish ancestors faced throughout the centuries.
When I look at the demographics of the current green card holders who will likely be expelled under the new rules, the plan seems tantamount to ethnic cleansing, with the victims this time around by-and-large being moderate Muslims (after all, it isn't Europeans who were induced by the Danish government to come to Denmark on the Green Card Scheme; rather, the green card holders are highly educated and hard working people most of whom have darker skin than the average Dane).
In sum, it is utterly unjust, financially destructive, and a violation of basic human rights, to apply the 315,000 kroner requirement for a second extension to existing green card holders who made their decision to apply, and then to come to Denmark, based on the old extension criteria. This provision in the law should be eliminated and the government should continue to apply the old extension criteria to green card holders who came here under the rules currently in effect. There should not be new rules imposed on people who came here based on a different promise made by the Danish government.
Andrea Olmanson is an American living in Denmark under the green card scheme with her husband and their two daughters.