Around 300 green card holders and their families held a protest last week and a smaller group also met with MPs. Photo: Submitted
Around 300 Danish green card holders and their families held a silent protest outside Christiansborg on November 3rd against new rules that will kick in effective January 2015. The changes will affect many of the 8,000 highly-qualified green card holders already living in Denmark.
Two days after the protest, key members of the Danish Green Card Association (DGCA) also held a closed-door meeting with a parliamentary committee to again express their main grievances in the proposed retroactive implementation of new rules. The association is hopeful that their demands will be considered by the government.
"In this meeting, we focused on the new financial limit that will be introduced. The limit will make it mandatory for applicants to earn more than 315,000 kroner annually from a single job in order to qualify for a renewal of their green cards. With the protest, DGCA's stand has been clearly conveyed to parliamentarians: new rules for new applicants and existing rules for the current green card holders,” Kingsley Ezeoma, a leading member of the DGCA’s reform team, told The Local.
“It is not expected of a leading country like Denmark to retroactively implement new rules. Many of us will be forced to leave Denmark after spending several years under a false impression created by the existing rules of the Danish green card scheme," Ezeoma added.
Ezeoma explained that a green card, once granted under the rules (as explained on the New to Denmark website), can be extended twice if pre-set conditions are met and the green card holder has worked at least ten hours per week in the 12 months prior to an extension.
"This is the reason why most green card holders are particularly peeved by the new rules being implemented retroactively. People have a wrong impression the existing rules apply only for the first three years after getting the green card. These apply for all eight years as mentioned on the website. The renewal is just a procedure to know if the applicant is still willing to live in Denmark," Ezeoma said.
DGCA's' other key contention is with the requirement that green card holders must earn 315,000 kroner a year in order to receive an extension. With many green card holders left with no other option but to work in odd jobs to pay their bills while looking for employment in their field, it would be difficult for them to get the extension, forcing many to leave Denmark.
"The highly-qualified green card holders do odd jobs not because they like doing them but because they have to survive while they learn the difficult Danish language and look for well-paying jobs relevant to their education and work experience. Besides that, we have invested money, time and energy in building our lives here in the hope that someday we would get a professional job with our newly-acquired language skills and integrate into the Danish society. The new rules will uproot our families," Ezeoma told The Local.
Last month, a letter was sent to the Danish parliamentarians by the DGCA highlighting how they would be shortchanged by these new rules being implemented retroactively. A conference to discuss these new rules and possible solutions was also organised by DGCA on October 22. The DGCA says that it is hopeful of getting a fair and just decision from parliament following last week's protest and meeting.