The Danish government's new rules for its much-criticized green card scheme took effect on January 1st. The stricter rules are not only meant for new applicants but are also retroactively applicable to current green card holders. This retroactive application of new rules on old applicants remains a contentious issue between the authorities and the Danish Green Card Association (DGCA). DGCA members’ pleas and protests against the rule changes fell on deaf ears.
The new rules have also left a lot of grey areas. Current green card holders who applied for their second renewals late last year have been waiting anxiously for a decision in their cases, facing an uncertain future. Many say that they cannot figure out the specific decisions they would get in their cases – after reading the new rules as published on NewtoDenmark.dk.
To clear the ambiguity created by new rules, some key members of the DGCA met with immigration attorney Åge Kramp on January 11th to purse a legal challenge to the retroactive application of new rules in Danish and EU courts, which would be a long drawn process that could take more than three years.
DGCA also set up an online form for compiling member questions about the new rules. Kramp will then compile the questions and forward them to Danish Immigration Services for proper clarification.
A Copenhagen-based green card holder who did not wish to be identified told The Local that they feel trapped in a loophole.
"The new rules would apply to green card holders applying for second extensions from 2015. However, there are many applicants, like me, who applied in 2014 and are still awaiting decisions. If new rules are applied to my case, then I am no longer eligible for an extension, and if the old rules are applied, then the decision should have come by now. I have lived in Denmark for more than four years and am contributing positively to its economy without taking unemployment benefits like the refugees. Why are all immigrants painted with the same brush by Danish politicians? There is a feeling amongst most of the green card holders that we have been shortchanged by the government,” they said.
DGCA says there are many other green card holders in similar precarious situations. The highly-educated foreigners came to Denmark expecting good career opportunities, but most of them couldn't get relevant jobs and ended up working in odd jobs to pay their bills.
With the introduction of a key clause in the new rules that states that green card holders must earn more than 315,000 kroner per year, it will be difficult for them to get second extensions and will force most of them to leave Denmark.
Kramp and the DGCA say they are focusing on a few key changes in the rules:
• Applicants can be granted a first-time residence permit under the Green Card Scheme for up to two years. Before the end of this period, they can apply for an extension of up to three years. The residence permit can only be extended if you meet a minimum income requirement while working for an Denmark-based employer and reporting earnings to the Danish tax authority Skat.
• A special transitional scheme applies for those who were granted a residence permit under the Green Card Scheme before January 1st, 2015. As a result, the first application for an extension will be processed under the previous extension rules. Any subsequent applications for an extension will be processed under the new rule.
• For green card holders to bring an accompanying family member, there is now a minimum income requirement of 130,000 kroner in the first year and 315,000 kroner in the second year.
• There will no longer be points given for an applicant's work experience and age. This clause is expected to cause a significant fall in the number of new applications.
• There is now a special scheme for foreign nationals who complete a Danish Master's degree or a Danish PhD degree. They can be granted a special residence permit that will allow them establish themselves in Denmark after graduating.
In 2014, there were roughly 8,000 foreign workers in Denmark under the Green Card Scheme.