Danish parliament rejects campaign to soften residence bill

Denmark’s political parties rejected Thursday an amendment to a bill further tightening rules on permanent residency, despite a prolonged campaign by lobbyists.

Danish parliament rejects campaign to soften residence bill
People queue outside the Danish parliament at Christiansborg on 'Citizen Day', April 23rd 2017. Photo: Michael Bothager/Scanpix

With the unpopular bill L154 now passed, waiting times for foreigners in Denmark to apply for permanent residency now increase to eight years.

A previous extension to the minimum period before becoming eligible for residency from five to six years was passed as recently as 2016, meaning Denmark was already one of the strictest countries in Europe on the issue.

The new law also changes to require residency hopefuls work 3.5 out of four years prior to application for residency – a tightening on the previous requirement of 2.5 out of the last three years.

Danish legislative process requires all new bills to be read three times in parliament before they can be passed.

Previous amendments, including provisions for training and education amongst newcomers; and a key amendment requesting that the eight-year requirement only be applied to residence applicants who arrive after the new law comes into effect, were rejected at Tuesday’s second hearing.

A final amendment, asking for bill L154 to apply only to those who entered Denmark after January 1st 2016, was put forward by four of Denmark’s five opposition parties for the final hearing.

But Thursday’s vote saw the Social Democrats, the largest opposition party and the only one not to put forth the final amendment, vote against the amendment as it had done at the previous hearing.

This means the bill will now be passed in its original form.

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Naqeeb Khan, executive member of lobby group Danish Green Card Association, which campaigned against the bill from its inception in August 2016, told The Local that he was disappointed in the lack of support for the amendments.

“Firstly, we are extremely thankful to Josephine Fock of the Alternative party, the Social Liberal [Radikale Venstre] Sofie Carsten Nielsen, Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen of the Red-Green Alliance [Enhedslisten] and Holger K. Nielsen from the Socialist People’s Party for proposing the amendments.

“We are extremely disappointed with the Social Democrats, who we feel have betrayed the red block and the whole immigrant community. They cheer for the [US] Democrats who fight for undocumented immigrants while ignoring the existing legal highly qualified immigrants in Denmark,” Khan said.

Khan has previously spoken out against the bill, criticising it for disrupting lives and deterring valuable skilled workers from entering the Danish job market.

Last month, hundreds of expats gathered outside Copenhagen's parliament to demonstrate against the proposed curbs.

“We have democratically and peacefully protested against this bill for seven months. We met MPs, demonstrated in front of parliament, wrote articles, conducted seminars around Denmark and over 40 organisations wrote to parliament but none of our legal, justifiable and human rights were protected. We actually did this for Denmark because we believe that expats are part of Denmark's future,” he added.

The Local has contacted the Social Democrats for comment.

For members


READER QUESTION: What are the language requirements for permanent residency in Denmark?

What Danish language requirements are needed for permanent residency in Denmark? We take a look at the rules.

READER QUESTION: What are the language requirements for permanent residency in Denmark?

Reader question: What Danish language requirements are needed to get permanent residency in Denmark? I am British and received EU residency prior to Brexit and have been here for two years.

Due to Brexit, British people living in Denmark are either on EU residency permits or non-EU residency permits, depending when they moved to the country.

The Withdrawal Agreement transition period ended on December 31st 2020, so anyone moving from Britain to Denmark after this date came as a non-EU citizen.

In the case in question, the rules relating to EU temporary residency apply. This means it’s possible to apply for permanent residence after five years living in Denmark. Applications can be submitted one month before those five years, so there are just under three years to go for someone who has lived in Denmark for two years.

If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen, there are no language requirements to obtain permanent residency.  This only applies to non-EU citizens, who need to pass the Danish language test 2 (Prøve i Dansk 2), or a Danish exam of an equivalent or higher level.

Below we outline the details.

EU temporary residency

As an EU citizen, your temporary residence permit in Denmark can continue for as long as you meet the requirements (i.e. being employed, self-employed, a student, or through having sufficient funds). If your circumstances change, you have to apply for a new temporary residency.

After five consecutive years, you qualify for permanent residency and this means you can stay in Denmark indefinitely and you don’t need to apply for residency again if your circumstances change. 

However, as an EU temporary resident, it is not mandatory to apply for the right to permanent residence.

Once you have permanent residency, you can leave Denmark for longer stretches of time than with temporary residency but if it is more than two years, you will have to renounce your residency. Only by becoming a citizen can you avoid this.

Non EU temporary residency

The process is more complicated if you’re not in the EU. There are various ways to get a work and residence permit for non-EU nationals, depending on your profession.

Work permits and therefore residency permits are granted for no longer than four years but you can apply for an extension three months before your current permit expires. 

If you are a non-EU citizen you can be granted permanent residence once you have had a temporary residence permit for eight uninterrupted years, or four years in certain circumstances.

EU Permanent residency requirements

You can apply for permanent residency one month before reaching five years residency in Denmark. During those five years, you are allowed temporary residence abroad for a less than six months per year but there are exceptions.

You need to submit your application to the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI).

The documents you need include:

  • A copy of your passport or national ID card 
  • The completed application form
  • Proof how you met your temporary residency requirements over the past five years. This is often tax returns from the past five years. 

The process can take up to 90 days and there is no fee. 

Your family members are not covered by your application and must submit their own applications, after five years of residence.

Non EU Permanent residency requirements

If you are a non-EU citizen then you can be granted permanent residence once you have had a temporary residence permit for eight uninterrupted years, or four years in certain circumstances.

However, there are other strict requirements to fulfil.

You must not have been convicted of certain crimes; you may not have any overdue public debts; you may not have received certain forms of social benefits within four years of applying for a permanent residence permit; you need to pass the Danish language test 2 (Prøve i Dansk 2), or a Danish exam of an equivalent or higher level. You also need to have current employment – working at least three years and six months of the previous four years.

The rules for permanent residency are more lenient if you are between 18-19 years old, if you are a person of Danish descent, a former Danish citizen, or have ties to a Danish minority group.  

The application takes 10 months to process and costs 6,745 kroner.

It is important to submit the application before a current residence permit expires.

If you do not meet all the requirements for a permanent residence permit, you can apply for an extension of your current temporary residence permit instead. You can do this three months before your current residence permit expires.

If you need any more information or have questions, you can contact SIRI on their contact page.