The so-called 26-year-rule, which exempted the partners of Danes holding citizenship for 26 years or more from certain immigration requirements, was abolished last year by a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling.
The rule discriminated against Danes who were born in the country or arrived at a young age, for example as refugees, but were not granted citizenship until later, ruled the court.
The suspension of the rule means that more mixed-nationality couples now become subject to the “attachment requirement” (tilknytningskravet), which states that a Danish-plus-non-EU-nationality couple may not be granted family reunification in Denmark if they are considered to have “a stronger attachment to a second country”.
Following the EHCR judgement, immigration minister Inger Støjberg suspended the 26-year rule, immediately subjecting all foreign-based Danes and their partners to the attachment condition.
Reports emerged recently of foreign partners who would previously have lived up to residence requirements being told to leave the country.
The 26-year rule was lasted week formally scrapped as parliament approved a law change to remove it from legislation.
The petition against the removal of the rule was led by NGOs Marriage Without Borders and Danes Worldwide.
“I have spoken with several people in Brazil who are outraged that the connection requirement now affects everyone. What happens if the political instability in Brazil worsens and they feel they need to move home, but they can't take their families with them?”, Anne Marie Dalgaard, general secretary of Danes Worldwide, told newspaper Politiken.
The formal removal of the 26-year-rule was accompanied by the approval of a new provision that makes it easier for Danes with higher incomes to move to the country with their foreign spouses, in comparison with lower earners.
Under the new rule, Danes offered positions with a salary of at least 408,000 kroner ($60,000) per annum or with qualifications in demand in Denmark are exempted from the attachment requirement.
But parliamentary legal advisors said that the new proposal could also result in unlawful discrimination.
Dalgaard said that thousands of Danes living in other countries who are self-employed, retired or students would be among those not taken into account by the new dispensation.
“People are angry, frustrated, and bitter that they have travelled and served Danish interests abroad and established strong bonds to foreign countries that have benefited Danish business. And this is the reward,” Dalgaard told Politiken.
Removing the 26-year rule from effect following the ECHR judgement last year may even have been illegal itself, with families rejected residence under family reunification rules due to a rule change not yet coded into the law, the Danish Institute for Human Rights director Jonas Christoffersen told Politiken.
But Christoffersen added that, by suspending the law in keeping with the ECHR ruling, the government had ensured equal treatment of its citizens on the issue.
Several couples have filed appeals with the Danish Immigration Appeals Board (Udlændingenævnet) during the year between the ECHR ruling and last week's law change, reports Politiken.
The government and opposition Social Democrat party are reported to be working on more flexible rules over the issue, while the earnings-based exemption will stay in place until summer 2018, according to the newspaper.