Denmark’s foreign academics face prosecution over visa technicalities

Academics in Denmark have faced punishment for taking on extra teaching work.

Denmark’s foreign academics face prosecution over visa technicalities
Copenhagen Business School. File photo: Anders Birch/Polfoto/Scanpix

Denmark's rules on work permit terms for foreign academics have come in for criticism after stories emerged of professors being prosecuted for teaching outside of their primary institutions of employment.

University professors have expressed their anger at authorities for punishing them for what they say is part of their job – sharing their knowledge outside of the academic sphere.

On Sunday, newspaper Politiken reported that Colombian professor Jimmy Martinez-Correa was earlier this year acquitted by the High Court of teaching illegally, an offence for which he faced a possible 15-year ban from applying for Danish residency.

Martinez-Correa, an economics professor, has worked at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) since 2012, having reportedly chosen to accept a position in Denmark ahead of offers from the United States, Australia and elsewhere in Europe. He received the Independent Research Fund Denmark award for talented young researchers in 2014.

The professor faced the charges for accepting an offer in 2013 to teach international students at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, according to Politiken’s report.

The Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (Styrelsen for International Rekruttering og Integration, SIRI) later reported him to police for breaching the terms of his visa.

Martinez-Correa was acquitted of the charges after the High Court found that SIRI’s guidelines over the issue were so confusing that the professor could not have known an extra work permit was required.

Last month, broadcaster DR reported that American professor Brooke Harrington was set to be fined for meeting with tax agency Skat, parliaments Tax Committee (Folketingets Skatteudvalg) and the Danish Business Authority (Erhvervsstyrelsen).

Harrington told DR that she had been told by police that she would be given a fine of at least 13,500 kroner (1,800 euros) for being in breach of her working and residency visa.

According to her visa, the economics professor is only permitted to work at her place of permanent employment — also Copenhagen Business School.

As was the case with Martinez-Correa, SIRI reported Harrington to police for breaching those provisions, the professor told DR last month.

“It came as a big surprise, as a part of my job as a professor in Denmark in relation to Danish law is to share my expertise with authorities. But now the authorities are saying that I may not speak outside the walls of CBS,” she said.

Danish rules relating to employees of universities state that professors are obliged to share their knowledge with the public.

Harrington received a police summons to provide details of her work despite having been invite to Denmark’s parliament on a number of occasions to consult on tax havens.

The Tax Committee also received a fine from police for having used Harrington, according to DR’s report.

Immigration minister Inger Støjberg told DR that authorities had followed the law by issuing the fine.

“Fundamentally, it is necessary to have a work permit to work in Denmark, and it will continue to be so in future. On the other hand, I will also see whether (rules) can be made a bit more flexible in future,” Støjberg said.

CBS’ dean Per Holten-Andersen told DR last month that three foreign employees at the university faced fines over similar issues, while Politiken has reported that 14 such cases are known to Universities Denmark, the umbrella organisation representing Denmark’s eight higher education institutions.

READ ALSO: More must be done to draw international workers to Denmark: DI


Foreign employees entitled to Danish bank account: Finance Denmark

Foreign employees with their papers in order are entitled to a Danish bank account, interest organisation Finance Denmark has confirmed in a letter to its members.

Foreign employees entitled to Danish bank account: Finance Denmark
File photo: Brian Bergmann/Scanpix Denmark

The confirmation provides clarification to Danish companies who pay salaries to foreign employees on short working visits in Denmark, reports

Since last year, tightened rules have stipulated that foreign employees from non-EU countries must have salaries paid into a Danish bank account – even for short stays in Denmark.

Meanwhile, stricter legislation to prevent money laundering has made banks more cautious about setting up accounts for foreign employees.

Now, however, things are looking brighter.

The requirement that salaries be paid into a Danish bank account remains unchanged, but Finance Denmark – a trade organisation for Danish banks – has given companies with foreign employees a helping hand. The organisation has sent out a letter to financial institutions notifying them that they are obliged to create accounts for foreign nationals that are entitled to work in Denmark.

“We sent out the letter upon the request of the Confederation of Danish Industry and the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI), who brought to our attention the fact that a number of Danish companies find that their international employees from non-EU countries have difficulty setting up Danish bank accounts for payment of their salary before they have received their CPR number [personal identification number, ed.] or residency permit,” said Kenneth Joensen, Legal Executive Director at Finance Denmark. 

The letter from Finance Denmark also informs banks that SIRI can provide help if they are unsure about a specific residency permit.

“In the letter to the banks, we have included information from SIRI that can help them understand the rules. We hope that the included material can make it easier and less worrisome for banks to open bank accounts in compliance with the money laundering rules for this group of foreign employees. Meanwhile, it is important that employees bring the information banks need so that they do not end up going to the bank in vain. In our experience, this can also be part of the problem in the specific instances,” Joensen said.

Since the summer of 2017, global consulting firm Accenture has struggled with the administrative difficulties resulting from the Danish parliament's decision to tighten the rules for use of foreign employees.

Philip Wiig, Country Managing Director for Denmark at management consultancy firm Accenture, welcomed the news.

“The rules requiring that foreign employees on short visits have their salary paid to a Danish account will still be an administrative burden. But it is a big relief that it has been made clear to banks that they are entitled to an account when they are permitted to work here,” Wiig said.

However, he still hopes that parliament will re-examine the rules and find a solution that is less difficult for both companies and the highly-specialised foreign nationals that Accenture brings to Denmark for short periods.

“We are increasingly availing ourselves of some of the world's most talented people, who come to Denmark for a short period to help us provide consulting services to Danish and international companies. It is therefore very important for us that getting them here is as straightforward as possible in terms of administration,” he said.

Linda Duncan Wendelboe, head of global talent with the Confederation of Danish Industry , agreed with that assessment.

“We really appreciate Finance Denmark's initiative and hope that the letter will help ease the burdens associated with setting up bank accounts for foreign employees. Ideally, however, we would like the requirement of a Danish bank account to be lifted completely,” Wendelboe said.

“Ultimately, we risk that these cumbersome rules will force companies to move departments and staff functions abroad, since the ability to bring employees in and out of a given country for projects and meetings is a priority, presently and in the future,” the global talent executive added.

READ ALSO: Minister's call for more foreign labour 'extremely positive': DI

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