Handshakes high on the agenda as Denmark’s immigration minister awards nine citizenships

Minister for Immigration and Integration Inger Støjberg awarded Danish citizenship to nine nationalised Danes on Thursday as a newly-introduced form of ceremony was held for the first time.

Handshakes high on the agenda as Denmark’s immigration minister awards nine citizenships
Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Scanpix 2019

The constitutional ceremony (grundlovsceremoni) will normally take place in local municipalities, but Thursday’s occasion involved nine new Danes who travelled to Copenhagen from across Denmark.

As part of new rules on citizenship which came into effect on January 1st, participants at citizenship ceremonies are required to shake hands with their local official. The new ceremony is provided for by a citizenship bill agreed by the government and the Danish People’s Party June 29th last year.

The law requires applicants for Danish citizenship to shake hands palm-to-palm. Gloves may not be worn. The new rule is largely seen as targeting Muslims who refuse to shake hands with members of the opposite sex.

Støjberg left no doubt as to her view on the importance of the gesture in her speech at Thursday’s ceremony by saying the handshake itself represented the moment applicants became citizens of Denmark.

“It’s in exactly that moment [of the handshake] that you become citizens,” she said according to Ritzau’s report of the occasion.

Thomas Andresen, mayor of South Jutland town Aabenraa and a representative of the same Liberal party as Støjberg, criticised the handshake aspect of the ceremony on Thursday, calling it “over the top” and a demonstration of “supremacy”.

“It’s a gift to be given a citizenship, but to conclude (the procedure) with a handshake required by law is over the top,” Andresen said in comments given to broadcaster DR.

“If you don’t shake hands, you don’t get citizenship, and risk not being able to go on living in the country. For me, that’s a way of demonstrating supremacy,” he said.

Taking place at Eigtveds Pakhus in Copenhagen, there were more cameras present than participants in the ceremony and journalists from Sweden and Germany were amongst those on hand to observe proceedings, Ritzau writes.

“There is something quite outstanding about being awarded Danish citizenship,” Støjberg said.

Celebratory drinks and canapés were offered after formalities were completed.

“Now we can enjoy some hygge together. That’s also a part of being a Dane,” Støjberg said.

As municipalities will be responsible for future ceremonies, refusal by applicants to shake hands could theoretically require mayors to report them to immigration authorities.

“I would find it difficult to report an applicant. It’s a little bit informant-like. We have not asked to have to do this, so I have appealed for the state to take on this task,” Andresen said to DR.

Several Danish mayors have expressed their dissatisfaction with the demand on municipalities to carry out the handshake-compulsory ceremonies. Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen told DR in the autumn that he would accept local municipalities declining to provide for the final step in naturalisation.

“Then we will have to see it through in another way. We believe the right place to do this is in local democracy,” Rasmussen said.

READ ALSO: I took the Danish citizenship test today. What was it like, and why did I do it?

For members


Do children born in Denmark automatically get Danish citizenship?

A Danish passport comes with many benefits, and the country allows dual citizenship. But what are the rules for the children of foreign nationals born in Denmark?

Do children born in Denmark automatically get Danish citizenship?

Denmark allows dual citizenship, meaning it is possible for foreign residents to gain Danish citizenship without giving up their old citizenship, if their country of origin also permits dual citizenship. There are a few benefits that only Danish citizens have, such as an absolute right to live and work in the country and the right to vote in Danish parliamentary elections.

Some jobs are only open to Danish citizens as well: you must be a Danish citizen if you wish to be elected to parliament or join the police.

In addition to this, Danish nationals hold EU citizenship, which gives them the right to free movement in EU member states, making it easier for them to live and work in other parts of the bloc.

Danish at birth

Unlike in other countries such as the United States, people born in Denmark do not automatically gain Danish citizenship.

Danish citizenship is granted at birth to children who have at least one Danish parent, regardless of whether the child is born in Denmark or not. For children born before July 1st 2014, this depends on the law in force when the child was born and other requirements may need to be fulfilled.


Dual citizenship

On the September 1st 2015, a new Nationality Act meant foreign residents could gain Danish citizenship without giving up their old citizenship.

It also meant that former Danish citizens who lost their Danish nationality by acquiring a foreign nationality could become Danish citizens again by making a declaration to the Ministry of Immigration and Integration. The new timetable to make this declaration is between July 1st 2021 and June 30th 2026.

Children born abroad: The 22-Year Rule 

Children born abroad to a Danish parent but who have never lived in Denmark, or visited for a lengthy period of time (adding up to at least a year which has to be documented) lose their Danish citizenship at the age of 22, unless it means the person becomes stateless.

Danish children born abroad must therefore apply to retain their Danish citizenship before the age of 22. If they are still living abroad at the time, their connection to Denmark will be assessed. This takes into account the number of visits to Denmark and level of Danish.

The Princess Rule

Children born in marriage to a Danish mother and a father of foreign nationality during the period of January 1st 1961 to  December 31st 1978 did not obtain Danish nationality by birth. As an alternative, Danish mothers had the option to make a declaration by which their child obtained Danish nationality.

Children born during this period whose mother did not make a declaration to this effect may apply for Danish nationality by naturalisation according to the “Princess Rule”.

Does a child born to foreigners need a residence permit?

If you are a child born in Denmark by foreign national parents, you need to apply for a residence permit.

The requirements for qualifying for a residence permit are more relaxed than for children born abroad. The child needs to either be registered as a family member to an EU citizen if under the age of 21, or registered under family reunification if the parents are not EU citizens.

The child’s residence permit will expire when the parent’s residence permit expires and can also be extended with the parent’s permit. It may also be possible for the child to obtain a permanent residence permit aged 18 by meeting more lenient requirements.

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between temporary and permanent residency in Denmark?

When can my child gain Danish citizenship?

If your child is born in Denmark but neither parent is Danish, they have to wait until one parent is granted citizenship.

Danish requirements for citizenship are some of the toughest in the world and you must meet a number of closely-defined criteria in order to be eligible for citizenship by naturalisation.

The wish to include a child in the application has to be stated and they must be under the age of 18, have Danish residency, not have committed any crime and be unmarried. No fee is payable for minors. Children aged 12 or over must give their consent to becoming Danish.

READ ALSO: How to apply for citizenship in Denmark