OPINION: It would be unfair to deport foreign workers hit by coronavirus lockdown

Naqeeb Khan from the Danish Green Card Association argues it would be unfair to deny visa extensions or permanent residency to migrant workers because of income lost due to coronavirus.

OPINION: It would be unfair to deport foreign workers hit by coronavirus lockdown
Naqeeb Khan (second from right). Photo: Naqeeb Khan
The coronavirus crisis has caused a huge human and economic loss. But it has also united us as human beings, because we are all in this together.
One of the groups in Denmark that the coronavirus crisis will affect the most is immigrants — especially those on temporary visas, green card holders, and those applying for Permanent Residency (PR) permits.
These immigrants need to demonstrate a minimum annual income before they can extend their visas to stay in Denmark or apply for PR, something which in the current crisis it will be almost impossible for many of them to do. 
We at the Danish Green Card Association believe that the Danish government should waive the equivalent of three months of annual income or working hours.
This will save foreign workers from being unfairly forced to leave Denmark simply because of income lost to the coronavirus shutdown. 
The situation
Immigrants in Denmark e.g. green card holders are required to show an annual income of DKK 317,681 (Styrelsen for International Rekruttering og Integration SIRI calculation) to extend their visa. Similarly, those who have to apply for Permanent Residency permit are required to show an annual income of DKK 292,256 (SIRI Calculation 2020 level). PR applicants should also be able to demonstrate continuous work over at least 120 hours per month over the last four years
Due to coronavirus, thousands of employees have now been fired, many have been told to stay home or asked to work less hours than usual. The current situation might last for months. This will surely impact the annual income of these immigrant, which will put them on risk of losing their visas or green cards or of having their permanent residency applications rejected. 
One member, who has been working in the tourism industry for five years was told on Monday March 16 to stay home until further notice from. It will be hard for him to find another job in the current crisis. His visa extension is due in December this year, and he will be expected to show 12 months’ income. It would be unfair to ask him to demonstrated the usual annual income.
Another member, who has been working at an ice cream factory for the last four years lost his job on Monday March 16,  because of the coronavirus shutdown. He had applied for permanent residency six months ago and was expecting a decision on the application within the next 3 months. Under the current rules, his PR application will be rejected simply because he will not fulfil the current work requirements.
Applicants for permanent residency may have fulfilled all work and language requirement and passed the citizenship exam. But they now face rejection due to failing the the income requirement through no fault of their own. 

Income Requirement for Visa Extension:
The current rules states that to receive an extension to a visa (green card), the applicant must show an annual income of DKK 317,681 (SIRI calculation). In the current crisis, it will almost impossible for many to meet this requirement.
We recommend that the Danish government waive at least 3 months’ income, reducing the required annual income to DKK 238,269.
Income Requirement for Permanent Residency applicants:
The current rules state that those applying for a permanent residency permit should have had an annual income of DKK 292,256 over the two years leading up to the application.
We recommend that the Danish government waive three months’ income from the second years, reducing the required annual income DKK 219,192
Work Requirement for Permanent Residency applicants: The current rules states before applying for permanent residency, applicants should have worked for 120 hours per month over the preceding four years (the requirement is for three and half years' work under the eight year rules).
We recommend that applicants should be exempted from the 120 hours a month requirement for three months, starting from March 2020. 
Continuous Work Requirement for Permanent Residency applicants
The current rules also state that if someone has submitted a PR application that they should still be working even after they have submitted the application. In the current situation, many applicants have suddenly lost their jobs, meaning they risk having their application rejected. 
We recommend that the continuous work requirement be waived for those who have lost their jobs during the three month coronavirus shutdown. 

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How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

If you want to work in Denmark as a non EU citizen, you must apply for a residence and work permit and then get extensions to this, if you want to work in Denmark longer-term. Here's a guide to what you need to know.

How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

The rules regarding residence and work in Denmark are administered by the Danish Immigration Service and The Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) under the Ministry of Immigration and Integration.

As an EU citizen, you can freely enter Denmark and begin to work upon arrival without needing a permit to work. The case is different for those who are not EU citizens.

There are various ways to get a work permit, depending on your profession. A list of different types of work sectors and requirements needed, can be found on the website

These include Fast-track scheme, Pay limit scheme, Positive lists, Researcher, Employed PHD, Guest researcher, Special individual qualifications, Herdsmen and farm managers, Establishment card, Start-up Denmark, Trainee, Certification, ESS Scheme, Authorisation, Labour Market Attachment, Drill rigs and other mobile workplaces, Volunteer, Sideline employment, Employment for adaptation and training purposes, Work permit for accompanying family members.

The Pay Limit Scheme is currently being debated in Parliament by the Danish government due to the country’s labour shortage and the need to attract more international workers. 

At the moment, you can get a work permit on the pay limit scheme if your salary is at least 448,000 kroner a year. You don’t need a specific educational background or a job within a specific professional field. If you have requested asylum in Denmark and have been offered a job with a high salary, you can also apply based on this scheme. 

The government has proposed that the annual salary requirement be lowered to 375,000 kroner over a two-year period, to allow more international workers into Denmark on the scheme.

However, four conservative parties – the Conservatives, Liberal Alliance, Liberals and Nye Borgerlige (New Right), would like the annual salary permanently reduced to 360,000 kroner but do not want the scheme to include nationals of Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

READ ALSO: Danish conservative parties want to exclude Muslim countries in foreign labour rules

The Fast-Track Scheme makes it faster and easier for certified companies to recruit foreign employees with special qualifications to work in Denmark. This means that as a highly qualified employee, you can have a quick and flexible job start in the certified company.  The scheme allows you to alternate between working in Denmark and working abroad.

The four conservative parties also want the fast-track scheme to be expanded, so that companies with five employees can make use of the scheme. At the moment the requirement is that companies must have 20 employees to be able to use the scheme.

The Positive List, for people with a higher education and for skilled work, is a list of professions experiencing a shortage of qualified professionals in Denmark.

If you have been offered a job included in the Positive List, you can apply for a Danish residence and work permit based on this scheme.

The Positive List for people with a higher education and for skilled work is updated twice a year on 1st January and 1st July. Here is the latest updated list.

For requirement details of other work sectors, you can find more at as mentioned above.

What about partners and family members?

A residence and work permit based on a job in Denmark allows your family to come with you to Denmark. 

A permit can be granted to your spouse, registered or cohabiting partner as well as children under the age of 18 living at home.

Holding a residence permit as an accompanying family member to an employee in general allows you the right to work in Denmark. Therefore, you do not need to apply for a separate work permit if you get a job. You are also allowed to run your own business and sign up to a programme in an educational institution.

However, you must apply for a work permit if you want to work for the same company as your partner (who is referred to as sponsor), or if you want to work for a company closely linked to your partner’s company.

How long will my permit last?

Work permits are no longer than four years but you can apply for an extension three months before your current permit expires. So you also need to apply for an extension to residency based on your work permit, which will be on the same conditions as you got the first one.

In order to extend your permit, your employment must not have changed. This means that you must be employed in the same position, by the same employer and under the same or improved terms of employment.

If you change jobs, you need to apply for a new work permit or if your salary or other employment terms are diminished, you must inform SIRI.

If you have a resident permit based on your partner (sponsor’s) employment and their employment is extended, you must also apply for an extension of your residence permit.

Permanent residency

Once you become a permanent resident, you no longer need to extend your work and residence permit.

Permanent residency for non EU citizens is granted after living and working in Denmark for eight continuous years, or four years in certain circumstances. You can apply for permanent residency at anytime and it usually takes 10 months to process at a cost of 6,745 kroner.

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