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Why do foreigners in Denmark want to become Danish?

Why do foreigners in Denmark want to become Danish?
Danish citizens. Clockwise from top left: Idyln St. Hilaire, Sondra Duckert, Damian Strudwick, Ekaterina Yaltykova. Photos: supplied
The path to Danish citizenship is famously complicated and difficult to achieve, but several factors motivate people to become nationalised Danes, writes Divya Rao.

Recent years have seen an apparent decrease in the number of people who have been granted Danish citizenship, according to Statistics Denmark figures.

This makes for an interesting point to consider: why would foreign residents in Denmark go through the necessary hurdles to be granted a Danish passport? We asked some former expats who now hold Danish nationality.

“As someone who was born in Soviet Russia and lived in Estonia without having a country to call as my own, Denmark legally became my home in 2015,” says Ekaterina Yaltykova, who moved with her mother and stepfather from Estonia in 2002.

“I applied for citizenship as it was the natural next step. Having grown out of my teen years, I could see my future in Denmark. When I was already speaking the language, working and paying taxes, and wanted to have a voice in the political scenario, it became apparent that I needed to have a citizenship in Denmark,” says Yaltykova, who works in the finance and auditing sector in Copenhagen.

The reason was quite different for Sondra Duckert, who became a Danish citizen in August 2020. An American citizen, Duckert moved to Hørsholm with her Danish husband from The Netherlands via European Union freedom of movement provisions.

“The complexities involving getting a Danish citizenship never dawned on me. My friends from Danish language school were all applying for citizenship and I thought it was a good idea in 2018,” says Duckert, who works in marketing.

Denmark was one of the very last European countries to allow for dual citizenship. This came into effect in 2015.

“I didn’t want to give up my American passport and the change in the law in 2015 that allowed for dual citizenship made me want to give this a try. Plus, I can now travel to Cuba!” says Duckert, recounting how it has been difficult to do that with an American passport.

The Danish passport ranks as the third most powerful passport across the globe in 2020, according to the Passport Index. This is echoed by those who were driven by the strength of the Danish passport.

“I have a British passport but I believe that the Danish passport opens doors to more countries,” says Damian Strudwick, a British-born veterinary surgeon who lives in Odense.

Danish citizenship was not always in high demand, however.

Per Mouritsen, Associate Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University told The Local that “in the nineties, when guest workers (gæstearbejder) from Turkey and other countries came to work in Denmark, they were keen on going back to their home countries. I actually had a colleague who wrote an entire paper about how citizenship was not a strong motivator for people to come to Denmark in that time.”

In recent years, immigration and integration of expats and refugees into the Danish society has become a socio-political talking point, leaving many expats feeling insecure about their position in Denmark.

“I did not know how or when the changes in the political situation could affect my stay in Denmark. Despite having a strong connection to Denmark with family and a job, the changing political environment made me feel like I could be asked to go back to my country at any moment, if I did not have a Danish passport,” says Yaltykova.

Mouritsen says the statistics on who is granted citizenship speak for themselves.

“When we look at groups with specific shared interests — such as refugees or younger expats who foresee living in Denmark for a long time — there is a need for a sense of belonging and security that comes with it,” he says.

A Danish passport can also alter perceptions when crossing borders, according to the citizens we spoke to.

“I just wanted to travel without a hassle around Europe, which was not the case with a residence permit,” sys Duckert. This sentiment was echoed by Strudwick and Yaltykova.

While convenience in mobility is an important driver, Idyln St. Hilaire wanted a sense of equality that the Danish passport would bring with it.

“I moved here for a job in 2004 and did not plan on staying longer than my contract. But I ended up working, studying, learning the language and paying the taxes. After having lived here for over a decade, I believed that my voice and my vote should count too,” says St. Hilaire, who moved from Dominica and now lives in Gladsaxe.

Mouritsen adds: “There is also another way to look at the motivations to become a Danish citizen. The fact that getting a Danish passport is difficult makes it much like an ‘exclusive, members-only club’. In doing so, getting a Danish citizenship becomes much more attractive and can even seem like an acknowledgement of being good enough”.

Do you have a story about what motivated you to get a Danish citizenship? Write to us or leave a comment.

This is the first in a series of three articles around Danish citizenship. Keep an eye out for the next!

About the writer

Divya Rao is a marketing and communications specialist. She moved from her job at Microsoft to Næstved in 2018, to follow her heart. She now works as a freelance marketing and communications professional and is a contributing writer with The Local. She currently lives in Næstved and travels across the region for project implementations. You can find her on LinkedIn or via email.

 


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