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The hurdles you have to overcome to gain Danish citizenship

The requirements for applying and becoming a Danish citizen have seen a number of notable changes over the years, writes Divya Rao.

The hurdles you have to overcome to gain Danish citizenship
Photo: The Local

In 2015, a landmark law made the requirements stricter for who can apply and get Danish citizenship. The same year, the country allowed dual nationality.

Political factors have taken over legal factors in deciding citizenship criteria in recent times, some have argued.

In The Danish Institute for Human Rights’ Report on Citizenship Law, the organisation argues that “Denmark has the most stringent barriers to naturalisation among the Nordic countries, which may have to do with the fact that criteria for naturalisation are not adopted by law, but negotiated and agreed upon by political parties representing a majority in Parliament.”

READ ALSO: Danish citizenship applications rejected over traffic offences

Despite these restrictions, many have cracked the code and are now Danish citizens. We asked naturalised Danes about the challenges they faced and how they handled it.

Danish citizenship test

“I took on the citizenship exam in the most unusual of circumstances. I was helping a friend in her Danish citizenship exam and thought it was time to do it for myself too,” says Idlyn St. Hilaire, who moved to Denmark in 2004.

“In a twist of fate, I passed the exam while my friend had to take it again,” says St. Hilaire, a native of Dominica who got her Danish passport in 2016.

“Having a Danish citizenship became a lot more important as I had a child and we saw our future together in Denmark,” she added.

Carol Stief moved to Denmark from the United States back in 1965.

“I moved to Denmark as a pregnant woman, hoping to start afresh and with no intention to live here for as long as I did. I ended up living on as a PR [permanent resident, ed.] until four years ago. Having lived in the country for so long, I found the citizenship exam quite easy.”


Ekaterina Yaltykova has a different story.

“As a non-Dane, I had to study extra hard to learn about the Danish history – something that is taught early on in Danish schools – to prepare for the test. But my hard work paid off,” she said.

Danish citizens. Clockwise from top left: Idyln St. Hilaire, Sondra Duckert, Damian Strudwick, Ekaterina Yaltykova. Photos: supplied

Immigration ministry learning material and tests from previous cycles can be used as practice for the citizenship test. The tests are always published by Danish media after the event, and are easy to find online.

“The exam is not as difficult as I had imagined it would be. I would recommend that expats who are preparing for the test use the citizenship test book as recommended and work at it,” says Sondra Duckert, who received her citizenship in August 2020.

Self-censorship on social media

Some of the people we spoke to mentioned self-censorship while they waited to hear back after applying.

“I was very conscious about what I shared on my social media and said in my communications. It may be nothing, but I did not want to give a reason for my application to be rejected,” says Stief (left), who now lives in Copenhagen.

Duckert echoes the same sentiment.

“In the waiting period, I was almost paranoid whenever I received a notification of someone checking out my paper on the AAU site or visits on my social media profile. I censored my social media communication, even though I do not post any controversial statements, anyway,” she told us.

Application and waiting period

When asked about the complexity of the application form in itself, almost all interviewees said that while it was easily accessible, filling out the application and the process of waiting was another story.

READ ALSO: Applying for Danish citizenship: The process explained

“While finding the application online was easy, I had the help of my wife, who is Danish, to fill it out. The legal language and ambiguity were definitely challenging, and frustrating at times,” says Damian Strudwick, a British-born veterinary surgeon from Odense, who became a Danish citizen in August 2020.

The wait for getting a Danish citizenship can vary from 18-24 months. “It can be tedious to wait to hear an answer back from the authorities,” says Strudwick.

Yaltykova found other aspects to be daunting.

“I was prepared for the Danish exam and was confident in spoken Danish. But the interview at the police station was challenging. It went on for one hour and I had to tell them all about my life in Denmark since day one”, she recounts.

St. Hilaire reminisces, “After two years of complete silence about my application, getting the letter in the post was a joyous occasion”.

Words of advice

What advice do new Danes have for foreigners in the country who are hoping to get their Danish citizenship?

“Practising my Danish language, watching Danish television and programmes and studying for the citizenship test is crucial. They have stayed on to the point that my entertainment and news consumption has now changed,” says Duckert, who works with both Danish and global clients at her marketing company in Copenhagen.

St. Hilaire adds that “giving up is not an option. I made sure that I surrounded myself with people who are positive and encouraging.”

The importance of staying positive was also underlined.

“It is a long waiting period. I tried to stay as positive and hopeful as possible,” Yaltykova said.

“If you have done all that is expected- paid your taxes, have a clean sheet (no crimes committed), passed the citizenship exam and provided your travel history, you have done all that you can,” she added.

Are you expecting your Danish citizenship soon? Write to us or leave a comment below.

READ ALSO: Why do foreigners in Denmark want to become Danish?

This is the second 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 in India 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 onLinkedInor via email.

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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