FOR MEMBERS

The hurdles you have to overcome to gain Danish citizenship

The hurdles you have to overcome to gain Danish citizenship
Photo: The Local
The requirements for applying and becoming a Danish citizen have seen a number of notable changes over the years, writes Divya Rao.

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.”

READ ALSO:

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.


Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.