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LIVING IN DENMARK

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.”

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.

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For members

DANISH CITIZENSHIP

How do Denmark’s citizenship rules compare to Sweden and Norway?

We take a look at how Denmark’s citizenship requirements compare to other Scandinavian countries.

How do Denmark’s citizenship rules compare to Sweden and Norway?

Gaining citizenship of one Nordic country grants you rights in the others, such as making it easier to move there, work there, and even become a citizen. So, where is it easiest to become a citizen, and where will you be waiting the longest?

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

Denmark

Length of stay: 9 years

Normally, you must have lived in Denmark for nine consecutive years (without living elsewhere for more than three months) in order to qualify for Danish citizenship.

This period is reduced in some cases: for refugees it becomes eight years, citizens of Nordic countries need a two-year stay and people married to Danes qualify after 6-8 years, depending on the length of the marriage.

Other exceptions are made for those who have taken a significant portion of their education in Denmark, who may qualify after five years. If you moved to Denmark before your 15th birthday, you can become nationalised after you turn 18.

EU and non EU citizens must have a permit for permanent residency in Denmark for a minimum of two years before applying for citizenship.

Language test

Applicants must have passed the national Prøve i Dansk 3 language test, the final exam in the national Danish language school system. This involves a reading, writing, speaking and listening test which equates to B2 Danish.

There are certain exemptions from the language requirements. Residents of Greenland and the Faroe Islands, as well as Swedish and Norwegian speakers, do not need to document Danish proficiency. Dispensation can be given for applicants with certain types of illnesses and disabilities, and different rules apply to children.

Citizenship test

A condition of getting Danish citizenship is to demonstrate knowledge of Danish society, culture and history, by having passed a citizenship test (indfødsretsprøve).

In April 2021, the existing citizenship test, consisting of 40 multiple choice questions, was supplemented with five extra questions about “Danish values” such as equality, freedom of speech and the relation between legislation and religion. 

The pass mark is 36/45 and at least four of the five Danish values questions must be answered correctly. 

Children under 12, Swedish and Norwegian citizens, and people from the Danish minority in German region Schleswig-Holstein do not need to take the citizenship test.

Other requirements

  • Sign a declaration pledging allegiance and loyalty to Denmark and Danish society and promising to abide by its laws.
  • Be free of debt to the public sector and be financially self-sufficient.
  • Have no criminal convictions.
  • Hold a full-time job or been self-employed for three and a half of the last four years. 
  • Attend a ceremony, declare you will uphold Denmark’s laws, values and principles and shake hands with an official.

You also need to submit paperwork to prove your identity, current nationality, residency and economic activity in Denmark.

Processing time and fees

At the end of 2021, the processing time for applications was approximately 14 months, according to the immigration ministry. The fee is 4,000 Danish kroner (~€537).

After this time, you receive a letter notifying you that you can expect to be accepted for citizenship at the next round of parliamentary procedure (which happens twice yearly), provided you still fulfil the requirements at that time.

Once the new law making you a citizen comes into force, you will be sent a declaration that you have been accepted for citizenship with one final condition: you attend a ceremony, declare that you will uphold Denmark’s laws, values and principles, shake hands with an official and become a citizen.

Photo by lilzidesigns on Unsplash

Sweden

Length of stay: 2-5 years

EU and non EU citizens can apply for Swedish citizenship after living in Sweden for five continuous years with right of residence. 

In some cases, this period can be even shorter.

Nordic citizens who have lived in Sweden for at least five years can become Swedish citizens through notification. This involves filling out a form and sending it to the local country administrative board, with a fee of 475 kronor.

The alternative is to submit an application for citizenship to the Migration Agency, which Nordic citizens can do after living in Sweden for two years. No other requirements below are needed for Nordic citizens.

EU and non-EU citizens who have lived with a Swedish citizen for at least two years can apply for citizenship earlier, after three continuous years in Sweden. However applicants will be asked to show that they have adapted well to Swedish life. This could be shown through learning the language, proving you can support yourself, or through the length of your marriage.

The requirement for continuous residency in Sweden means that if you spend more than six weeks abroad in any given year, it will extend the period of time until you can apply for citizenship.

For non-EU citizens, the process for getting citizenship is just the same as for EU citizens, except there is an additional requirement for a permanent residence permit. Permanent residency for non EU citizens is usually granted after four years of living in Sweden.

Other requirements: No outstanding debts or recent crimes

In addition to length of stay, EU and non EU citizens must have “conducted themselves well in Sweden”, and the Migration Agency will request information on whether you have debts or have committed crimes in the country.

An application can be rejected if a person has unpaid taxes, fines, or other charges. Debts to private companies passed on to the Swedish Enforcement Authority could also impact the application, even if they are paid, as two years must pass after payment to prove you’re debt-free. If you’ve committed a crime, there’s also a qualifying period before citizenship can be granted which depends on the sentence. 

An automated test (in Swedish) can be filled in here to see if you meet those requirements. 

Language and citizenship test: May soon be required

While Swedish language skills and knowledge of Swedish society are not currently a requirement for citizenship, this could change in the future. In January 2021, the Swedish Ministry of Justice and Migration put forward proposals to introduce an A2 language exam for would-be Swedes, with exceptions for vulnerable individuals who have made a reasonable effort to learn the language. There are also proposals for a knowledge test about Swedish society.

These proposals will be subject to a long political process before they can be put into law, so at present the requirements are proof of identity, duration of residency in Sweden, and no record of serious criminal offences or debts.

Processing time and fees

The Migration Agency says applicants should expect an average of 39 months between submitting their application and becoming Swedish. Readers of The Local have reported the process taking anywhere between a couple of weeks to over three years. The application costs 1,500 SEK (~€150).

Photo by Mikita Karasiou on Unsplash

Norway

Length of stay: 6-8 years

EU and non EU citizens can apply for Norwegian citizenship after living in Norway for eight years out of the past eleven years and if they have held residence permits that were each valid for at least one year during that time.

A new rule, which came into effect in January 2022, means that if you have sufficient income, you can apply after six years rather than eight. Currently sufficient income is 319,997 kroner (~€30,520), but this can change annually.

Those with Norwegian spouses, registered partners, or cohabitants can apply after living in Norway for three of the last ten years. 

Nordic citizens over the age of 12 can apply for Norwegian citizenship after two years living in Norway and do not need to fulfil any further requirements below.

Language test

EU and non EU citizens have to pass an oral Norwegian language test at either A2 or B1 level. A2 refers to an elementary level of Norwegian, and B1 is considered semi-fluent. 

The change to the language requirement from A2 to B1 will apply from autumn 2022 at the earliest, according to the UDI

Citizenship test

Applicants must pass a citizenship test (statsborgerprøve), or a social studies test if aged between 18 and 67. The tests must be taken in Norwegian, either Bokmål or Nynorsk.

For the citizenship test, applicants need to answer at least 24 of 36 multiple choice questions correctly to pass. Topics included in the test are history, geography, democracy, welfare, education, health and working life in Norway.

Other requirements

After filling in an online application, applicants have to deliver a series of documents in person, including birth certificates, marriage certificates (if applicable), a full list of entries into and departures from Norway, at least seven years of tax returns, and a police report certifying “good conduct”.

Processing time and fees

It costs 6,500 kroner to apply if you are over 18. However, the fee is cheaper or completely waived if you are a Nordic citizen, previously held Norwegian citizenship, or are under 18 years of age. 

Applications take around 16 months to process but this can vary.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to apply for Norwegian citizenship

Roundup

Even if Sweden decides to include a language and citizenship test in their application process, the country will remain the easiest and cheapest in Scandinavia in which to become a citizen, although there’s a downside – it also has the longest processing time for citizenship applications.

Here’s the roundup.

Swedish citizenship

Application Fee: ~€150 (1,500 Swedish kronor) 

Length of time living in country: 3-5 years 

Language level needed: None, but this may change

Citizenship test: None, but this may change

Other requirements: No record of serious criminal offences or debts

Dual nationality allowed: Yes

Processing time: Around 39 months

Norwegian Citizenship 

Application Fee: ~€250 (2,500 Norwegian kroner)

Length of time living in country: 6-8 of the past 11 years

Language level needed: A2 Norwegian, soon to change to the more difficult B1 Norwegian

Citizenship test: Yes

Other requirements: A full list of entries into and departures from Norway, at least seven years of tax returns, and a police report certifying “good conduct”.

Dual nationality allowed: Yes thanks to a law change in 2020 

Processing time: Around 16 months

Danish citizenship

Application Fee: ~€537 (4,000 Danish kroner)

Length of time living in country: 9 years

Language level needed: B2 Danish

Citizenship test: Yes

Other requirements: No record of serious criminal offences or debts and be financially self-sufficient; sign a declaration pledging allegiance and loyalty to Denmark and its laws; hold a full-time job or been self-employed for three and a half of the last four years; attend a ceremony.

Dual nationality allowed: Yes 

Processing time: 14 months – 2 years

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