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How many people does Denmark grant citizenship to?

How many people does Denmark grant citizenship to?
Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix
Politicians in Denmark have recently made a series of proposals that would make citizenship harder to attain, but how many citizenships does the country grant?

A total of 7,076 people were granted Danish citizenship in 2020 according to Statistics Denmark (DST).

That’s a substantial increase from 2019, when 1,781 people became Danish, but still considerably below 2016 (15,028) when the number of successful citizenship requests registered a spike after more than a decade of a negative trend following the peak of 19,323 successful citizenship requests in 2000. 

A possible causative factor in this is the 2015 law change which allowed Danish nationals to have dual citizenship. 4,498 citizenship were granted in 2015, the cycle immediately prior to the law change.

Year New citizenships granted
2015 4,498
2016 15,028
2017 7,272
2018 2,836
2019 1,781
2020 7,076

Where do most ‘new Danes’ come from?

In 2020, like most years before it, the majority of people acquiring citizenship came from outside the European Union: 4,647 or roughly 70 percent. That’s what you’d expect, since people with EU passports already enjoy most of the same rights in Denmark as Danes and therefore have less incentive to apply for citizenship.

According to the DST data bank, highest number of successful applications last year came from the United Kingdom (692), followed by Pakistan (630), Poland (384), Germany (375), Ukraine (362), USA (254), India (241), Russia (209), Romania (197), Iraq (195) and Turkey (192).

This was the first year that the top spot belonged to the United Kingdom. This anomaly could be attributable to Brexit, with Danish-resident citizens of the UK potentially seeking Danish nationality to remain members of the European Union. 

Until recently, the vast majority of successful citizenship requests came from non-western countries. Although in the past three years the countries with the most successful citizenship requests were the UK, Germany, and Sweden respectively, 2018 was the first time since 2000 that the top spot belonged to a Western country.

In 2017, the country with the most successful citizenship requests was Bosnia and Herzegovina, marking the first time since 2006 that the top country was not Iraq.

This may reflect a broader trend in Danish politics which has popularised limiting immigration and citizenship for individuals originally from non-Western or Middle Eastern countries.

This month, the centre-right Liberal party proposed interviews to test whether citizenship-hopefuls subscribe to ‘Danish values’ as part of the application process. 

proposal by the far-right Nye Borgerlige party would meanwhile change the way the Danish parliament processes citizenship applications so that individuals can be more easily rejected.

And the Danish People’s Party says it wants the religion of newly nationalised Danes to go on public record under new citizenship rules, and to ban citizenship for people married to foreign nationals.

The government is reported to be prepared to consider each of the proposals.

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How do most people qualify for Danish citizenship?

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.”

Danish citizenship can only be granted to foreign nationals via legal nationalisation: your application must actually be approved by a parliamentary majority. Accepted applications are normally processed in parliament twice yearly, in April and in October.

Citizenship entitles you to a Danish passport and gives you the right to vote in parliamentary elections, as well as providing a permanent basis for residency in the country.

You must, of course, meet a number of closely-defined criteria and requirements in order to be eligible for citizenship by naturalisation. These fall into six broad categories. 

  • Give a declaration of loyalty to Denmark
  • Fulfil prior residency criteria
  • Have no criminal convictions
  • Be free of debt to the public sector and be financially self-sufficient
  • Meet criteria for Danish language skills 
  • Pass a citizenship test and demonstrate knowledge of Danish society

READ ALSO: Applying for Danish citizenship: The process explained


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