SHARE
COPY LINK

IMMIGRATION

OPINION: Denmark’s new citizenship requirements are discriminatory and racist

The latest tightening of Denmark’s citizenship rules contains elements specifically designed to target minorities who seek Danish naturalisation. That makes them both discriminatory and racist, argues The Local guest columnist Naqeeb Khan.

OPINION: Denmark’s new citizenship requirements are discriminatory and racist
Danish passports are becoming more and more difficult to qualify for. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

From introducing tough new immigration laws to stripping Syrian refugees of residency permits, and now the new agreement regarding citizenship, Denmark’s Social Democrats have arguably escalated the hardline approach to immigration of the preceding, right wing government. Some opponents have called the Social Democrats a new right wing populist party.

Denmark has some of the tightest immigration laws in the world but with these new citizenship measures, announced this week, it might just have crossed the line into explicitly racist policy.

READ ALSO: Denmark announces new tightening of citizenship rules

The new agreement proposes tightening rules in the following areas, with some points specifically targeting groups like Muslims and non-western immigrants.

Applicants from Muslim and ‘non-Western’ countries 

The new agreement separates Danish citizenship applicants into groups from Muslim countries termed MENAP (Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan plus Turkey); non-Western countries which might include South Asian, South American and other countries; and applicants from Western countries.

Because citizenship applicants’ names are tabled in parliament after over a year of scrutiny for voting, the names are currently arranged alphabetically. The new agreement proposes to separate applicants on the basis of their original nationality.

This new practice was thought up by the extreme right wing Nye Borgerlige (New Right) party but despite that party’s absence in the final agreement, its idea is actualised.

The reasoning behind this idea is ostensibly to enable separate voting on each bill and potential rejection of Muslim applicants in the list. This is contrary to the Danish constitution, which secures freedom of religion.

Residency requirement could reach 11 years (in real time)

Current rules dictate that one has to have lived nine years in Denmark before one can be eligible to apply for Danish citizenship.

Although this rule is not changed in the new agreement, one of the pre-requisites of applying for Danish citizenship is to have permanent residency.

The new agreement states that one has to have permanent residency for two years before one can be eligible to apply for citizenship. Non-EU citizens can apply for permanent residency after eight years of legal residency. The processing time of the application is ten months but can take up to a year, so in this context it takes nine years (there is a four-year fast track which is very hard to apply for as one has to fulfil many requirements).

If obtaining permanent residency permit takes almost nine years, so the citizenship residency requirement will automatically reach 11 years. This will make Denmark the only European country to set such a long-term requirement.

Employment requirement

The new agreement proposes an employment requirement for would-be Danish nationals: three and a half years’ full-time work within the last four years.

This will be one of the most illogical and problematic requirements, especially for young applicants. It will compel young students to leave their education programmes and work full time before they can be eligible citizenship.

It will also force young people born and raised in Denmark, who attended Danish schools and have been an active part of Danish society, to leave their studies after they turn 18 and start full time work. Else, they will have to wait for at least five years as they finish their education and then work full time for three and a half years.

This forces uncertainty and suffering on young people who have been part of Danish society since their birth.

New citizenship test

The current citizenship test contains a total of 40 questions covering Danish history, politics, economics, societal values and norms, culture, lifestyle and current affairs.

READ ALSO: How many Danish citizenship test questions can you answer correctly?

Another five questions on Danish values will now be added. These five questions will be about freedom of expression, equality and especially about religion. The agreement has emphasised that to pass the test one has to correctly answer four of the five extra questions.

Critics have argued that these questions are specifically designed to target Muslims and make them choose between Islam and Danish values. Should this become a reality, it will also violate the Danish constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and religion.

READ ALSO:

Citizenship interview

Foreign nationals applying to become Danish citizens could also face individual interviews designed to test whether they have “Danish values”. The immigration ministry is to set out a model for the potential future introduction of such interviews, according to the new agreement.

The idea behind the citizenship interview is again to assess individual applicants on how far one has adopted Danish values – contrary to their religious beliefs.

It will at least take a year before citizenship interviews are actually introduced if the agreement becomes a bill and is passed by parliament.

Prison sentence rules out citizenship forever

The new agreement will make future citizenship impossible for people who have been sentenced to prison, either conditionally or unconditionally and for as little as one day.

Rights groups have argued that this will take the chance of a better life from a person who has once committed a crime but later reformed and can contribute to society in a better way.

It will also violate the human rights conventions. Critics have argued that with this requirement, Denmark will go back 100 years because in 1915, Denmark gave the right to vote to prisoners and now it is taking citizenship rights from former prisoners.

The new agreement does show some leniency by agreeing to allow South Schleswig residents to become Danish citizens if their children have attended Danish schools in the northern German province.

But even this concession discriminates by specifying that it applies to “Danish-minded” residents only. That means that if a South Schleswig resident with Turkish or other Muslim background wishes to apply for Danish citizenship even after fulfilling all the requirements, they would be rejected as they would be labelled as non “Danish-minded”.

The parties to the agreement – the Liberals, Conservatives and Liberal Alliance along with the governing Social Democrats – give it a clear majority to pass the presumptive bill.

But left-wing parties, which prop up the minority government, could take a firm stand on the issue if they wanted to stop it. That would probably mean threatening the Social Democrats with a no confidence vote, resulting in dismissal of the current government and ultimately an end to the agreement, at least for a while.

Are the support parties ready to take the big step and turn over the Social Democrat government over its increasingly aggressive stances on citizenship and immigration? It will only be a matter of time before we know.

Naqeeb Khan is a research graduate of the University of Glasgow, Scotland and resides in Denmark. He is president of Green Human Resources and an executive member with the Danish Green Card Association (DGCA). He can be contacted via email.

Member comments

  1. I really dislike that you throw around terms like “racist“ in your title, yet fail to describe any racism in your article. Media has really destroyed the true meaning of that word by using it however they please, and it just demeans people who have really suffered first hand racism.

    1. @Marc, I believe the article explained well the discriminatory points. But, if not I will try to give them on bullet points:

      – Discriminating by religion when possibly asking a question that goes against Islam values.
      – Separating groups when differentiating Westerns from MENAP (Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan plus Turkey).
      – Systematic racism when setting young immigrants to be required to work at an earlier age instead of pursuing a degree/master’s degree.

      1. Thanks for your reply Pedro, and I agree partly although I still stand with what I said. Discrimination is not racism. They are very different things and people use these words interchangeably incorrectly.

        Most of the points mentioned in the article apply to me if I try to become a Danish citizen.

        1. Hi Marc, I bet if asked you will not be bold enough to name some discrimination to be better than the other to be “good or better then…”? I fully understand WHY! I do an i hate when people do not even try to act like civilized humans and break social norms – “When in Rome…” Honestly, sometimes i see some forms of behavour and if we were not in Denmark but in Aleppo i would beat the crap out of some of those kids to teach some manners (just for the reson that Law works differently in Aleppo and you will not get to jail for that).
          But response government is giving is at best “generalised” and in worst nationalistic. I do agree it has nothing to do with Racist but it clearly is other form of discrimination – nationalism…. And on Germen example we observed clearly that there is a thin line between National Pride and Nazi… And Nazi is in no way better than Racism. Measures should be taken, but not these of a kind.

          Now think 15-20 years ahead, they kick out all Non-Western and all is good. But those politicians in majority never worked a day in their life and know nothing about such therefore! They still need program to get majority of your votes – what comes next?

          Read this:

          “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
          Because I was not a socialist.

          Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
          Because I was not a trade unionist.

          Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
          Because I was not a Jew.

          Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

          Neimoller was German, White and Lutheran – there should be wirsdom in what he wrote.

  2. @Marc, I believe the article explained well the discriminatory points. But, if not I will try to give them on bullet points:

    – Discriminating by religion when possibly asking a question that goes against Islam values.
    – Separating groups when differentiating Westerns from MENAP (Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan plus Turkey).
    – Systematic racism when setting young immigrants to be required to work at an earlier age instead of pursuing a degree/master’s degree.

  3. I’m sure we could find plenty of valid reasons for this change. Maybe Mr. Khan should take a look at that too.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

DANISH CITIZENSHIP

How to apply for citizenship in Denmark

We provide an explanation of applying for citizenship in Denmark, including an overview of the rules, a guide to the application process and useful extra information.

How to apply for citizenship in Denmark
Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

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. 

You need to fulfil the conditions for Danish citizenship up until the April or October when your application will be processed and the application needs to be submitted at least two to three months before April or October. 

To be granted citizenship, you must apply to the Ministry of Immigration and Integration for the eye-watering fee of 4,000 kroner (2022). 

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.

Danish requirements for citizenship are some of the toughest in the world. In April 2021, the Social Democratic government linked up with conservative parties Liberal (Venstre), the Conservatives and Liberal Alliance on a tighter new agreement around citizenship rights.

You must meet a number of closely-defined criteria and requirements in order to be eligible for citizenship by naturalisation. These fall into six broad categories, all of which will be set out in further detail below.

  • Give a declaration of allegiance and loyalty to Denmark
  • Fulfil prior residency criteria
  • 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. 
  • Meet criteria for Danish language skills 
  • Pass a citizenship test and demonstrate knowledge of Danish society and values

For children, stateless people born in Denmark, people whose previous Danish citizenships have lapsed and citizens of the Nordic countries, special rules apply. These will not be addressed in this article.

Declaration of allegiance and loyalty to Denmark

It is a condition for acquiring Danish citizenship by naturalisation that you declare allegiance and loyalty to Denmark and to Danish society. You must also declare that you will obey Denmark’s laws, including the constitution, and respect the fundamental values and legal principles of Danish democracy.

How do I do this, you might ask? The answer is, digitally. You sign the declaration online as you file your application on the Borger.dk website. You also reiterate the declaration when you attend the ceremony which confirms your citizenship, once you have been accepted for it.

Prior residency criteria

At the time of your application, you must already have a permit for permanent residency in Denmark for a minimum of two years, and have lived in Denmark for a specified number of years (see below).

People recognised as refugees, equated with refugees, or stateless, need a one year minimum permit for permanent residency.

Being a resident in Denmark means that you live permanently in the country and are registered at a Danish address (where you live) on the national civil registry (Det Centrale Personregister, CPR).

Certain applicants are exempt from one or both of the above conditions, for example Nordic citizens; former Danish citizens; people of Danish descent; members of the Danish minority of Southern Schleswig in Germany; applicants who are residing abroad due to the Danish spouse’s work for Danish interests; and applicants who were born between 1961 and 1978 to a Danish mother and who could have acquired Danish citizenship if their mother had applied for it between 1979 and 1981; and children who apply for citizenship without their parents. You can read more about this here.

READ ALSO:

Permanent residency is granted via a number of different routes, depending on the way in which you originally made Denmark your home.

EU free movement

If you are a citizen of an EU country or the family member of an EU citizen, you can be granted permanent residency in Denmark after five years’ legal residency in the country under EU free movement rules. For this, you must make an appointment to hand in your application in person to the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI). SIRI has branch offices in Copenhagen, Odense, Aalborg, Aarhus and Aabenraa.

READ ALSO:

Non-EU citizens

If you are not a citizen of an EU country, the path to permanent residency, and thereby citizenship, is longer. To qualify for a permanent residency permit (permanent opholdstilladelse), you must have been legally resident in the country under a limited residency permit (tidsbegrænset opholdstilladelse) for at least eight years (in some cases four years, and exceptions can also apply, for example for persons aged 18 or 19 and people with Danish ancestry).

There are also a number of stringent requirements related to criminal convictions, debt to the state and self-sufficiency, employment history and language skills. These will not be covered here, since they are superseded by the requirements for citizenship itself, but you can find more detail on permanent residency in the articles linked below.

READ ALSO: 

Length of stay

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

In certain cases, exemptions from residency duration requirements are made, for example if a Danish spouse has worked abroad or due to the applicant being stationed abroad while working for a Danish employer.

Public debt

Overdue repayments to the state, in the form of repayable social welfare payments, child support, excess housing support (boligstøtte), payment for daycare, police fines, municipal loans for paying deposits on rental housing, and unpaid taxes and fees can all result in rejection of a citizenship application.

Self-sufficiency

You are required to prove that you can provide for yourself. That means, for example, documenting that you have not received state social welfare support such as the basic unemployment support, kontanthjælp, or the welfare benefits provided to those granted refugee statues (integrationsydelsen), within the last two years.

Furthermore, you may not have received benefits of this type for more than a total period of four months within the last five years.

Other types of state benefit, such as the state student grant (statens uddannelsesstøtte, SU) and state pensions do not exclude you from qualifying for citizenship.

Unemployment insurance, parental leave and sick leave payouts (dagpenge) received over a total period of over four months will be added to the two years in which you must document that you were not supported by the state. Therefore, these types of benefit (which are partially self-funded) do not preclude you from applying for citizenship, and you can be in receipt of them at the time you apply.

Criminal convictions

From April 2021, a new government agreement meant that anyone who has received a criminal sentence, either conditional or unconditional, will never be able to become a Danish citizen. 

Previous rules allowed people with unconditional sentences of up to one year to be granted citizenship following a suspension period.

Milder punishments such as fines can result in a suspension from applying for a period of at least four and a half years. If someone has been penalised several times, the waiting period is extended.

You must declare while applying for citizenship whether you have committed a crime. If authorities later find (a two-year check is carried out) that you have not disclosed any criminal activities, your citizenship can be revoked.

If a crime was committed abroad, the case will be discussed by the Danish Parliament’s Naturalisation Committee as to whether to grant dispensation.

READ MORE: ‘I’m being punished twice’: How a punch-up is stopping this Scot becoming a Danish citizen

Employment

Before 2021, there was no specific work requirement, as long as the applicant had not been receiving social benefits for the last four years.

The new rules require having held a full-time job or having been self-employed for three and a half of the last four years, and to still be employed at the time of application.

Full-time employment means employment in Denmark with an average working week of at least 30 hours. Employment as part of an education employment agreement with a company is also covered in this. 

Applications are also considered by those who have been employed abroad by a Danish company or in connection with a spouse employed abroad by a Danish company for less than two years.

And those employed abroad for less than one year, where the posting or deployment is significant for the sake of the applicant’s employment in Denmark.

There can be exceptions from this category, such as former Danish citizens, people of Danish descent, and members of the Danish minority of Southern Schleswig in Germany, certain children applying for citizenship without their parents, applicants who have reached the state pension age or have been granted an early retirement pension or senior pension. 

READ ALSO: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

Language proficiency

In general, you must have passed the national Prøve i Dansk 3 language test, the final exam in the national Danish language school system. As such, you will be comfortable with speaking, reading and writing in Danish at the time you apply for citizenship.

READ ALSO: Danish: Is it really so hard to learn?

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.

The Danish citizenship test

A condition of getting Danish citizenship, is that you demonstrate knowledge of Danish society, culture and history, by having passed ‘Indfødsretsprøven af 2021.’

In April 2021, the existing citizenship test, (indfødsretsprøven) 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. 

If you have taken and passed the previous test of 2015, between the test date in June 2016 and the test date in June 2021, this will be accepted as part of your citizenship application.

The Danish citizenship test is held twice yearly, normally at the end of June and the end of November. 

The pass mark is 36/45 and at least four of the five Danish values questions must be answered correctly. You’ll need to attach a certificate showing you’ve passed when you submit your application.

A few – but not many – exemptions apply meaning some people do not have to take the citizenship test. This includes children under 12 or people from Norway or Sweden, or people from the Danish minority in German region Schleswig-Holstein.

READ ALSO:



New Danish citizens attend a celebratory event at Christiansborg in 2015. File photo: Linda Kastrup/Ritzau Scanpix

Where to apply

Applications for citizenship are made via the borger.dk citizens’ self-service website, where you must initially log-in using the MitID system, which replaces the phased-out NemID during 2021. You will then be guided through each step of the application and prompted to upload documentation. Applications can be saved in the system for up to a month. After this, you’ll have to begin from scratch.

You’ll be asked to confirm whether you are using legal representation for your application, then asked to fill in identity information. Some of this – your personal registration number and address, for example – will be automatically filled in. You will also be required to upload a photo of your passport.

Given the hefty application fee, it is important to make sure you have everything in your application correct. It is beyond the scope of this article to cover the many different ways in which personal circumstances and history might affect a citizenship application, but there are options for seeking advice.

You can contact the Ministry of Immigration and Integration for guidance on citizenship rules. Their contact information (including an email address) can be found here.

You also have the option of seeking legal advice. Copenhagen Legal Aid offers such advice to everyone living in Denmark (not just in Copenhagen), and the service is free (depending on your income). You can contact them in person or by telephone.

READ ALSO: ‘I was born in Denmark, but my post-Brexit Danish citizenship application was rejected’

What happens next? 

Once your application is submitted, it’s time to play the waiting game. At the end of 2021, the processing time for applications was approximately 14 months, according to the immigration ministry.

If all goes well and your application is approved by the ministry, you will receive a letter notifying you that you can expect to be accepted for citizenship at the next round of parliamentary procedure, 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.

READ ALSO: Denmark officially ushers in dual citizenship in 2015

Sources: Udlændinge- og Integrationsministeriet (1) (2) (3), Borger.dk, Nyidanmark.dk

SHOW COMMENTS