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EXPLAINED: What’s the difference between getting Danish citizenship and becoming a permanent resident?

EXPLAINED: What's the difference between getting Danish citizenship and becoming a permanent resident?
A prospective new Danish citizenship signs a statement of agreement to fundamental Danish values at a citizenship ceremony in Copenhagen last year. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix
With the pandemic causing high levels job insecurity and ever-changing immigration laws, gaining permanent residency or citizenship in Denmark could give many foreigners peace of mind. But what’s the difference between the two and how do you know if you are eligible?

If you want to move to Denmark, then most foreigners will need to get a residence permit. The rules for gaining an initial residence permit in Denmark vary depending on whether you are an EU/EEA/Swiss Citizen, from the Nordic countries, or from outside of the EU. 

If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen and are planning to stay in Denmark for longer than 3 months, it is necessary for you to first gain a temporary EU residence permit through registering for a CPR number (Civil Registration Number) with a valid Danish address. Your CPR number is your social security number, and allows you to access healthcare and open a bank account, amongst other things. 

You can get temporary EU residence on the basis of being a student in Denmark, being employed or self-employed, or having sufficient funds. You may also gain temporary EU residency as an accompanying partner or child of an EU citizen, however your residency will be dependent on your partner’s or parent’s status. 

If you are a non- EU citizen, then things become a little more complicated. You must obtain your residence and work permit before you arrive in Denmark. There are a number of schemes in which a non-EU citizen can gain a residence permit in Denmark, such as the “pay limit scheme”, the “positives list”, or the “start-up Denmark” scheme, and more. 

If you are a citizen of Finland, Norway, Iceland or Sweden then you are able to work, live and study in Denmark without a residence permit. However, you will still need to obtain a CPR to register for tax and healthcare.  

Permanent Residency

So, you have now lived in Denmark for a while and want to stay. What should you do to make sure that you can obtain permanent residency? 

Permanent residency means that a person is allowed to stay in Denmark and does not need to apply for residence again. 

However, the term ‘permanent residency’ may also be misleading. It is important to note that if you leave Denmark for more than two years, you will have to revoke your permanent residency. 

If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen, then you have the right to apply for permanent residency if you have lived in Denmark for at least 5 consecutive years. 

Once you have obtained your permanent residency, you can live in Denmark without having to meet the original requirements of your temporary EU residency (i.e. being employed, self-employed, a student, or through having sufficient funds). 

If you are a non-EU citizen then you can be granted permanent residence once you have had a temporary residence permit for 8 uninterrupted years (in some cases 4). However, you must not have been convicted of certain crimes, and you need to have current employment, amongst other criteria. 

The rules are more lenient if you are between 18-19 years old, if you are a person of Danish descent, a former Danish citizen, or have ties to a Danish minority group.  

Danish Citizenship 

With Danish citizenship, you can legally be considered to have the same rights as someone who was born in Denmark with a Danish father or mother. It is possible to have dual citizenship with Danish citizenship. However, this differs depending on the rules regarding dual citizenship of your original nationality. 

For most people who wish to obtain Danish citizenship, it is a requirement that you must have lived in Denmark continuously for 9 years. However, if you are living in Denmark with refugee status, the required period of continuous residence is 8 years. 

If you are a Nordic citizen, you must have lived in Denmark for 2 continuous years before applying for citizenship. Different rules also apply for spouses of Danish citizens, and for those who entered Denmark before they were 15 years old. 

Most foreigners, apart from certain Nordic citizens and those of Danish descent, will have to obtain Danish citizenship through a process of naturalisation. 

This means that you have to fulfil certain conditions, such as evidence of self-sufficiency, residence in Denmark, Danish language skills and knowledge of Denmark. You must have permanent residence in Denmark before applying for Danish citizenship. 

Self-sufficiency means that, throughout the last 5 years, you must not have received certain types of benefits for more than 4 months. It also means that for the past 2 years, you must not have received any kinds of benefits. It’s important to note that this does not include State educational support (SU), early retirement pension or national pension. 

To obtain Danish citizenship you must also provide evidence of your Danish language skills. This can be done through passing either Danish language test 3 (Prøve I Dansk 3) or Danish language test 2 (Prøve I Dansk 2).

If you have not claimed state benefits (such as kontanthjælp) for 8.5 out of your previous 9 years of residency, then it is possible to obtain citizenship through passing Danish language test 2. 

Knowledge of Denmark means that you must pass the Danish naturalisation test (Dansk indfødsretsprøven). This tests you on your knowledge of Danish history, society and culture. If you want to test your current knowledge, you can complete a free online test here

Furthermore, as a part of the citizenship application process, you must attend a municipal constitution ceremony where you must show that you fundamentally respect Danish values and public policies. 

You can apply for Danish citizenship online with your NemId via this link. The procedure in total costs 3800 dkk. 

There are many exceptions to the rules above. If you feel you do not fit well into the above categories, you can find out more via nyidenmark.dk. 


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