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DANISH CITIZENSHIP

‘I wanted to develop my career’: How a masters degree prevented a midwife from becoming Danish

When Katja Taastrøm started a Masters degree in Midwifery one and a half years ago, she had no idea this would add another five years, at least, to her long wait for Danish citizenship. Next week she'll meet Denmark's immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye online to ask him to change the law.

'I wanted to develop my career': How a masters degree prevented a midwife from becoming Danish
Katja Albert Taastrøm said the tightened retroactive citizenship laws offended her sense of justice. Photo: Katja Albert Taastrøm

Under the much-criticised new citizenship law brought in last month, applicants have to have worked at least 30 hours a week for at least 3 years and 6 months of the last 4 years leading up to their application, and university studies do not count. 

Even though Taastrøm applied for citizenship in June 2020, the new law applies a full 13 months retroactively, back to April 2019. This means that even though her application met all the requirements at the time she sent it in, and continued to do so right up until May this year, from this May it no longer does. 

“I felt rejected, I felt I wasn’t a part of the community,” she told The Local of the moment she realised the implications of the new law. “I thought, ‘I need this passport, so I can vote. I want to have democratic rights in this country I’m living in. It was a roller-coaster of emotions.”

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Until she began her masters, the 45-year-old had worked full-time as a midwife in Denmark for more than 11 years, and she only decided to study further because she realised that there needed to be more midwives engaged in research. 

“The way I see it, all the research is very dominated by the doctors, so to keep birth as something normal as far as it is possible, we need to we need to be able to discuss with them on the same level, ” she explained. “We need to have the research competencies ourselves.”

It’s annoying that the citizenship rules no longer allow applicants to educate themselves further, and might mean that Taastrøm has to delay her plans to do post-graduate research when she finished her course next year.

But what enrages her the most is the retroactive application of the rules. 

“It’s my feeling of justice. It’s not OK that my application is affected by rules which didn’t exist when I made it,” she complained. “I’m really provoked by it, and especially for the young people, who have been living here all their life and tried to be a part of society, and now they have to get some work, instead of an education.”

When Taastrøm’s Danish husband saw her fuming about the changes, he advised her to go to the media, and she has since been interviewed by state broadcaster DR and many others. 

“My husband said if you want to have democratic rights, you can’t just sit on the sofa and be sad, you have to educate people about how stupid these rules are.

“Most Danes don’t know about it, and the politicians have only said that these rules are made to keep criminals out.”

Even so, she’s not certain her interviews with the media will do much to change Danish opinion. 

“I’m not very optimistic that this will change anything, but I tried,” she said. “It was a nice story, a German midwife, why won’t we include her? You know?” 

But she felt none of the reporters in the Danish media who interviewed her really conveyed the broader points she was making about how many other foreigners are being unfairly excluded from citizenship by the new restrictions.  

This is what she wants to hammer through to Mattias Tesfaye when she takes part in the virtual public meeting with him on June 17th.  

“I want to show that those who are affected of the new rules, almost all of them are citizens trying to be a part of Denmark, trying to work for it, and engaged. It’s not affecting those [the criminals], they are talking about. It’s affecting other people.” 

Apart from her own citizenship problems, and Danes’ increasingly hostile attitudes towards immigration, Taastrøm says that after 14 years in Denmark, she feels very integrated, and “quite Danish”. 

“I do. I will always also be German, but I feel very much a part of Danish society.” 

Even her friends back in Germany are now starting to pick on the worsening conditions for foreigners in Denmark, however. 

“You know when I moved to Denmark, my German friends, they said, “It’s a great country, open-minded. fantastic. And now they call and say, “shouldn’t you just move back, while you still have time? You know, it’s really bad.”

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DANISH CITIZENSHIP

Do children born in Denmark automatically get Danish citizenship?

A Danish passport comes with many benefits, and the country allows dual citizenship. But what are the rules for the children of foreign nationals born in Denmark?

Do children born in Denmark automatically get Danish citizenship?

Denmark allows dual citizenship, meaning it is possible for foreign residents to gain Danish citizenship without giving up their old citizenship, if their country of origin also permits dual citizenship. There are a few benefits that only Danish citizens have, such as an absolute right to live and work in the country and the right to vote in Danish parliamentary elections.

Some jobs are only open to Danish citizens as well: you must be a Danish citizen if you wish to be elected to parliament or join the police.

In addition to this, Danish nationals hold EU citizenship, which gives them the right to free movement in EU member states, making it easier for them to live and work in other parts of the bloc.

Danish at birth

Unlike in other countries such as the United States, people born in Denmark do not automatically gain Danish citizenship.

Danish citizenship is granted at birth to children who have at least one Danish parent, regardless of whether the child is born in Denmark or not. For children born before July 1st 2014, this depends on the law in force when the child was born and other requirements may need to be fulfilled.

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Dual citizenship

On the September 1st 2015, a new Nationality Act meant foreign residents could gain Danish citizenship without giving up their old citizenship.

It also meant that former Danish citizens who lost their Danish nationality by acquiring a foreign nationality could become Danish citizens again by making a declaration to the Ministry of Immigration and Integration. The new timetable to make this declaration is between July 1st 2021 and June 30th 2026.

Children born abroad: The 22-Year Rule 

Children born abroad to a Danish parent but who have never lived in Denmark, or visited for a lengthy period of time (adding up to at least a year which has to be documented) lose their Danish citizenship at the age of 22, unless it means the person becomes stateless.

Danish children born abroad must therefore apply to retain their Danish citizenship before the age of 22. If they are still living abroad at the time, their connection to Denmark will be assessed. This takes into account the number of visits to Denmark and level of Danish.

The Princess Rule

Children born in marriage to a Danish mother and a father of foreign nationality during the period of January 1st 1961 to  December 31st 1978 did not obtain Danish nationality by birth. As an alternative, Danish mothers had the option to make a declaration by which their child obtained Danish nationality.

Children born during this period whose mother did not make a declaration to this effect may apply for Danish nationality by naturalisation according to the “Princess Rule”.

Does a child born to foreigners need a residence permit?

If you are a child born in Denmark by foreign national parents, you need to apply for a residence permit.

The requirements for qualifying for a residence permit are more relaxed than for children born abroad. The child needs to either be registered as a family member to an EU citizen if under the age of 21, or registered under family reunification if the parents are not EU citizens.

The child’s residence permit will expire when the parent’s residence permit expires and can also be extended with the parent’s permit. It may also be possible for the child to obtain a permanent residence permit aged 18 by meeting more lenient requirements.

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between temporary and permanent residency in Denmark?

When can my child gain Danish citizenship?

If your child is born in Denmark but neither parent is Danish, they have to wait until one parent is granted citizenship.

Danish requirements for citizenship are some of the toughest in the world and you must meet a number of closely-defined criteria in order to be eligible for citizenship by naturalisation.

The wish to include a child in the application has to be stated and they must be under the age of 18, have Danish residency, not have committed any crime and be unmarried. No fee is payable for minors. Children aged 12 or over must give their consent to becoming Danish.

READ ALSO: How to apply for citizenship in Denmark

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