Danish migration minister quizzed by citizenship campaigners

Denmark's immigration minister has defended the country's strict new citizenship laws in an online audience with campaigners as part of the Følkemødet political festival.

Danish migration minister quizzed by citizenship campaigners
Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye (top left), defended his policies from Katja Taastrøm, a German midwife and two other foreigners. Photo: Screen Grab

In his interview, Tesfaye admitted that the government and other parliamentary parties had been “wrong” to make new employment conditions retroactive by 13 months. 

“The new employment requirement ended up also applying to those who had submitted their application a year ago, and those of us in the parties behind the agreement thought this was wrong,” he said.

Just one hour before he spoke to members of the Fair Statsborgerskab group, the immigration and integration ministry published a press release announcing that this controversial element of the new law was being altered, so that those who applied before April 19th this year would no longer need to meet the new conditions.

In his audience, Tesfaye was accused of continuing to change the rules applied to foreigners much too frequently, just as the previous Liberal Party government had done, a charge he denied. 

“I actually think we need calm in the arena of laws on foreigners,” he said, explaining that he had been the main negotiator on the issue under the previous Liberal Party government. 

“I thought we were constantly changing the rules. Two citizenship laws, permanent residence, family reunification. There was even a counter on the Ministry of Immigration’s website which showed how many times the rules had been changed,” he said.

“It has been an ambition of mine that we do not mess around too much with the law on foreigners, but just try to let things work before we go and reform them again.” 

Tesfaye said that the Social Democrats wanted a society that was cohesive, in which people shared a similar culture, which meant it was necessary to add a cultural requirement for citizenship.

If one is to have…a welfare society, then one has to have a high degree of social cohesion, a perception that we are in the same boat, that we are one people in one state,” he said. “This is not Yugoslavia. We are not the Balkans. We are Denmark. 

“That is why we have an integration policy, which is about meaning you cannot live in a parallel society in Denmark, only speaking Arabic, living on the 3rd floor, and eating food from the Middle East.” 

Katja Taastrøm, a German midwife, accused Tesfaye and his government of punishing those who had decided to pause their careers to study, as she has done. 

Even without the retroactive element, the new laws require applicants for citizenship to have worked 30 hours a week for three and a half of the last four years, with full-time education not counted. 

Tesfaye said he did not see the requirement as a punishment. 

“If you want to educate yourself, then we have one of the world’s most generous education systems, and you have every right to do so,” he said. “You will not be punished, but you must postpone the extra right that is getting citizenship.” 


Tesfaye was also confronted by Michael Davie, a Scottish truck driver whose future citizenship application is now no longer likely to be compliant, because he got a suspended sentence for a brawl more than 20 years ago. 

When Davie complained he was being punished twice for his crime, Tesfaye retorted that Danish citizenship was not a right.

“We do not consider it a punishment not to obtain citizenship,” he said, adding that the parties in the agreement felt that it should be up to the parliamentary committee that screens citizenship applications to decide when someone who has committed a crime be forgiven. 

“Forgiveness must be given by an individual assessment of the committee,” he said. “The majority believes that there must be a political assessment”. 

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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.


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