For members


No CPR and no end in sight: The struggle to get a Danish residency permit

The CPR – the Danish equivalent of a social security number – is the key to your life in Denmark. But due to extended wait times for processing residency permits, many who moved to Denmark during the pandemic are still living in limbo without one.

No CPR and no end in sight: The struggle to get a Danish residency permit
A Danish yellow health insurance card - the ID that carries the CPR number. Photo: Jonas Skovbjerg Fogh/Ritzau Scanpix

The 2020 shutdowns created a backlog of applications for the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (abbreviated SIRI in Danish), and processing times for many visa and residency permit applications are “too long,” SIRI acknowledged in a May 20 announcement on their website.

Any delay has a significant impact on the lives of new arrivals since you need a CPR number to access the Danish healthcare system, open a Danish bank account, sign up for a Danish credit card, get a cellphone plan, attend Danish language classes, and use the ubiquitous MobilePay that has almost made the Danish kroner obsolete.

READ MORE: Is life in Denmark possible without a CPR?

The Local Denmark reached out to SIRI on August 6th, requesting data on how long people who have already applied for the various residency permits and visas can expect to wait. After two weeks of correspondence with SIRI, their data on processing times is difficult to parse and doesn’t offer a consistent timeline (other than hurry up and wait).

Here’s a condensed chart from their May 20 statement. We’ve omitted some of the more obscure residency permits, including those for herdsmen and volunteers.  

‘Service goal’

Processing time Jan 2021

Processing time May 2021

Estimate end of 3rd Quarter 2021


1 month

35 days

53 days

1 month

Pay limit scheme

1 month

100 days

120 days

1-2 months

Positive list: people with higher education

1 month

128 days

87 days

1-2 months

Positive list: skilled work

1 month

135 days

127 days

3 months

Researchers/guest researchers

1 month

60 days

57 days

1 month

Start-up Denmark

1 month

176 days

64 days

1-2 months

‘Paid work’

1 month

97 days

103 days

1-2 months


2 months

103 days

27 days

2 months


2 months

52 days

53 days

2 months

Accompanying family

2 months

86 days

88 days

2 months

Au pairs

3 months

51 days

31 days

3 months

In response to a request from the Local Denmark for updated estimated processing times, SIRI also provided data on the average processing time this year for various applications.

Average processing time, January – July 31 2021


Residence as an EU/EEA citizen or Nordic citizen

EU residence as a worker


EU residence as a student


EU residence as a self-employed person


EU residence as a family member to an EU citizen



Brexit – Employee


Brexit – Student  


Brexit – Self-employed


Brexit – Sufficient funds


Brexit – Family members


Brexit – Permanent residence



Residence permit as an accompanying family member



Fast-track scheme


Positive list for people with higher education


Positive list for skilled work




Employed PhD



Higher education


Au pair




Call centre agents provide different estimates 

But SIRI call centre agents asked about specific cases paint a less optimistic picture. One writer for the Local was told to expect a processing time of at least 4-5 months for a residency permit as a family member to an EU citizen – while the data provided by SIRI’s communications team indicate that the average wait in 2021 for this permit has been just 42 days.

Asked about the disparity between these numbers, SIRI provided the following statement: “The indications about case processing times provided in SIRI’s call centre are current estimates of the expected case processing times for applications where a decision has not yet been made. These estimates are affected by among others increases in the number of applications in specific case categories.”

Spokespeople from SIRI did not provide a list of “current estimates of the expected case processing times for applications where a decision has not yet been made,” to use their statement’s language, in response to the Local’s request for a category-by-category breakdown.

There is some reason for hope since SIRI is back to full staffing levels after summer vacations, according to a SIRI call centre agent. And the agency has been “continuously…expanding the workforce of case handlers” since January, a spokesperson told the Local Denmark on August 13th.  

Member comments

  1. What does ‘processing time’ mean with respect to Brexit-related residency status? Is that time until invitation for biometrics?

  2. Its crazy, how do they expect new arrivals to have a decent life in they cant even provide basic documents to international people

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For members


READER QUESTION: What are the language requirements for permanent residency in Denmark?

What Danish language requirements are needed for permanent residency in Denmark? We take a look at the rules.

READER QUESTION: What are the language requirements for permanent residency in Denmark?

Reader question: What Danish language requirements are needed to get permanent residency in Denmark? I am British and received EU residency prior to Brexit and have been here for two years.

Due to Brexit, British people living in Denmark are either on EU residency permits or non-EU residency permits, depending when they moved to the country.

The Withdrawal Agreement transition period ended on December 31st 2020, so anyone moving from Britain to Denmark after this date came as a non-EU citizen.

In the case in question, the rules relating to EU temporary residency apply. This means it’s possible to apply for permanent residence after five years living in Denmark. Applications can be submitted one month before those five years, so there are just under three years to go for someone who has lived in Denmark for two years.

If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen, there are no language requirements to obtain permanent residency.  This only applies to non-EU citizens, who need to pass the Danish language test 2 (Prøve i Dansk 2), or a Danish exam of an equivalent or higher level.

Below we outline the details.

EU temporary residency

As an EU citizen, your temporary residence permit in Denmark can continue for as long as you meet the requirements (i.e. being employed, self-employed, a student, or through having sufficient funds). If your circumstances change, you have to apply for a new temporary residency.

After five consecutive years, you qualify for permanent residency and this means you can stay in Denmark indefinitely and you don’t need to apply for residency again if your circumstances change. 

However, as an EU temporary resident, it is not mandatory to apply for the right to permanent residence.

Once you have permanent residency, you can leave Denmark for longer stretches of time than with temporary residency but if it is more than two years, you will have to renounce your residency. Only by becoming a citizen can you avoid this.

Non EU temporary residency

The process is more complicated if you’re not in the EU. There are various ways to get a work and residence permit for non-EU nationals, depending on your profession.

Work permits and therefore residency permits are granted for no longer than four years but you can apply for an extension three months before your current permit expires. 

If you are a non-EU citizen you can be granted permanent residence once you have had a temporary residence permit for eight uninterrupted years, or four years in certain circumstances.

EU Permanent residency requirements

You can apply for permanent residency one month before reaching five years residency in Denmark. During those five years, you are allowed temporary residence abroad for a less than six months per year but there are exceptions.

You need to submit your application to the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI).

The documents you need include:

  • A copy of your passport or national ID card 
  • The completed application form
  • Proof how you met your temporary residency requirements over the past five years. This is often tax returns from the past five years. 

The process can take up to 90 days and there is no fee. 

Your family members are not covered by your application and must submit their own applications, after five years of residence.

Non EU Permanent residency requirements

If you are a non-EU citizen then you can be granted permanent residence once you have had a temporary residence permit for eight uninterrupted years, or four years in certain circumstances.

However, there are other strict requirements to fulfil.

You must not have been convicted of certain crimes; you may not have any overdue public debts; you may not have received certain forms of social benefits within four years of applying for a permanent residence permit; you need to pass the Danish language test 2 (Prøve i Dansk 2), or a Danish exam of an equivalent or higher level. You also need to have current employment – working at least three years and six months of the previous four years.

The rules for permanent residency 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.  

The application takes 10 months to process and costs 6,745 kroner.

It is important to submit the application before a current residence permit expires.

If you do not meet all the requirements for a permanent residence permit, you can apply for an extension of your current temporary residence permit instead. You can do this three months before your current residence permit expires.

If you need any more information or have questions, you can contact SIRI on their contact page.