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Danish citizenship: What rules could cause your application to be denied?

Denmark tightened its citizenship requirements earlier this year, adding a number of conditions to existing rules that can prevent applications meeting requirements.

Danish citizenship: What rules could cause your application to be denied?
Hopefuls for Danish citizenship must be aware of several criteria which could affect their applications. Photo by Palle Knudsen on Unsplash

Applying for citizenship 

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.

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.

You must, of course, 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 loyalty to Denmark
  • Fulfil prior residency criteria
  • Have no criminal convictions
  • Be free of debt to the public sector and be financially self-sufficient
  • Meet criteria for Danish language skills 
  • Pass a citizenship test and demonstrate knowledge of Danish society

This 2019 article guides you through the application process, but it’s important to keep in mind that the criteria the Danish government sets for being eligible for citizenship are liable to change (and have changed since the article was written – more on that below).

The most common reasons applications may be rejected, including those introduced this year, are detailed underneath.

READ ALSO: Should British-Danish dual citizenship applicants also apply for post-Brexit residency?

New citizenship rules  

In April this year, parliament passed a new agreement on rules for Danish citizenship. The newly-introduced rules can impact any application submitted after April 10th 2020 – around a year before the new rules were voted through.

Some of the new rules – specifically, a criteria that applicants may not have any previous unconditional or unconditional criminal sentences – apply regardless of when the application was submitted.

An applicant for citizenship who has previously received a conditional or unconditional sentence under paragraph 9 of the Danish criminal code can no longer qualify for Danish citizenship.

A number of other previous convictions for crimes covered by other paragraphs, including terrorism, gang crime, sexual offences and crimes against children also effectively ban the offender from citizenship.

However, less serious infractions of the law can also prevent you from applying for citizenship, or delay it.

Fines of more than 3,000 kroner, for example for breaking traffic laws, can result in a suspension period during which you are barred from being granted citizenship. The suspension period is four and a half years. The suspension period also applies for breaching immigration laws, welfare fraud or negative social control.

New rules will require citizenship applicants to have been in full time work or self-employment for three and a half of the last four years, an increase on earlier demands. This rule only applies to applications submitted after April 20th 2021.

You can read more about employment requirements on this section of the immigration ministry website. Some exemptions apply, including ones related to age and ability to work for those with disabilities.

Existing rules

The rules pre-dating the 2021 updates can be summarised as follows.

At the time of your application, you must already have a permit for permanent residency in Denmark and be registered as living in the country, and have lived in Denmark for a specified number of years.

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 it 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.

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.

You must also have passed the Danish citizenship test.

Public debt and self-sufficiency

You will also be required to prove that you 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.

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

The types of public debt which can exclude citizenship include:

  • Welfare benefits for which the recipient is obliged to reimburse the state
  • Child support payments paid in advance by the state
  • Payment for municipal childcare
  • Student loans (SU-lån) for which the repayment date has passed
  • Repayment of housing support (boligstøtte)
  • Repayment of a loan for paying the deposit on rental housing, unless a repayment agreement is in place and being complied with by the applicant
  • Traffic fines of 3,000 kroner or more
  • Fines payable to the police
  • Overdue taxes

You can read more about public debt on this section of the immigration ministry website.

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For members


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