Danish residence cards promised to ‘no surname’ foreign nationals

A number of foreign residents of Denmark have not been issued residence permit cards despite having legal status in the country, due to a technical issue related to the printing of their names.

Danish residence cards promised to 'no surname' foreign nationals
A detail from a Danish residence card. Photo: Michael Barrett/The Local

The Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) confirmed to The Local it has been unable to print residence permit cards when the applicants do not have a last name.

The agency also said that it has now found a solution to the problem and was working to clear a backlog of unissued residence cards.

The issue can affect foreign residents including people from regions of south India where naming conventions can mean a last name or family name is not given. As such, a significant number of legal residents of Denmark are currently without the correct documentation.

“I have lived in Denmark for more than six years, obtaining my PhD here too,” Raghavendra Selvan, an assistant professor and Computer Science researcher at the University of Copenhagen, told The Local.

“I am originally from south India, where a large portion of us do not have a last name or family name,” he said.

“We mainly have a given name and in some cases use the first name of our fathers as the last name. For instance, my given name is Raghavendra and my last name is my father’s given name ‘Selvan’. However, in my passport the field for last name is empty,” he explained.

“All my official records in Denmark now explicitly state this. So, my name is ‘Raghavendra Selvan Ej Efternavn’ [“no surname” in Danish, ed.],” he said.

A Statistics Denmark search shows over 500 Danish residents with their last name registered as Ej Efternavn.

A screenshot showing a search for “Ej Efternavn” (‘No Surname’) in Denmark’s national statistics base.

SIRI confirmed to The Local that technical problems had prevented residence cards from being produced in cases in which surnames are not stated on passports.

However, SIRI said a solution had now been found and that residents who remain without cards will be issued with them “as soon as possible”.

“There has been challenges with issuing residence cards to foreigners with no surname,” SIRI said in a written statement.

“SIRI has now in cooperation with our supplier, Thales, found a solution, which is currently being implemented,” the agency said.

No specific timeline was given by the agency for delivery of residence cards to those affected by the issue.

“Due to a backlog, we still expect some further delay before all cards can be ordered, printed and issued,” SIRI said. 

“In cooperation with Thales, we will do our best to ensure that all cards will be issued as soon as possible,” the agency told The Local.

The issue with the residence cards means affected persons are required to apply for a re-entry permit whenever they leave Denmark, which can complicate travel.

READ ALSO: Danish authority warns of delivery delays on residence cards

“I have been waiting for my card since December 2020, that’s close to 18 months since I received my decision and about 20 months since the application itself,” Raghavendra Selvan said.

“I am now having to apply for a re-entry permit every three months to be able to travel outside Denmark,” he added.

“Having to get a re-entry permit every three months is annoying, and traveling outside Denmark when the re-entry permit is about to expire is extremely stressful,” he said.

The computer science researcher said that he had previously been advised to change his name in his passport in order to fix the issue.

“While I understand it is uncommon to not have a last name… asking all of us to change our name is not the best solution to this problem. This also reflects poorly on how Denmark is unable to accommodate diversity in names into its systems,” Raghavendra Selvan said.

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Half of all immigrants to Denmark in 2021 moved for work reasons

A new report from Statistics Denmark shows that 48 percent of residence permits granted to foreign nationals in Denmark in 2021 were for employment reasons. Asylum seekers accounted for 1 percent of new residents.

Half of all immigrants to Denmark in 2021 moved for work reasons

Since the beginning of the century, the reasons for which foreign nationals are granted residency in Denmark have changed considerably, according to a new report by national agency Statistics Denmark.

Over 48 percent of foreign nationals who moved to Denmark with a residence permit in 2021 did so for the purpose of working in the country.

That is the highest level in the last 20 years.

“During the last 20 years there has been a steep increase of immigration of persons who do not have Danish or Nordic citizenship, only briefly interrupted in 2020 because of Covid-19,” Statistics Denmark senior consultant Jørn Korsbø Petersen said in a press statement.

“But the reason for the immigrants’ residence has changed a lot during this period and last year almost half came to Denmark due to work,” Petersen said.

Data from back in 1997 show that during that year, half of the 21,264 people who were issued residency in Denmark arrived for asylum or family reunification reasons, with 32 percent moving for work or study.

In 2021, those proportions had shifted with 70 percent of the total 52,736 arrivals for reasons of either work or study.

Just 1 percent of residence permits were given for asylum with 5 percent granted family reunification.

The primary reason for that change is the increase in people moving to Denmark from other EU countries, according to Statistics Denmark.

Since 1997, a number of new countries including Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania have joined the EU, with immigration from these countries to Denmark for work reasons subsequently increasing.

Nationals of EU countries can freely move to Denmark to work under the right to free movement guaranteed by EU membership. Citizens of other countries do not have the same rights and must fulfil stringent criteria to be granted residency in the Nordic country.

READ ALSO: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

That is reflected by the data, Statistics Denmark notes. Of the 25,500 persons who immigrated to Denmark for work reasons in 2021, 19,500 were EU or EEA citizens.

The numbers show that the demand for labour in Denmark is “almost insatiable” in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Tore Stramer, the senior economist with the Danish Chamber of Commerce (Dansk Erhverv).

“Foreign labour has been a very important lifeline for Danish businesses at this conjuncture,” he said.

“If businesses had not been able to recruit foreign labour, the economic recovery after the corona crisis would have been significantly harder,” he said in a written comment.