Denmark withdraws man’s citizenship under retroactive law

The high court in Danish town Viborg on Wednesday ruled to revoke the citizenship of a man who obscured the truth over past criminality on his application from, in the first retroactive application of a 2018 law.

Denmark withdraws man’s citizenship under retroactive law
Denmark's Vestre Landsret high court has retroactively reversed a decision to grant citizenship to a man found to have made a misleading declaration on his application. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

A 58-year-old man who was given citizenship in 2015 has been stripped of his Danish passport after a Viborg court found he had lied on his application when he declared he hadn’t committed any crimes.

At the time of the application – which was submitted in 2013 – he had never been convicted or charged, but he was accused in 2016 of having assaulted a minor repeatedly from 2006 onwards. He was convicted in 2017 and sentenced to three years in prison. 

The court found that he had committed crimes prior to his application in 2013, in contradiction with the declaration he made on the application.

As of May 1st this year, providing incorrect information on your Danish citizenship application is grounds for a reversal. The new policy applies retroactively.

Had he declared he had committed a crime in 2013, he would not have been granted citizenship, authorities argued in the case.

“You cannot sentence with retroactive effect, but in this case we are not talking about a sentence – even though it may seem so – but an administrative outcome, and so the law has retroactive effect,” Central and West Jutland police prosecutor Linette Lysgaard, who prosecuted in the case, told news wire Ritzau.

Of 21,000 cases reviewed since a 2018 law change, the Ministry of Immigration and Integration has so far flagged seven cases of this nature that it believes should be brought to court, newspaper Politiken reports. Wednesday’s ruling was in the first of those cases.

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Why does Denmark renew passports faster than Sweden and Norway?

While people in Norway, Sweden and Finland all experience long waits for new passports, Danes usually need no more than a couple of days to obtain their new travel document.

Why does Denmark renew passports faster than Sweden and Norway?

Despite several attempts by police authorities in Sweden to reduce the waiting times for new passports, Swedish nationals in several parts of the Scandinavian country must wait for months in some cases before their application is processed.

The county (län) authority in Stockholm does not have available appointments for passport processing until October, for example, Swedish news wire TT wrote this week.

With pandemic restrictions severely limiting travel through much of 2020 and 2021, many people did not bother to renew their passports as they expired.

As a result, local police passport centres are now having to handle a large backlog of applications, at the same time as the usual applications from people whose passports are expiring this year. 

“Partly it’s because we’re about to go into high season, and partly it’s because people have not renewed their passports during the pandemic, but have waited until restrictions have been lifted,” Linda Ahlén, chief of the unit which handles passports in the Swedish police, told the TT newswire in February. 

READ ALSO: What’s behind the long wait to renew Swedish passports?

In Norway, passport applications are also handled regionally by police, with waiting times dependent on appointment availability.

The appointment system for Oslo shows the next available appointment slot as being in August. According to TT, a Norwegian police estimate has stated that the waiting times are between one and three months, depending on where in the country the applicant lives.

Meanwhile, the company which manufactures Norwegian passports, Thales, is facing government scrutiny over delivery delays on new passports and ID cards. Thales also manufactures passports for both Sweden and Finland.

A global shortage of raw materials due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine is related to the delays, the Norwegian Police Directorate said last month.

Norway has also seen a bottleneck in applications resulting from passports expiring during the pandemic, but the holders not renewing them because they could not travel.

Extended opening times for appointments and hiring of extra staff are amongst measures being taken in Norway to alleviate the issue.

READ ALSO: Long queues for Norwegian passports and ID cards due to production issues

Finland is also seeing congested ID card and passport services, with waiting times for appointments up to around eight weeks according to TT.

This is despite rules in Finland allowing some passport holders to renew their documents without physically attending appointments, for example if they submitted biometric data for their previous passport within the last six years.

“Right now there are many who have not renewed their passports as usual and we do not have enough available appointments,” Hanna Piipponen, head of passport administration with the Finnish police, told TT.

As many as 500,000 people in Finland are reported to be without a passport currently according to TT, with almost as many, 450,000 in the same situation in Norway.

Denmark, however, is not experiencing the same processing and production issues as its neighbours, with people in Copenhagen waiting as little as one or two days to receive new passports.

Municipalities, rather than the police, are responsible for processing new passports in Denmark. That difference is largely credited for the country’s favourable record when it comes to waiting times for renewals.

“It is not complicated to issue a passport and it’s good to have this close to the other citizens’ service,” Jette Bondo, office manager with Copenhagen Municipality’s Borgerservice (Citizens’ Service), told TT.

Danish passports are also valid for longer than Swedish and Finnish ones, with a ten-year expiry on Danish passports compared to five years for Swedes and Finns. Norwegian passports are valid for 10 years.

Bondo said that Copenhagen did experience some backlog in processing during summer 2021 as travel restrictions eased, with around 45,000 passports waiting to be processed at that time. The figure is now 10,000.

Municipalities in Denmark extended opening hours when they experienced a backlog of passport renewals, TT writes.

“We couldn’t sit back and say ‘sorry, but you can’t go to France this summer’,” Bondo told the news wire.