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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How many Danish citizenship applications are rejected each year?

This week the Danish government announced it would ask those people applying for citizenship for the third or subsequent time after previous rejections, to pay additional fees. We take a look at just how many citizenship applications are rejected each year.

How many Danish citizenship applications are rejected each year?

Under Danish law, citizenship can only be granted to foreign nationals by legal nationalisation, so applications must be voted for by a parliamentary majority.

Accepted applications are processed by bills put in front of parliament twice a year, in April and in October.

Since updated citizenship rules introduced in 2021, the bills are now organised according to the nationality of applicants, rather than the previous practice of listing them alphabetically.

Therefore, the figures from the Ministry of Immigration and Integration below, show rejected citizenship applications, divided into the country categories: “Menap’ countries [Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan ed.] plus Turkey; stateless;  other non-Western countries; Western countries.

There are a number of reasons a Danish citizenship application can be rejected, including criteria related to residency, language, criminal records and financial self-sufficiency. A Danish citizenship test must also be passed before applying.

These figures were last updated on 14th March 2023.

Source: Ministry of Immigration and Integration

The number of rejected applications has noticeably decreased over the last two years and peaked between 2017 and 2020.

The highest amount of rejections came in 2018 when 62 percent of applications were rejected. The lowest amount of applications rejected was last year but it was also the year with the lowest number of applications.

This is when the new citizenship rules had come into affect, which as well as listing applicants according to nationality, also clamped down on those who have broken Danish laws. The new rules included asking applicants about “Danish values” in five extra questions on the citizenship test and the need for applicants to have been in full time work or self-employment for three and a half of the last four years.

The table below is the number of citizenship applications each year, broken into country categories. 

It is those applying for citizenship from the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Turkey that face the most rejections each year. 

The fee for applying for citizenship is currently 4,000 kroner. When a person submits an application, they can apply again at no extra cost should their application not be successful under the existing rules.

Now a third or subsequent application by the same person will incur an additional fee, the immigration ministry said in a statement.

The objective of this is to “prevent applicants who receive a rejection from uncritically reapplying in cases with no outlook towards a different result, thereby risking increased processing times for naturalisation cases”, the immigration ministry statement reads.

A law change would be required to implement the new fee for repeated citizenship applications. The government said it expects to table a bill in the next parliamentary year, which commences in October.

Because the coalition government has a parliamentary majority, any bill it tables has a high chance of being adopted.

No decision has yet been made on either the amount of the additional fee, or on the reduction for young people who were born or grew up in Denmark.