Danish family reunification rules panned in report as Danes fail language test

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Danish family reunification rules panned in report as Danes fail language test
Illustration photo. A new report to Denmark’s immigration ministry has offered broad-ranging criticism of the country’s family reunification rules. Photo by Jason Coudriet on Unsplash

Denmark's family reunification rules have received strong criticism in a new ministerial report, in part because native Danish partners are forced to take language tests which they regularly fail.


A report from the Ministry of Immigration and Integration, obtained by newspaper Ekstra Bladet, shows a poor pass rate amongst native Danes who must meet language requirements for their foreign partners to be granted residence in Denmark.

Family reunification rules include ‘integration requirements’ for sponsors, which apply even to Danes born and raised in Denmark. 

These include a mastery of the Danish language equivalent to a 9th grade level in Folkeskole — the last year of mandatory education in Denmark, when children are about 16 years old. The test which must be taken is known as Dansk 3.


Rules for family reunification were last updated in 2018, when requirements became stricter. Former immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye earlier stated that the language requirement for partners was in place because too many Danish citizens of non-Danish heritage were not good enough at Danish. It should be noted that a similar Danish language test must be passed in order to be granted Danish citizenship via naturalisation.

READ ALSO: Denmark to cut wait for family reunion after losing European court case

The report found that 19 percent of ethnic Danes who apply for spousal reunification fail to meet that standard, resulting in a rejection of family reunification claims, Ekstra Bladet writes. For Danish citizens of other ethnic backgrounds, 27 percent can’t pass. 

The ministry’s report was authored by a number of organisations and authorities and includes criticism of the requirement for Danish nationals of Danish heritage to demonstrate Danish language proficiency.

“It is a quite unfair demand to place on a Dane who his lived all their life in Denmark and attended elementary school but not taken further education as such, but has otherwise managed very well,” one organisation, the Foreningen af Udlændingeretsadvokater (Society of Immigration Rights Lawyers), says in the report according to Ekstra Bladet.

The criteria for family reunification of non-EU citizen spouses in Denmark is set out on the websites of the authorities responsible for applications, the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) and the Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen).

Broadly, a range of criteria can apply to the foreign partner and to the Danish sponsor. In practice, the criteria can prove extremely difficult to live up to and easy to fall foul of.


An affected Danish national who spoke to The Local in 2021 described, for example, how a requirement for a bank deposit termed the ‘bank guarantee’ posed a hefty financial burden; that partners are not permitted to work while their cases are being processed, worsening their ability to prove self-sufficiency; and that a loss of employment for either couple could result in family reunification being withdrawn.

The report, which was initiated by Tesfaye earlier this year, also criticises several other aspects of the rules, Ekstra Bladet writes.

These include demands on the employment and education circumstances of the applicant Danish spouses and a housing rule which can block family reunification based on the address of the Danish partner.

The bank guarantee requirement is criticised for being unfit for purpose and an administrative burden for local authorities, echoing arguments already made against the rule in the past.

Further, a high demand on documentation is also criticised because many source countries do not have a similar level of registration and documentation to Denmark. This can make it difficult for genuine couples to supply all the required documentation asked for as proof of their relationship.

Parliament’s committee on immigration rules, the Udlændinge- og Integrationsudvalg, is scheduled to review the ministry report next week, Ekstra Bladet reports.

Minister for Immigration and Integration Kaare Dybvad Bek said in earlier comments to the newspaper that an adjustment of the rules was “not out of the question”.

“I am therefore also looking forward to reading the report and calling a meeting for discussion of this with parliament’s other parties,” he said in a written comment.

READ MORE: How the dizzying cost of family reunification keeps Danes and foreign partners apart


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