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Denmark changes family reunification practice for parents of Danish children after EU ruling

A judgment from the European Court of Justice has caused the Danish Immigration Service to change its rules on family reunification applications for Danish-international couples with a Danish citizen child.

A father holding a child's hand
The new family reunification rules came into affect on 14th October 2022. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

What happened?

In May 2022, after a case in Spain, the European Court of Justice ruled that having a dependant child who was an EU citizen, gave third-country parents a right to residence.

This came into affect in Denmark in October 2022, when the Danish Ministry for Immigration released a press release explaining the new rules. 

So what does this mean in Denmark?

Put simply, it means it is now easier for citizens from third countries (countries outside the EU) to obtain a temporary residence permit in Denmark under family reunification rules.

The new rules state that:

  • The parents (one of whom is a Danish citizen and the other a third-country national) have a Danish citizen child, under the age of 18, who lives with both parents.
  • The amount of time the third-country citizen has lived with the child and the child’s other parent will be taken into consideration.
  • The parents don’t need to be married but the relationship has to have been long-lasting.
  • Both of the child’s parents must share the day-to-day care of the child, including legal, emotional and financial provision of the child.
  • The parents don’t need to live in Denmark when applying and the child does not need to have been born in Denmark.
  • If the criteria are met, temporary residency is granted. It is possible to apply for permanent residency after four years.

It is now up to the authorities to disprove that a relationship of dependency exists if they want to refuse an application.

How do I apply?

A new form has not yet been updated by the Immigration Service but you can apply using the old form here. The organisation ‘Ægteskab Uden Grænser’ (Marriage without Borders) wrote on their advice forum that there is space to leave comments on the form. This is where you can write that you believe your case falls under the new October 2022 rules and therefore you have not paid a fee. 

In a Facebook post, Ægteskab Uden Grænser wrote that a Danish-international couple living Norway with their two children sent an application under the new rules on 6th November. Some 18 days later, on November 24th, they were told by the Danish Immigration Service that the third-country parent had been granted a Danish residence permit on the basis of the October 2022 rule change. 

How different is this to the old rules?

The old rules were so strict that many families were separated.

“I am very happy that Danish children now have the right to both their fatherland and family. It is a great scandal that for 20 years Denmark has refused to give Danish children the right to family life”, Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) political spokesman Andreas Steenberg told Danish newspaper Politiken in October.

Steenberg — who lost his seat in parliament at the November 1st election — said his party, the Social Liberals, would demand that the new government put aside resources to look into previous cases where couples were not allowed to stay together.  

Under the previous rules, the requirements for a third-country parent to reside in Denmark with their Danish partner and Danish citizen child included integration, housing, self-sufficiency, bank guarantee, a child’s independent attachment to Denmark and an application fee.

It meant that the Danish immigration service could tell a third-country parent to leave Denmark if they did not meet the requirements.

The organisation Ægteskab uden Grænser told Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet how some families had to move to their partner’s home country and live there, while others moved to another EU country to try and get residence through EU rules. In some cases, parents had to live in separate countries and split the family.

Past cases

The Danish Immigration Service has said it will investigate on its own initiative whether past cases, dating from May 10th 2017 onwards, should be reopened as a result of the European judgment and new rules.

This could involve reviewing over 2,000 cases according to Ekstra Bladet

A further 8,500 cases from before 2017 could also be looked into if families apply for their application to be reopened. 

The Danish Immigration Service said in their press release that a decision to reopen a case does not mean that a residence permit will be granted.

The Immigration Service said it will contact those people who after May 10th 2017 have been refused family reunification and are now covered by the new rule. But it also encouraged any people concerned to contact them.  

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Copenhagen changes name of new baby ‘mothers’ groups’ to allow groups with dads

Neonatal mothers’ groups known as mødregrupper in Copenhagen will be given a new name, barselsgrupper (‘parental leave groups’) in a move that is hoped will get dads involved during their parental leave.

Copenhagen changes name of new baby ‘mothers’ groups’ to allow groups with dads

Copenhagen Municipality will soon put together the groups for new parents living in the city based on whether parents prefer their group to only include mums, only include dads, or have a mixture of both, broadcaster DR reports.

The groups, long termed mødregrupper, exist to help parents of newborn infants to contact others who have just welcome a child into the world, giving them a support network in the early days of parenthood.

Since the 1970s, district nurses (sundhedsplejersker) have placed 6-8 new mothers from the municipality together in groups which they can use to support each other and share experiences. The groups are usually arrange by district nurses who know new mothers locally.

The municipality’s elected committee for children and youth voted unanimously to switch to a new model bringing in fathers, called barselsgrupper.

The motivation for the proposal was that “there was no offer equivalent to mothers’ groups for fathers who take a long parental leave after the baby is born”.

“If someone wants it to be just a mothers’ group, or if someone wants it to be just a fathers’ group or mixed groups, we will try to put people together on that basis,” the head of the committee, Conservative Jakob Næsager, told DR.

READ ALSO: What to expect when you’re having a baby in Denmark

“Luckily, a lot of children are born in Copenhagen so that should make it possible to match people,” he said.

Although the municipality wants to offer fathers the option of parenthood groups in the same way it has done for mothers up to now, mothers will still be able to choose women-only groups, DR reports.

That will give them a sense of security when they “share certain questions with other women” including breastfeeding, the municipality states.

A representative from the Danish nurses’ trade union in Copenhagen told DR the new offer was “good” but noted it added administrative responsibilities for district nurses.

She also said that despite the name change, mothers’ groups were essentially not being replaced but supplemented by an additional option.

“This will be more of a supplementary option that will be chosen by a small section of Copenhageners,” the representative told DR in a written comment.

“I’m interested to see who that will be and I hope the scheme will be evaluated,” she said.

Danish parental leave rules were last year changed to “earmark” a greater proportion of the leave to each parent, meaning fathers – for example – can no longer hand over the vast majority of statutory leave to mothers.

The new “parents’ groups”, which will not present additional costs to the municipality, are expected to be implemented in Copenhagen Municipality from the second quarter of 2023, DR reports.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Denmark’s new parental leave rules