Denmark issued 40 percent more non-EU work permits in 2022

Denmark issued over 21,000 work permits to non-EU nationals in 2022, an increase of over 40 percent compared to the previous year.

Denmark issued 40 percent more non-EU work permits in 2022
The number of work permits issued by Denmark was up last year. Photo by Andreas Dress on Unsplash

Preliminary figures issued by the Ministry of Immigration and Integration show that the number of work permits issued to non-EU nationals in 2022 was 21,553.

That represents an increase of more than 40 percent compared to 2021, when 15,167 permits were issued.

The number of work permits issued by Denmark has seen steady growth over the last four years, according to ministry figures.

In 2019, some 13,713 work permits were issued to non-EU citizens. The number dropped during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic to 10,333 in 2020 before rising significantly in 2021 and 2022.

For work permits issued to EU nationals under the EU’s free movement rules, the numbers tell a similar story. Numbers released by the ministry show 18,578 such permits released in 2019, falling to 15,681 in 2020.

EU nationals were given 22,080 and 25,842 Danish work permits in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

It should be noted the British nationals would be registered under the EU category in 2019 and 2020 and the non-EU category in 2021 and 2022.


“In a time with low unemployment it’s hugely positive that so many foreigners are choosing Denmark and contributing to our labour market,” Minister for Immigration and Integration Kaare Dybvad Bek said in a statement.

“That’s a huge benefit for Denmark and the Danish economy. We currently need hands in both the public and private sectors and the many people who come here through business [permit] schemes contribute to growth and better service,” he said.

“I am very pleased we are doing well on attracting labour from outside while also having rules that take good care of Danish wage earners,” he said.

Despite the growth in permits and Bek’s positive view of them, businesses have called for more to be done to increase foreign labour and there is also some demand in the opposition.

The Confederation of Danish Industry said in August that Danish businesses are finding it harder than ever to recruit staff and could hire 38,000 new workers immediately if they were available.

The Social Liberals, a centre-left opposition party, in November said it wants Denmark to increase its foreign workforce.

“It is still far too difficult for Denmark’s businesses to bring foreign labour to Denmark. There are trip wires everywhere, and we have a whole catalogue of proposals,” Social Liberal leader Martin Lidegaard said at the time.

In its coalition policy agreement, the government, formed in December, said that it would “relax access to foreign labour for as long as unemployment is low.”

READ ALSO: What do we know about Denmark’s plans to relax work permit rules?

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Danish parliament set to vote through relaxed work permit rules

Denmark's parliament is expected to vote on Thursday to make changes to Denmark's foreigners law designed to make it easier to for companies to hire internationally.

Danish parliament set to vote through relaxed work permit rules

The bill went through its second reading on Monday without any Danish MPs making objections or calling for changes, suggesting it is likely to be voted through on Thursday without any serious opposition. 

The bill, which was submitted to parliament in February by Denmark’s immigration minister Kaare Dybvad Bek, will permanently reduce the minimum wage required under the Pay Limit Scheme (Beløbsordning), making it easier for companies to recruit skilled workers from non-EU countries.

It will also open up the country’s fast-track work permit certification scheme to companies with as few as ten employees, extend the job search period for foreign graduates of Danish universities to three years, add more job titles to the Positive List for People with Higher Education, and extend the Start-up Denmark scheme for entrepreneurs. 

“This may be a game changer for the smaller companies hiring employees within industries with lower salary thresholds where the new hire has only a few years of experience,” Rikke Wolfsen, country manager for EY’s Danish Global Immigration practice, said of the lower salary thresholds. 

The amendments, which should come into force on April 1st, will mean that non-EU citizens hired to work in Denmark will need to earn a minimum of only 375,000 kroner per year, down from 448,000 kroner under the old rules.

Wolfsen warned that jobs given to non-EU citizens hired internationally would still be subject to DISCO, the Danish version of the international classification of job titles, International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO-08). 

This means that if the role being hired for was normally paid 425,000 kroner, for example, employers will still have to pay this level, and not the 375,000 kroner minimum. 

“In general, third-country nationals employed by Danish companies must earn a salary that corresponds to that paid to Danish nationals in similar positions with similar educational backgrounds and work experience,” EY wrote in a tax alert

A temporary version of lower salary threshold was part of a political agreement on strengthened international recruitment reached in June last year between a majority of parties in the Danish parliament. 

The reduction was set to remain in place for an initial three-year period. However, the proposal was never passed into law because Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called an election before it was voted on in parliament. The renewed government proposal makes the reduction to the Pay Limit minimum wage permanent, rather than introducing it on a temporary basis.

Some parties had been pushing for the bill to also change an unpopular rule that requires the salaries of foreign hires to be paid into a Danish bank account requirement, but this has not made it into the current text of the bill.