Danish-US couple ‘heartbroken’ by divisive family reunification rule

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Danish-US couple ‘heartbroken’ by divisive family reunification rule
Christina Markus and Jakob Green were told by immigration authorities they could not live together in Denmark because they are under 24 years old. Photo: supplied

An American teacher and TikTok influencer has told The Local how she was given 14 days to leave her Danish husband and quit Denmark because she was too young to be granted family reunification, before getting a last-minute reprieve – for now.


Christina Markus married her Danish husband Jakob Green in New Jersey in August 2022 before moving to the Scandinavian country to set up a life together.

Markus said that she applied for family reunification in October but was informed in early February that she had 14 days to leave Denmark because she failed to meet the requirements for family reunification.

Danish immigration rules permit residence permits to be granted to the spouses or partners of Danish citizens, provided each partner meets certain criteria. These include a rule that means both partners have to be at least 24 years old, though applications can be submitted when they are 23 years and six months old.

Christina was 22 and Jakob 23 at the time she submitted her application, so she fell foul of the 24-year age rule.


The explanation given by the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI), the authority which processes residence permit applications, left the couple as baffled as they were shocked. 

“The letter that we got was incoherent, almost," she said. "There were so many typos and they spelled my husband’s name wrong. It seemed like they didn’t put any effort into even reading our case. To get that letter, just because I’m a few months too young… we were kind of heartbroken." 

Christina has 1.8 million followers on a TikTok account which she uses to document her life in Denmark. She said that social media had been instrumental in helping her understand what was going on and eventually to avoid having to leave at short notice.

“We basically went on social media and put it out there that this situation was happening to us and we couldn’t really believe it,” she said.

Normally, the couple “post videos of our daily life and whatnot,” she added. “But we happened to document when I thought I was being deported and people really got upset about it so it kind of connected us to a larger platform." 

“We had, I think it was four million views on the video where I was talking about getting deported. We think maybe it was the reason we were actually able to stay."

She added that coverage of her case by Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet may also have helped.


Christina appealed the rejection of her application for family reunification and was informed she could stay in Denmark while the appeal was being processed, but not before she had bought a flight ticket home and was hours from leaving the country.

“I was packing my suitcase to go to the airport and the [Immigration Appeals Board, Udlændingenævnet, ed.] gave us a call, and we’d been trying to call them all week about our appeal."

After a couple of calls back and forth she was eventually informally told she could cancel her ticket and later received official confirmation that her appeal was under process, she said.

“We were about to drive away and that’s when we got the call. It was kind of crazy and very sweet of the lady because she knew the position we were in was pretty time sensitive."

It might take up to 14 months before the appeals board reaches a decision on the appeal, she believes, by which time she will have reached the age of 24 and will therefore meet the requirement on which her initial application was rejected.


Christina is not permitted to work or study in Denmark while the appeal is ongoing. Neither is she allowed to volunteer or travel outside of the Schengen area, apart from to return to her home country.

The situation, she said, was “extremely disappointing”.

“We have to survive without a job which is hard, but I’m not able to work or travel… it’s hard, it’s like they don’t want you to have a life at all."

She also noted that her integration in Denmark was delayed because she was not able to take state-provided Danish language lessons until family reunification is granted.

“I’m literally just sitting here waiting for an answer,” she said.

The situation has impacted her feelings about Denmark.

“I always loved Denmark and I was always excited to move here with Jakob because I think the country’s amazing, but I think that after getting some of the negative response we got from the application, it hurts.

“It kind of felt like I had limited rights here, and even like Jakob has limited rights here for what he can do with his life,” she said.

Jakob said the process had been an “eye opener” that had demonstrated the way Denmark can apply its immigration rules.

“I’d never experienced that in my whole life. I was upset at the way they treat people who try to come here,” he said.

The couple said that they would consider moving to the United States or Sweden, which has more accommodating family reunification rules for partners of EU nationals, should their efforts to continue their life in Denmark not work out.

The United States grants residence permits to partners of its citizens but Jakob’s ongoing studies in Denmark, which provides free university education to Danish and EU nationals, made the latter country the most viable option, Christina said.

“It’s hard to pass up a free education for the $100,000 debt we’d have to take on for him to go to the US,” she said.

Christina hopes to eventually be able to work as a teacher in Denmark, having studied education at college while still in the United States.

The “24-year-rule” which tripped up Christina and Jakob’s family reunification claim is a longstanding source of discord in Danish politics.

First introduced in 2002, its purpose is ostensibly to prevent arranged and forced marriages.

The Independent Green party tabled an unsuccessful bill to have it revoked in 2022 and the Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party, a mainstream party on the centre-left, has also recently called for it to be changed.

The latter party’s immigration spokesperson Christian Friis Bach told Ekstra Bladet in February that it had been retained by successive governments because it “is a symbol of a tough and strict line [on immigration]”.

“It’s an example of a practice that in very many ways makes no sense,” he said.


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