Denmark says new citizens must live in country until handshake ceremony

Michael Barrett
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Denmark says new citizens must live in country until handshake ceremony
A new Danish citizen shakes hands with then-elected official at Copenhagen Municipality Cecilia Lonning-Skovgaard in early 2020. The government says approved citizenship applicants should not be allowed to live abroad until they have attended the mandatory ceremony. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

The government wants people granted Danish citizenship to be barred from residing outside of the country until they have attended their mandatory “constitutional ceremony” which formalises naturalisation.


Denmark introduced in 2019 a new rule requiring new citizens to attend a grundlovsceremoni or constitutional ceremony as the final step in becoming a Danish national. At the ceremony, applicants are obliged to shake hands with an official, usually from the local municipality.

The government wants to add the requirement that applicants must reside in Denmark until they have attended the ceremony, the immigration ministry said in a press statement.

“Not just anybody can or should be given Danish citizenship. It’s a big deal to be granted it. When it happens, it means that you want to be a part of Denmark,” Minister for Immgration and Integration Kaare Dybvad Bek said in the statement.

“That is why we already have a long list of criteria. And it’s also why you should certainly live here in the country when you become Danish. That’s not how it’s been up to now,” he said.


Current rules permit applicants for citizenship to reside abroad at the time they participate in the handshake ceremony. The frequency with which this actually occurs is unclear: the immigration ministry was unable to provide news wire Ritzau with a figure for the number of people who move abroad after their application for citizenship has been approved.

The ministry said there had been “some examples” of this occurring but did not give a specific number.

READ ALSO: How to apply for citizenship in Denmark

However, a rule change making it mandatory to live in Denmark until the ceremony has been attended could, in theory, prevent someone eligible for citizenship from taking a job abroad or moving abroad with a Danish partner for personal reasons.

Bek said the government “wants to change” the current rules which allow residence abroad until naturalisation has been completed through the citizenship ceremony.

“Until you give a handshake at the ceremony, you must live in Denmark. That is common sense. That’s why I’m pleased we’re presenting this law change,” he said.

The law requires applicants for Danish citizenship to shake hands palm-to-palm at the ceremony. Gloves may not be worn. When it was proposed in 2018 and eventually adopted, it was criticised for “demonstrating supremacy”. Opponents of the law also said it was designed to target Muslims who refuse to shake hands with members of the opposite sex for religious reasons.


It took effect at the same time as the fee for applying for citizenship was tripled, from 1,200 kroner to 3,600 kroner, due to additional administrative costs linked to the new ceremonies. The application fee has since further increased to 4,000 kroner.

READ ALSO: Danish mayors call for scrapping of citizenship handshake law

The government will table a bill for the new residency requirement on Thursday, it said. Should it be adopted, the rule could take effect from June 1st.

Because the three-party coalition has a majority in parliament, it does not need backing from any opposition parties to pass the bill.

To qualify for Danish citizenship, foreign nationals must fulfil a string of criteria related to residency, language, criminal records and financial self-sufficiency. A Danish citizenship test must also be passed before applying.

If these criteria are met, the application must be approved by parliament through a special citizenship bill.

After the bill has been passed, the applicants attend the constitutional ceremony at which they shake hands with an official. This can take place up to two years after the bill is passed but will normally be sooner.


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Judith Hartwig 2023/04/28 11:21
Are they just making more rules for the sake of making them? If they can't provide figures on how often it happens, how can they just decide to make a new rule? Seems like someone has too much time on their hands..

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