Danish Citizenship For Members

EU Court says Denmark can strip citizenship of adults born and raised abroad

Claudia Delpero, Europe Street
Claudia Delpero, Europe Street - [email protected]
EU Court says Denmark can strip citizenship of adults born and raised abroad
The EU Court says that Denmark must inform Danish nationals that have never lived in the country that they stand to lose their citizenship at the age of 22. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

The EU Court has found that a Danish law permitting citizenship to be revoked after the age of 21 from people who have Danish nationality, but have never lived in the country, is acceptable but only under certain circumstances.


People who lose Danish citizenship at the age of 22 because they were born abroad and never lived in the country should be informed of this and given the opportunity to request an individual examination of their case, the EU Court ruled on Tuesday. 

In particular, such decisions should consider the consequences of the loss of EU citizenship, if the person does not also have the nationality of another country of the European Union, EU judges warned.

Losing citizenship at age 22

Under Danish law, a person born abroad who has never resided in Denmark stands to lose Danish nationality when reaching the age of 22, except if he or she becomes stateless as a result. This only applies if that person's circumstances do not indicate a “close attachment” to the Nordic country.

The person can apply to retain Danish nationality between their 21st and 22nd birthdays. After that, it is possible to apply for naturalisation under less strict conditions than people from other countries.


The case brought to the EU Court of Justice concerned the daughter of a Danish mother and an American father who has held, since her birth in the United States, Danish and American citizenship. After reaching the age of 22, she applied to retain Danish nationality, but the national authorities told her that she had lost it when she turned 22.

The applicant therefore started a legal action calling for the annulment of the decision. The case is now pending at the High Court of Eastern Denmark (Østre Landsret), which asked the EU Court whether such decision is compatible with EU law. The Danish Court will have to consider the EU verdict in its final ruling.


Limits to the rule

The EU Court ruled on Tuesday that Denmark is in principle entitled to decide that its nationals born abroad who have never lived on its territory lose Danish nationality at the age of 22. However, that measure must “have due regard to the principle of proportionality when it also entails the loss of European citizenship”.

EU citizenship is acquired automatically by people with the citizenship of a country of the European Union. It grants the automatic right to move freely in the European Union, as well as the right to vote in local elections in the EU country of residence and in the election of the European Parliament. It also grants the right to be assisted by other EU consulates outside the EU if necessary.

The removal of Danish citizenship should therefore consider the consequences for the loss of rights not only in Denmark but also in the other 26 countries of the European Union, if the person does not already have another EU nationality.

“EU law precludes the permanent loss of Danish nationality and therefore of European citizenship without the person concerned having been notified or informed of this, or having had the opportunity to request an individual examination of the consequences of that loss,” the EU Court said.

For Danish legislation to be compatible with EU law, the person concerned “must be given the opportunity to lodge, within a reasonable period, an application for the retroactive retention or recovery of the nationality”.

Danish authorities would then have to examine the “proportionality of the consequences of the loss of that nationality from the point of view of EU law and, where appropriate, allow the retroactive retention or recovery of the nationality”.

EU judges also added that the period for the application must last for a reasonable time beyond the date at which the person turns 22 and “cannot begin to run unless those authorities have duly informed that person of the loss of his or her nationality or of the imminence of that loss, and of his or her right to apply, within that period, for the retroactive maintenance or recovery of that nationality”.


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