Immigration For Members

'If you get divorced, there's no way you can stay in Denmark'

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
'If you get divorced, there's no way you can stay in Denmark'
Sabrina Alvarez now has to leave Denmark as the immigration authorities judged that she had insufficiently strong links to the country. Photo: private

Sabrina Alvarez has lived in Copenhagen for nine years, speaks Danish fluently, and has mostly Danish friends. She even has a "Copenhagen" tattoo. But in July she was given only a month to leave Denmark.


On July 18th, Sabrina Alvarez got the letter that brought her three-year struggle with the Danish Immigration Service to an end. 

"They give you four weeks to leave the country and it's immediate: you have to quit your job the same day," she tells The Local of the letter she got from Denmark's Immigration Appeals Board. "It has been a roller-coaster. It is terrible to be treated like this." 

Alvarez considers herself to have a very strong connection to the country. 

"I've been working here, almost always full-time, and I speak fluent Danish. I've never asked for help. I've never committed any crimes," she says. "I have a really big network here in Copenhagen and no one can understand. It's very surreal when you've been here for nine years. I used to work at the coffee shop in the Politiken newspaper and all of my colleagues have been, 'how, out of all the people, can it be you who gets kicked out? You are the most well-integrated person we know."  

Alvarez's connection to Denmark goes back to ten years ago when she got back into contact with childhood friends who had moved from Argentina to Jutland. 

"They were half-Argentine, half Dane and I was raised with them, and then when there was a crisis in Argentina they moved here," she remembers. "Then, when I was 23, I met with one of them and I was like 'I want to travel around Europe' and then he was like 'yeah, sure come', and then I started travelling with him." 

It wasn't long afterwards that she fell "crazy in love" with Morten, her future husband, and settled, mixing part-time jobs at Riccos Kaffebar in the Politiken bookshop, and elsewhere, with travel. For the past four years, she's been putting in 34 hours a week as a childcare assistant at Louisegården, a daycare centre or vuggestue in Frederiksberg, and had hoped to train as a kindergarten teacher


Tragically, a few years after they were married Morten became seriously ill, with his worsening mental health episodes making it more and more difficult for the young couple. 

"He was very stressed because they didn't want to give him help and money because he was married with me and I was making money," she remembers. "He looked at me one day and said 'this is enough. I just want to get better and I don't want to ruin your life'. So we sat down there and then and we just decided that it was for the best." 

She knew at the time that divorce risked causing problems, as she had been gained her residency permit on the basis of family reunion for the spouse of a Danish citizen. But for the first year nothing happened and she continued to work. 

Then in 2020, the immigration service contacted her asking for details on the divorce and she responded, applying for an extension of her residency on the grounds of her strong personal connection to Denmark. It wasn't until January 2022 that she got a letter saying, that her application had been rejected, and not until this summer that her appeal failed.  

She understands why this has happened, but objects nonetheless to the way that foreigners' connection to Denmark is judged solely on their romantic relationships. 

"If I were to marry tomorrow, I could start a case right away and then I could probably stay, but that's sick," she complains. "I'm 33 years old. I'm a single woman. I don't know if I want to get married. I don't know if I want to have kids. We are living in 2023 and the question that everyone asks is 'why didn't you have kids? Why didn't you get married?' It points to a law that is very conservative and old-fashioned." 

She feels she has very close connections to Denmark, with her ex's family, with her friends, and with the staff, parents and children at her work.  



"I have the best relationship with my ex's family. They're still my family, you know. And the relationships you build when you live abroad are quite strong. My friends are my family. The people I have close to me, even though we don't share any blood, they're also my family." 

As for Louisegården, she said that some of the parents and children were in tears when she returned to say goodbye.  

"I took these parents' kids when they were nine months' old and they are three years' old now," she says. "Some of them they were crying. They saw me every day of the lives and put their kids in my hands every day. There were so many flowers. It was crazy." 

Finally, she says she loves Copenhagen and the freedom it gives her, a love that is reflected in the tattoo on her left arm.  


"As a woman, you can just take your bike at three in the morning because you want to get an ice cream from 7-Eleven. That doesn't happen in my country," she laughs. "So I feel pretty free. Free to dress how I want to dress, and do what I want to do, and not be judged." 

Her lawyers, however, have been clear that these arguments are unlikely to take her very far with Denmark's migration authorities. 

"When I talk with lawyers they say that when when you get married and then you get divorced, there's no way that you will stay here, unless you get married again or you have kids." 

She is still waiting for Denmark's Immigration Ombudsman to rule on whether it will take up her case and has also applied for a work permit. But after July's rejection from the Immigration Appeals Board, she is fairly resigned to returning back to her parents in Argentina, at least for a while. 

Sabrina Alvarez poses with the front page story on her case in the Politiken newspaper. Photo: Private

The reason that she decided to be interviewed for a front page story in the Politiken newspaper and is now hoping to be interviewed by the broadcasters TV2 and DR is that, with her fluent Danish, she believes she can make a better case against Denmark's inflexible, overly strict residency rules than most others in her situation. 

"It's not really about me right now," she says. "It's about [making the case that] it's time to reconsider what type of immigration policy we have right now."

Have you had a bad experience with Denmark's immigration services that you'd like to share with our readers. Email [email protected]


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also