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Denmark: Welfare Paradise vs. Toughest Immigration Rules in the EU

I have been writing about this on a few sites on the interwebs and quite a few people ““ especially outside the EU ““ seem interested in the subject. Denmark, the little fairytale country with free health care and education, should it really also be the country of a badly hidden racist agenda?

Usually, when big international media outlets focus on Denmark, the subjects are fairytales, the royal family, the happy Danes and the free health care and university education. Typically, Denmark is presented as the shining example of how to do things. But as with any other country, nothing is as perfect as it seems from the outside.

In 2001, the traditionally social democrat country elected a government consisting of the Liberals (“Venstre” in Danish) and the Conservatives (“Konservative”). The biggest and most important players in the Folketing (parliament) are those two parties, as well as the Danish People’s Party (“Dansk Folkeparti”, DPP), the Social Democrats (“Socialdemokraterne”, S) and the Socialist People’s Party (“Social Folkeparti”, SPP). The Lib/Con government is a minority government and needs an ally, when new regulations that are not supported by S and SPP are to go through. That ally is the DPP.

The DPP is a right-wing party that constantly is bordering towards racism. Several members have stepped over that line and have been convicted of racism. Usually, when the DPP supports the government on a certain matter, they expect something in return. And more often than not, this “˜something’ is about integration and immigration matters.

In the nine years of the current government’s existence, the immigration rules have been changed 18 times. Immigration lawyers say that they barely can keep up with the constant changes and many foreigners who live here cannot either.

Last month the latest set of new rules was agreed on in the government. As I do not want to discuss too many different kinds of details, I will focus on the rules that apply to family unifications, i.e. when a Danish citizen marries a foreigner and the couple wants to live in Denmark. Because of EU-regulations, special rules apply to all EU-citizens and they are safe from the new rules.

The now applying rules are a combination of the so-called 24-year rule and a point scheme. This means that when a Dane gets married to a foreigner and they want to live in Denmark (i.e. the foreign spouse wants permanent residence permission) the following requirements have to be fulfilled (the following is taken directly from the Danish Immigration Service’s website with my comments in [“¦], but the emphasis is theirs):

  • You must both be over the age of 24.
  • You must live together at the same address in Denmark when your residence permit is granted.
  • Your combined attachment to Denmark must be greater than your combined attachment to any other country. [This is a tricky part. They have a list of things which they take into consideration here. But in a government paper that explains the new rules, they also write that the foreign spouse must have completed several visits that require a visa ““ just a holiday is not necessarily enough ““ and, that the applicant must have completed a Danish class one these stays, which the applicant has to pay for].
  • you must pass the immigration test (testing your Danish language skills and your knowledge about Denmark and Danish society). [This test is only performed in Brøndby near Copenhagen, is in Danish and costs 3,000 DKK ““ ca. $530].
  • [the Danish spouse/partner] must reside permanently in Denmark.
  • [the Danish spouse/partner] must have accommodation of adequate size at his/her disposal. [What that means is explained here.]
  • [the Danish spouse/partner] must be able to support him/herself and you. In most cases, this requirement will be met if your spouse/partner has not received public assistance under the terms of the Active Social Policy Act (lov om aktiv socialpolitik) or the Integration Act (integrationsloven) for the past three years prior to the application being processed by the Immigration Service.
  • [the Danish spouse/partner] must post DKK 62,231 (2010 level) in bank-backed collateral to cover any public assistance paid to you by your municipality after you relocate to Denmark. [More about this here. Also, this amount will soon be increased to DKK 100,000 (ca. $17,600)].
  • [the Danish spouse/partner] must not have been convicted of violent acts against a former spouse/partner within a period of 10 years prior to your application being processed.

The new point system is not yet on the website in English, so the following bit is my translation from the material that has been published by the government in Danish. The original is here (it’s a pdf). The positive list of certain jobs that will be mentioned is here.

People over 24 need to have 60 points and people under 24 need 120 points. Remember, these points are required additionally to all of the above. This is how you can get points:

1. Finished education:

  • PhD or Master at a Danish or world top 20 university: 120 points
  • PhD or Master at another university: 80 points
  • Bachelor at a Danish or world top 20 university: 70 points
  • Bachelor at another university: 50 points
  • Professional training in Denmark (e.g. as a cook, nurse, builder, etc.): 50 points
  • Professional training abroad: 40 points

2. Work experience:

  • 2 years of work experience in Denmark in a job from the positive list: 80 points
  • 2½ years of work experience in a job from the positive list within the last 3 years: 60 points
  • Other work experience for 2½ years out of the last 3 years: 40 points

3. Language skills:

  • Danish, Swedish or Norwegian at C-1 level (usually requires min. 2 years of classes, often more): 50 points
  • English, German, French or Spanish (same level as above): 40 points

4. Other:

  • Danish Swedish or Norwegian at a lower level: 20 points
  • English, German, French or Spanish at a lower level: 20 points
  • Not living in one of the 29 so-called ghetto areas in Denmark: 20 points
  • Active participation in global humanitarian organizations: 10 points
  • Supporting oneself: 10 points

So, what does all of this mean? Well, first of all, the Danish government doesn’t seem to trust the citizens in their decisions about who to marry and live in Denmark with. It seems as if they want to implement some sort of quality control.

And second? The law is clearly designed to keep non-rich (I’m not necessarily talking about poor people) and non-westerners out of the country. The DPP has a history of targeting especially Muslim immigrants (and their children and grandchildren that are born here in Denmark) and they will do all they can do to let as few as possible into the country.

The combination of all of the rules makes it so difficult to be granted permanent residence permission, that out of the 71 applicants, who applied in September after the new rules were implemented, only one person was allowed to stay here with their spouse/partner. Out of the 166 applicants that have applied in September before the new rules, 162 were granted permanent residency. It seems that the DPP currently is getting their will.

You maybe wonder about what the Danish public is saying about all of this? I will discuss that in another post. But let me say that I’m positively surprised!

By inessita

I'm German but after high school I moved to Denmark for studying. A few years ago I finished my Master's in Business Communication and now I'm working as a marketing coordinator.
I'm a news addict. I spent an endless amount of time on reading the news from all over the world. And this is what I'll be writing about mostly.

2 replies on “Denmark: Welfare Paradise vs. Toughest Immigration Rules in the EU”

I was recently looking at the requirements for getting permanent residence in Denmark when I was (briefly) thinking about applying for graduate school in Copenhagen. I thought it would be a breeze, given that my heritage is Danish, I have family living there.
I was shocked by the minutiae of the points system, and the ridiculous requirements. I’ve known that the country had a growing problem with political xenophobia, but I must say, it was jarring to see it in print.
Thanks for the article Inessita! I’d love to hear more about the public reaction (which, I’m sad to say, I’m guessing is fairly positive…)

Oh, I only saw you comment now!
Actually, most Danes are against the point system. The current government has stepped over so many lines in so many ways that it looks like it’s losing the upcoming election! It’ll be interesting to see, what the different parties will use as their message, when the actual election date is set and we’re closer.

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