In 2015, a particularly low benefit was introduced for newcomers, which roughly amounts to half of social security payments: the integration benefit, which changed its name to "self-sufficiency and repatriation" benefit as part of the so-called paradigm shift in 2019. The amounts have been reduced even further and the language supplement has been changed. In addition, the vesting period for obtaining full social security benefit (kontanthjælp) has been raised to 9 years and a requirement of 2.5 years of fulltime job has been added.
Who receives Integration benefit*?
Anyone who would otherwise receive social security or youth benefit but who has not yet resided legally in Denmark for 9 out of the last 10 years. In addition, in order to qualify for social security rates, you must have had 2.5 years of full-time employment. Almost all refugees live on the reduced benefit during their first years in Denmark – until they hopefully succeed in finding a job, but this is not possible for everyone. In principle, Danes can also receive integration benefits if they have lived abroad, but they represent a very small proportion of the beneficiaries.
• Only 2% have Danish background, other 2% have a Western background, and 96% have non-western backgrounds
• Almost only refugees: the largest three groups are from Syria (48%), Eritrea (12%), stateless (8%)
• 83% have been in Denmark less than 3 years
• The largest number (1,752) lives in Copenhagen – a place with expensive rent.
Figures from the Institute for Human Rights' Report on Integration benefit 2018.
*) now "self-sufficiency and repatriation" benefit
HOW MUCH DO YOU RECEIVE?
2023-Rates before tax, according to borger.dk:
People who are the only provider for their own child or children at home are entitled to additional children’s allowance: 12,699 DKK per month
Persons who support their own child at home but are not the only provider are not entitled to additional children’s allowance: 8,886 DKK per month
People with no dependents: 6,350 DKK per month
Youth living at home
Person who is not a breadwinner, less than 30 years old and living at home: 2,735 DKK per month
Reduction for breadwinners after 3 years
The paradigm shift introduced a new reduction in the benefit of 2,000 DKK per month per household for those providing for others. It comes into force after 3 years, when 50% of the child and youth benefit is achieved.
Danish language supplement
Refugees on benefits who have passed Danish education 2 (which typically takes more than 2 years) can get a bonus of 1,652 DKK per month for up to 6 months.
However, it is far from possible for everyone to obtain this bonus, as not everyone will be able to take Danish Level 2, read more about Danish education as a refugee. You must apply for this bonus on borger.dk and submit documentation yourself.
Child and Youth Benefit
The "child cheque" is now awarded according to a vesting principle, so that the full rate is first achieved after 6 years. Thus, after the first year in Denmark, a refugee receives only 626 DKK per quarter for a child of 3 years (16.7% of what a Danish parent receives, 2023-rate). If parents have shared custody, they will receive half of the benefit each, even if they are living together.
There is also an option for a temporary benefit of approx. 700 DKK per child for single providers under certain circumstances, precise calculation can be done at borger.dk (in Danish).
Most refugees receive a subsidy for rent in the form of both housing insurance and special assistance under §34, and most municipalities pay the transport to and from language school and/or work experience placements. If you live in a temporary dwelling, the rent incl. utilities must not amount to more than 2,467 DKK for a single person, 4.520 for a couple without children and 4,932 kr for a couple with up to three children (2023).
Within the first year, you can apply to your local authority for a special dental allowance if you have problems with your teeth.
Which benefits can be a problem for familiy reunification or permanent residency?
The following benefits will NOT be a problem, as they are not granted under the acts of active social policy or integration: SU (students grant), child and youth benefit, accommodation support (individual subsidy), Danish language bonus, all kinds of pensions, free daycare for children. Single allowances in connection to moving or sickness can be allowed.
Unemployment benefits (dagpenge), sickness benefits (sygedagpenge) and maternity leave benefits (barsel) are not a problem when paid out during a period of employment, but will be considered a benefit if paid out while the person is unemployed.
The following benefits WILL be a problem: self-sufficiency and repatriation (selvforsørgelses- og hjemrejseydelse), integration allowance (integrationsydelse), transition benefit (overgangsydelse), social security (kontanthjælp), rehabilitation benefits (revalidering), ressource course grant (ressourceforløb), educational grant (uddannelseshjælp, from the kommune), special benefits under §34.
Single refugees and couples living together who receive integration benefit are not covered by the 225-hour rule.
Couples providing for children, where
1) one or both spouses receive integration benefit or
2) one or both spouses receive integration benefit while the other spouse receives education grants or social security
– are first affected by the 225-hour rule when they are entitled to full child and youth benefit, which requires at least 6 years of residence in Denmark.
If one spouse is on integration benefit, and the other spouse receives vocational rehabilitation benefits, (e.g., public pension, SU), then they are not at all affected by the rule.
Social security cap and refugees
Integration benefit itself is already below the social security cap. However, some extra subsidies can cause the total amount to exceed the cap. At borger.dk you can see the thresholds.
Is there a difference between being married and co-habiting in terms of the social security cap?
The same rules apply in terms of the social security cap for cohabiting or married couples, where one or both of receive integration benefit, educational benefits or social security. It is the municipality which assesses and decides in each case whether or not you are co-habiting. You are deemed as such if you for example keep house together, ie. if you both share the financial expenses and/or the practical tasks at home – and you also live in a relationship with a person you theoretically may marry. The social security cap also applies if you receive children’s allowance.
This means that if a recipient of integration benefit is married or lives with a recipient of educational assistance or social security, the spouse's or partner’s benefits will be reduced. In other words, the rate for educational assistance or social security is reduced so that the two benefits combined are equal to what the person would have received in integration benefit. You will however, at the very least, receive an amount equivalent to what each person would have received in integration benefit and with the possibility of a Danish language supplement.
Beneficiaries of integration benefit are not entitled to holiday. If you want to go away for a few days, you have to inform the job centre and the benefits for those days will then be deducted. If you travel without informing the job centre, you risk losing a full month's benefit.
Integration benefit is equivalent to half of social security benefit. According to a study (in Danish) from the Rockwool Foundation and CASA the minimum amounts that one can survive on when the rent is paid 6,000 kr for a individual and 17,000 kr for a couple with three children. As is evident from the rates above, this is more than the integration service constitutes BEFORE tax and rent is paid. Many single refugees have only 1,500-2,000 DKK for food, clothing, transport, dentist, telephone, etc., even if they get subsidies for rent.
Housing protection has been cut for all citizens and the social security cap contains a limit for how much the municipality can provide in rent subsidies. Disposable income for newcomers is therefore very low overall.
The government contends that the amounts are at the level of SU. However, only 9% of students live by SU alone, since they have access to the special SU loan as well as the right to work while studying. In addition, many students will receive some financial and practical support from their parents. And if they have children, we they receive full children’s allowance. More than 20,000 children are affected by the integration benefit and are thus living under the official poverty line which has now been abolished.
A new note (in Danish) from the Danish Refugee Council on the effect of the low benefits reads: "Recent research and studies on the effects of low benefits – such as the previous start-up aid or the current integration benefit – for refugees, shows a limited positive effect on employment in the short term, no positive effect on employment in the long term, and a number of negative psychosocial and socio-economic effects in the short and long term."
Among others, the UNHCR is accusing Denmark of not complying with the Refugee Convention with this benefit. Danish Institute for Human Rights stated in their report on the Integration benefit that Denmark is in fact violating the Danish Constitution as well as human rights with this practice.
Read more about integration benefit in our Focus article from 2017.