Reception program in municipalities

Placement in a municipality

When an asylum-seeker is granted residency (either asylum, a humanitarian residency permit or residency on the basis of extraordinary circumstances), the Immigration Service chooses a municipality in which the person shall reside.

Municipalities are chosen on plan of distribution, which takes a number of factors into account. The Immigration Service’s choice of which municipality a refugee will live in is, as a starting point, binding, but if you choose to appeal the choice of municipality, it must be done immediately after the decision has been taken and there must also be a good reason as to why you don’t wish to liv in the municipality you have been allotted to.

For people arriving after family reunification, it is expected that they will move in with the person they are being reunited with. However, this does not result in the right to a larger place of residence.

Refugees and their families are covered by the integration program, which lasts between 1 - 5 years. This means that the local municipality must provide accommodation, access to language school, job centre and activation. During the first few years, refugees can therefore not move from the municipality, unless another municipality takes on the responsibility or you are able to provide for yourself.

Newly-arrived refugees must sign a contract (formerly known as the integration contract) and a plan is laid out for their near future – typically with the aim of gaining employment within a year, but it can also include education plans. In addition, they must also sign a declaration on active participation in society, which is required if they apply for permanent residence at a later point.

Unfortunately, the efforts taken on the part of the various municipalities in terms of integration differ widely. Some municipalities are ambitious and experimental, others use as few resources as possible. One common feature of them all is that they do not have sufficient numbers employed to be able to help refugees make a start on their new lives – this in turn results in it taking a longer period of time before refugees are ready to start learning Danish, going on work experience, taking education or finding a job.

The Finance Act agreement for 2019 contained a number of amendments, which move the focus from integration of refugees to them returning home. Even the name ‘integration program’ has actually been changed to ‘Self-sufficiency and repatriation program’. This means that municipalities’ endeavours will, from now on, be aimed in the opposite direction.

Accommodation

In theory, a contact person from the local municipality should visit refugees while they are still living in asylum centres, in order to make plans about when they move out and other practical things, but this happens rarely in practice. The municipality must assist in acquiring basic furniture, kitchen utensils and so on, for the new accommodation, but there are no guidelines for how much money to spend. An investigation carried out by LG Insight has demonstrated that the amount offered for establishing a home for a family varies from 3,000 to 85,000 and the municipalities have called for a set of guidelines.

Many municipalities have problems finding suitable accommodation and new refugees often therefore end up living in temporary, low-quality accommodation for long periods of time. The price for renting temporary accommodation is capped and municipalities must pay the rest of the amount in the event of a shortfall. After the Finance Act agreement of 2019, refugees no longer have the right to permanent accommodation, which they had until this point.

Finances

Read more in our chapter 'Benefits'.

Refugees and their spouses are only entitled to Self-sufficiency and repatriation benefit (formerly known as Integration benefit), which equates to roughly half of social security payment, so long as they don’t find a job. They can apply for subsidies for rent and the municipality can also choose to subsidise transport, dental care and other special expenses. However, these subsidies are affected by the cap on social security.

As a newly arrived resident, you have many expenses and it typically takes at least two years before a refugee starts working full-time. Refugees are therefore often among the poorest residents in the country.

Providers (singles or couples) will face a cut of 2,000 kr per household after 3 years legal residency. At this point, they will have earned 50% of children’s allowance, which in the case of refugees, has an accrual period of 6 years.

The right to social security is first acquired after 9 years legal residency out of the last 10 years, as well as 2.5 years full-time employment.

The right to unemployment benefit is first acquired after 7 years legal residency, even if you have paid into unemployment insurance and live up to the requirements concerning income. The demands in terms of residency will, however, be implemented gradually. Read more here.

One particular outlay, which can be beyond the means of many, is the amount required to cover flight tickets and visas for spouses and children, if they are lucky and are granted family reunification. The state no longer covers this cost and refugees have no possibility to borrow money. It can cost around 20 – 30,000 kr, if there are several children and they are travelling from a long distance. Refugees Welcome offers a subsidy per child for this.

Employment or education

The municipality is obliged to make a plan of action and there will always be a focus on making the newly-arrived refugee self-sufficient as quickly as possible. There are many different options and they also depend on what type of residency permit you have. Read more in the following chapters.