Requirements for Danish citizenship tightened again

Some of the toughest demands in the world got another round, this time openly focusing on non-Europeans

Danish government has just pushed forward a new political deal with Venstre, Konservative and Liberal Alliance. None of the supporting parties for the government were part of the deal, and Dansk Folkeparti and Nye Borgerlige did not find the demands hard enough. The deal consists of a number of tightenings of existing demands and a number of new demands for obtaining citizenship, as well as more options to revoke a citizenship. It also contains promises of future investigations and changes, among these an unclear point about revoking more temporary residence permits.

The deal was closed only few months after a new report was published by Danish Institute for Human Rights, "Stranger in your own country", showing that the number of people who are granted Danish citizenship is now the lowest in 40 years, which constitutes a democratic problem – a rising part of the population has no right to vote. It already takes 19 years on average to achieve citizenship, and only 65% of the young people who are born and raised in Denmark have obtained it. For comparison, in Sweden you can apply for citizenship after 4 years, and the demands are few and very basic.

Drastic changes

The deal contains critical elements of retrospective effects: the new demands concerning crime are in force from 21. April 2021 and will also concern applications already handed in. There is also a technical problem, which the government is trying to solve, as sentences are erased from the criminal register after 5 years – following a humane principle of not forever stigmatizing people for their old mistakes, which is apparently not valid when it comes to foreigners.

Until now, there was a demand to be self-supporting. The new requirement of full-time work will affect part-time employees, substitute workers, freelancers, periodically employed, housewives etc. It will also harm young people who take an education, and who already today have to wait many years to obtain permanent residence as education also doesn't count when applying for that. The new demand to be employed at the time of the decision is very unfair, as nobody can tell whether you will lose your job in the future – especially not when the case processing can take several years.

In practice, the sum of all these restrictions together with the tough demands for permanent residency combined with the new policy of revoking the largest amount possible of temporary permits, will lead to very few people coming from outside of Europe ever becoming full members of Danish society. Last year only 331 refugees achieved permanent residency. We find several of the new rules to be in conflict with international laws on discrimination and articles in the UN Refugee Convention about securing stable and durable solutions for refugees, as well as easing their access to citizenship.

The new requirements are:

• If a person has received any prison sentence, either conditional or unconditional, s/he will forever be excluded from becoming a Danish citizen. This change will affect all decisions given after 29. April 2021, thus also the applications already handed in under the current rules.

• Fines above 3,000 DKR (400 Euro) issued for a crime in connection to social control, immigration rules or social fraud will lead to a penalty quarantine of 6 years, as an addition to the already existing rules on quarantine periods.

• Expanding the options of revoking a citizenship due to crime, with special focus on gang related crimes, as this is already an option for crimes related to terror or the security of the Danish state, and it should be done whenever possible.

• The existing citizenship test, consisting of 40 multiple choice questions, will be supplemented with 5 extra questions about "Danish values" such as equality, freedom of speech and the relation between legislation and religion. The questions will be new each time.

• An extra waiting period of 2 years is added after obtaining permanent residence permit (which normally requires a stay of 8 years), however only 1 year for refugees and stateless persons. (Read about demands for permanent residency here).

• Previously there was no specific work requirement, as long as the applicant had been independent from social benefits for the last 4 years. The new rules require having held a full-time job or being self-employed for 3.5 out of the last 4 years, and still be employed at the time of the decision.

Debt to the state has also previously been a hindrance, but it will now be expanded to also include study loans, fines, fees and court expenses above the amount of 3,000 DKR (400 Euro).

• If the applicant does not fulfil the criteria of passing an exam for DU3, there is an existing alternative if the applicant has passed the exam for DU2 and has also not received any social benefits for more than 6 months over the last 9 years. Only 3 months of allowances will be allowed in the future.

The other conditions are still valid:

• You must have permanent residency;
• You must have been residing lawfully in Denmark for the last nine years (eight for refugees and stateless persons);
• You must sign a declaration of loyalty to Denmark;
• You must not have received any social benefits for more than four months over the last five years;
• You must document Danish language skills at the level of passing the DU3 exam;
• You must participate in a ceremony at your local city hall with a physical handshake.
(Read more about existing rules here).

Issues which will be investigated or discussed later by the partners:

• Nordic citizens currently have easier access to Danish citizenship, also if they have obtained it via naturalisation. The deal proposes that the option of becoming a Danish citizen via declaration, for young people aged between 18 and 23, should be abolished.

• The government will invite the parties behind the deal for further discussions before the summer of 2021, concerning how the current policy of revoking temporary permits can be designed to ensure that temporary stay does not evolve into "de facto permanent stay".

• A plan will be made on the execution of individual interviews during the process of application, inspired by Austria and Switzerland, under the parliament committee for citizenship.

• Future law proposals on citizenship should be divided into the following groups: Nordic countries, other Western countries, the MENAPT countries and other non-Western countries.

• Revision of numbers: if a rise of at least 25% in the number of non-European applicants is registered during the first quarter of the year compared to the previous four years, new negotiations must take place with the government to prevent further rise, for instance through the imposition of a specific limit for applications accepted.

Both ethically and legally wrong

Refugees Welcome see the new rules as an undisguised antipathy against immigrants and refugees, no matter how much they integrate – especially against Muslims. The new MENAPT category, which integration minisiter Tesfaye has invented, is another word for Muslim countries. The individual interviews and questions about "Danish values" are as far away from rule of law as you can get.

Over the last couple of years, the media has brought many stories illustrating how utterly unfair and bureaucratic the existing rules were. A large survey about citizenship in the Nordic countries showed that the majority found the Danish requirements to be unreasonably strict – including the Danish respondents. There is a need to go the opposite direction: make it easier to become a citizen, get more in line with our neighbour countries.

PHOTO: Two kinds of passports issued to refugees or foreigners who do not hold or can not use their national passport.

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