New requirements for Danish citizenship

Understand the new rules which will unfortunately exclude many from ever acquring a Danish passport

The government has just passed a bill with new demands on citizenship with votes from Venstre, Socialdemokraterne, Dansk Folkeparti, Liberal Alliance and Konservative. With a broad political majority it is not likely that the rules will change again for some time, no matter how the next government will be.

The new rules are applied from October 15, 2015. Read more on the ministry's website here.

How is the procedure?

You can become a Danish citizen in tow wayes: if at least one of your parents is a Danish citizen, or if you apply for it, independant of your parents' status. 

Denmark has a very unusual way of granting citzenship. You are formally included in a legal bill, passed on majority by the Parliament. These bills are only passed twice a year, and the latest one was postponed because of the election in June. In most other countries, citizenship is handled by the administration, like e.g. permanent residence permit, and Denmark's demands are among the toughest in the world. In Sweden, for instance, you can apply after 4 years and most people will meet the demands.

The processing time will usually be more than one year.

Retrospective legislation

Quite surprisingly, the requirements will have retrospective effect, as all the pending applications during the last 14 months will be re-processed, even in the cases where the applicant met the requirements when applying. This covers 1,950 persons. Some have even received a letter, informing that the demands are fulfilled and the person will be included in the next bill. 3,300 applications were postponed because of the national election in June. Dispensations because of mental illness, which the Parliament had already approved, were also close to being cancelled, but a majority based on Liberal Alliance made sure they were upheld.

New tightenings:

• Language requirements will be raised from Prøve i Dansk 2 (PD2) to Prøve i Dansk 3 (PD3). Applicants who have been self supporting for 8 1/2 out of the last 9 years can ask for dispensation if they have passed PD2. Passing 9th or 10th grade exam with a minimum of 6 or a passed Studentereksamen or HF will also be sufficient. Children under the age of 12 are excempt. 

• The present Statsborgerskabsprøve with 30 questions where at least 22 must be answered correctly, will be replaced by a new Indfødsretsprøve with 40 questions and at least 32 right answers. Children under the age of 12 are excempt. 

• The requirement to be self supporting is raised, so that applicants must now be self supporting during 4 1/2 out of the last 5 years.

 • Penalty periods for criminal offenses are raised by 50% (see examples below).

• Harder to obtain dispensation when not able to meet the requirements due to mental illness. From now on, a statement from a psychiatrist will be needed.

• In 2014, the former SR-government passed a bill giving easier access to citizenship for children born and raised in Denmark. This access will now be cancelled, and children over the age of 12 will have to meet the same criteria as adults.

Unchanged requirements:

• You must have permanent residence permit.

• You must sign an oath statement of loyalty to the Danish state.

• You must have 9 years of legal residence in Denmark (8 years for refugees). If married to a Danish citizen you can apply after 6 years.

• Young people who came to Denmark before the age of 15 can apply when they turn 18 if they have completed a Danish education.

• If you completed a Danish education of minimum 3 years duration, you can apply after 5 years of residence.

• Criminal offenses: depending of the seriousness of the offense, you will be met with a penalty period between 3 and 19 years or be excluded from citizenship forever (read more under Penalty period).

• Overdue debt to the state is not allowed (payback agreement scheme will be accepted).

• You must be self supporting (read more under New tightenings), and receiving kontanthjælp (state allowance)  during the last year or for more than 6 months over the last 5 years is not allowed. 

• You must pass a Prøve i Dansk, see New tightenings.

• You must pass a test about Danish society, culture and history (former Statsborgerskabsprøven, from now on Indfødsretsprøven).

• Stateless children and young people under 21 years have special access (read more here).

• Since September 1, 2015, it is no longer required to cancel your former citizenship, as dual citizenship has been allowed.

• There is a fee of 1,000 DKR to apply, and the form is available at your local police station.


There is a fine of 3,000 DKR for driving between 50 and 59 percent faster than the speed limit on a country road or in a city, which has until now resulted in a penalty period of 3 years to obtain citizenship. This period will now be extended to 4 1/2 years. If fined (any amount) for possession of narcotics (including marihuana), this will lead to a 6 year penalty period. Being fined (any amount) for driving under the influence of alcohol will postpone the access to citizenship for 4 1/2 years.

Why is citizenship so important?

Danish citizenship gives access to a Danish passport, right to vote at national elections, running for Parliament, access to jobs as civil servant (e.g. police or military) and to represent Denmark at sports events. At the same time you become a citizen of the EU with the rights that come from this, e.g. moving to another EU country. Citizenship is also the only thing that protects you from expulsion (permanent residence permit does not). 

If you don't have a Danish passport, you will have either a national passport from your country of origin, or a convention passport or foreigners passport issued by the Danish state. This can make it very difficult to travel outside of the Schengen area. Emotionally, the Danish passport also has a great significance for many people.

Politicians change their minds…

2013: Mette Bock (Liberal Alliance): "Speeding offenses are on too low a level that it should have consequences for citizenship. Speeding is serious, of course, but it's not a real criminal offense."

2011: Astrid Krag (then Socialistisk Folkeparti, now Socialdemokraterne): "Dansk 3 is made for people with a higher education. We think you can be an equally good Dane whether you are an unskilled worker or an academic scholar. The language requirement is snobbishness."

2013: Morten Bødskov (then Minister of Justice, Socialdemokraterne): "The requirements should be reasonable, and they should be possible to meet if you make a strong effort. With the new deal [2013, lower requirements, ed.] we have given the individual a better incentive to integrate because the requirements are now more realistic."

What does REFUGEES.DK think?

The new requirements, especially the demand for passing PD3, will exclude a large part of the people living in Denmark from ever acquiring a Danish passport. Regardless of their will and efforts, it is not possible for all to pass PD3, as this depends on how much you went to school in your home country (read more about Danish language schools here). Only around 35% are attending DU3 which leads to PD3 (50% follow DU2 leading to PD2, and 15% follow DU1 leading to PD1).

The high requirements for self support is also a hindrance to many, especially for women without work market experience/education and for refugees. These groups have more difficulties entering the labour market than other groups. 

It is also disappointing that the easier access for children and young people will be removed. Many children and young people with foreign parents are distraught over not being able to come on school travels or vacations abroad with their classmates, and over the fact that the state does not recognize that they belong in this country. Children down to the age of 12 will have to pass the new Indfødsretsprøve or present a statement from their school regarding their knowledge of Dansh culture.

Research shows that citzenship has a positive effect on integration, and in Sweden and Canada newcomers are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Torben Møller-Hansen from Foreningen Nydansker says to Berlingskes Nyhedsbureau: "It's a reward for Denmark when these people are offered a citizenship. It is something which gives extra value and extra support, being able to contribute to society, economically and mentally."

Especially for refugees, citizenship in the new country means a lot. When the requirements become impossible to meet this is seen as if you are not welcome and forever of less value than the native population, no matter how long you stayed here. 

It is also a democratic problem when the part of the population with the weakest attachment to the labour market and the shortest level of education are excluded from voting. Already, 450,000 residents in Denmark do not have the right to vote at national elections. This year, only 2 out of the Danish parliament's 279 members have a non-Danish ethnic background. Seen together with the new, low Integration allowance for newcomers, we see a picture of deliberate discrimination carried out by the state.