Tightening of citizenship rules affects freelancers and students

Denmark has a strict immigrant policy, but this year, the conditions for getting Danish citizenship tightened up. Since the biggest change requires applicants for citizenship to have a fulltime job for the past 3 and half years, it mostly affects freelancers, students, and stay-at-home spouses. The Danish Institute of Human Rights warns that it could be a democratic issue as well since only citizens can vote in national elections in Denmark.

Laura Ioana in her ceramic workshop

In April 2021, the citizenship rules tightened again. Danish government added a condition of having a fulltime job for at least three and a half years in the past four years. The change mostly affects part-time workers, students, and freelancers. Before, there was no specific work requirement, as long as the person has been independent of social benefits for the past 4 years.

For example in the Czech Republic, applicants for citizenship live in Czechia for three years if they are an EU citizen, or five years if they are from outside of the European Union. With that, they have to submit their incomes and how they paid their taxes. Other than that, Danish and Czech governments require cultural knowledge and other conditions as well, but they are not that problematic.

Laura Ioana, a freelancer from Romania, moved to Copenhagen for an architecture job. She already got there with an employment contract, so coming to Denmark was no problem. After a year, she opted to quit her 9-5 job and started working on her own. Now as a photographer, tour guide, barista, and ceramist, she manages to make ends meet even without being employed full time.

In her everyday life, Laura does not need Danish citizenship. But if she wanted to apply for one, she must find a fulltime job and quit or drastically reduce what she is passionate about. “Having my architecture job would mean more money, but it wouldn’t make me happy. Just three weeks ago I got an offer to work fulltime at my old office. I thought about it for a bit, but no. I would definitely get more money, but I wouldn’t have time for my other stuff, and I don’t really need it at this point in my life and rather do something I like.” Since she knows it is hard to become a Danish citizen, she does not consider it as a real option for her.

This problem also affects students, because they do not have an exception from the need to have a fulltime job. Michala Clante Bendixen, EWSI Country Coordinator for Denmark, commented on the European Commission website: “… if an individual chooses to pursue an education rather than take up an unskilled job, this will postpone their access to permanent residency and citizenship for many years.”

The Danish Institute of Human Rights warns about a democratic issue in this matter as well. Their report from the beginning of 2021 criticizes the fact that only 65% of young people who are born and raised in Denmark have obtained citizenship. That means, that more than a third can’t vote, because they are not Danish citizens.
The number of new Danish citizens is the lowest in the past 40 years and is still lowering. The aim of the Danish government is for this trend to continue. “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.”