Danish-born non-citizens call for change to country’s citizenship rules

People who were born in Denmark but are not Danish citizens were among those to call for citizenship rules to be reformed prior to an annual event on Sunday to celebrate those who have been granted naturalisation.

Danish-born non-citizens call for change to country's citizenship rules
People protest against laws restricting citizenship for people born in Denmark to foreign parents. Copenhagen, September 10th 2023. Photo: Nils Meilvang/Ritzau Scanpix

Around 2,600 new Danish citizens on Sunday attended an event for people who have become naturalised Danes this year.

Citizenship Day, which has been an annual event in Denmark since 2006, was attended by around 2,600 new Danes according to parliament, making this year’s participation the largest on record for a single year.

The rules for qualifying for citizenship in Denmark are some of Europe’s strictest, with many unable to qualify until they have lived in the country for nine years and some people ineligible even though they were born in Denmark.

A string of criteria related to length of residence, financial self-sufficiency, language and cultural knowledge, employment history and criminal records are applied to applicants for citizenship.


The number of people who reside in Denmark, but are not Danish citizens, has increased from 1.9 percent in 1980 to 10.5 percent today.

Critics of existing citizenship rules have argued in the past that fencing off citizenship to a large proportion of long-term residents is creating a democratic deficit.

Around half a million people living in Denmark today are not Danish citizens. This includes a significant proportion who were born and raised in the country.

READ ALSO: Danish citizenship rules ‘partly to blame’ with one in seven in Copenhagen unable to vote

In an opinion piece in newspaper Jyllands-Posten on Sunday, MPs Samira Nawa and Christian Friis Bach of the Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party again highlighted the issue.

“Citizenship Day is a good opportunity for us to look ourselves in the eyes and ask if it’s fair for someone born and raised in Denmark – who has always done what is asked of them – not to have the right to Danish citizenship. We don’t think so,” they write.

The Social Liberals want to address the issue, in part by allowing years spent in education to be given equivalence to full-time work for citizenship claims, the MPs state.

Current rules require a certain number of years of employment in Denmark to be eligible for naturalisation. Education does not count towards this, meaning young people who have lived and attended school in Denmark throughout their youth often fail to meet the criteria.

People demonstrated over the issue in front of the Christiansborg parliament on Sunday, prior to the Citizenship Day event. Protesters held signs with messages including “I was born in Denmark, I can’t vote there”, a play on the lyrics to the national anthem, and “An alien in my own country”. The protest was arranged by organisations Fair Statsborgerskab (“Fair Citizenship”) and Os Udenfor (“Us Outside”).

Nawa and fellow MP Rosa Lund of the left-wing party Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) both spoke on stage.

Asked whether it is fair that people born and raised in Denmark don’t always have the automatic right to citizenship, speaker of parliament Søren Gade said the discussion was for another day.

“The rules that decide who gets citizenship are decided here in parliament, so I won’t go into that today. I am only commenting about the many thousands who have fulfilled the criteria and are here,” Gade told news wire Ritzau.

“They have the chance to come in here today and celebrate. The political discussion must take place in parliament,” he said.

Gade congratulated attendees at the citizenship event on their new democratic rights in Denmark.

“With citizenship follows the right to vote into parliament. You are thereby part of deciding how Denmark’s society will grow. That’s the biggest gift you can get in a democracy,” he said during his speech.

“I encourage you to support some of the symbols that bind our country together. That is the royal family, the Dannebrog flag, the national football team – the things that give shared experiences,” he said.

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‘It’s a concern’: How foreigners view Denmark’s move to hike citizenship fee

We asked our readers in Denmark about the government’s decision to make applying for citizenship 50 percent more expensive.

'It's a concern': How foreigners view Denmark's move to hike citizenship fee

Denmark’s government on Tuesday announced it will rise the fee for applying for citizenship from 4,000 kroner to 6,000 kroner.

The government said it was raising the fee for apply for citizenship to 6,000 kroner so that it “more closely reflects the costs of case processing”.

The current 4,000 kroner fee, has applied since 2021 when it was raised from 3,800 kroner. The new hike means the fee is five times more than the 1,200 kroner that was charged to applications prior to 2018.


We asked for your thoughts on this and it’s fair to say we got differing takes.

“If a person really loves Denmark and needs the citizenship of Denmark, then he/she should be ready to accept Denmark for what it is and be ready to contribute to the society as a future Dane,” said Selina.

Selina, who lives in Esbjerg, stated she would be happy to pay up to 20,000 kroner in fees to apply for Danish citizenship.

She also pointed out that, even with the incoming increase, the cost of applying for citizenship in Denmark remains less than the fee for non-EU nationals applying for permanent residency.

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between temporary and permanent residency in Denmark?

“We need to also respect that there is a cost incurred to the government to source employees to check our applications. The hourly wage here is high compared to other countries, which is why in return we also get paid high salaries,” she continued.

Selina said that, during five years living in Denmark, she had spent “nearly 15,000 kroner [on] application fees for me and my family just for residency visas, and I don’t complain!”

“I am not at all concerned about any cost for application fees and I do not understand why people make it a topic of discussion when a fee increases for them to apply for citizenship in one of the world’s happiest countries, actually,” she said.

Selina was not the only person to mention the cost of various types of residency permit against the citizenship fee.

“(The) initial family reunification application is 8,575 kroner, with renewal costs of 4,075 kroner, so 4,000 kroner for Citizenship seems like a bargain!”, Caz, who lives in Randers said.

READ ALSO: ‘A noticeable change’: What Denmark’s plans to change family reunion rules mean

A British national who is the spouse of a Dane, Caz said she plans on applying for citizenship “when the time comes around”.

“But so far it costs a small fortune to live here,” she said.

“The journey towards a citizenship is becoming more and more expensive, if you also add the cost of the permanent residence (which is required for citizenship),” said Salvador from Chile, a six-year resident of Denmark.

“The value becomes quite high for some households,” he noted, adding that he plans to apply for citizenship in around two years.

Some of the readers who responded to our survey rejected the government’s explanation that the fee raise was related to costs.

“A succession of steep price rises clearly indicates the government wants to reduce the amount of new citizens, instead of welcoming them. This is not about covering costs,” James, a UK national who lives in Gentofte said.

Although he is working towards qualifying for citizenship, James described the cost as a “concern”.

“I recently received my permanent residency in Denmark and do have some eventual plans to apply for the Danish citizenship as soon as I become eligible,” wrote Anuradha, who lives in Farum.

“The cost does seem to be on a higher side, however I see it as a one-time cost and definitely there is no guarantee that I will get the Danish citizenship so it is a calculated risk with no guarantee of getting the citizenship, either,” she said.

“I am sure that there are certain percentage of people who would still be applying irrespective of this cost and it would not really impact as long as they are motivated to apply for the citizenship,” she reflected.