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Denmark: Tougher Requirements for Acquiring Danish Citizenship Through Naturalization

(Oct. 23, 2015) On October 5, 2015, Danish politicians announced an agreement on new, tougher rules for acquiring Danish citizenship through naturalization. (Steen A. Jørgenssen, Regeringen indgår bred aftale om skrappere krav for statsborgerskab, JYLLANDSPOSTEN (Oct. 5, 2015).) The final agreement entered into force on October 15, 2015. (Udlændinge-, Integrations- og Boligministeriet [Ministry of Immigration, Integration and Housing], Oversigt overhovedpunkterne i den nye aftale om dansk indfødsret af 5. oktober 2015 (Oct. 15, 2015), Ministry of Justice website.)

The new agreement both informs and places requirements and limits on the Ministry for Immigration, Integration and Housing, along with other agencies and the police, on matters regarding the process of acquiring citizenship. A new binding Executive Circular Letter replaces the previous Executive Circular Letter that had regulated requirements for Danish citizenship. (Cirkulæreskrivelse om naturalization (CIS nr 10873 af 13/10/2015) [Executive Circular Letter on Naturalization (CIS No. 10873 of October 13, 2015)] (Executive Circular Letter 2015), RETSINFORMATION.DK; Cirkulæreskrivelse om naturalization (CIS nr 9253 af 06/06/2013) [Executive Circular Letter on Naturalization (CIS No. 9253 of June 6, 2013)] (Executive Circular Letter 2013), RETSINFORMATION.DK.)

Danish citizenship is not automatically granted as a result of an administrative process, but instead is acquired by law, i.e., through passage of legislation granting qualifying candidates citizenship, as required by the Danish Constitution. (§ 44 Danmarks Riges Grundlov (Grundloven), LOV nr 169 af 05/06/1953 [Constitution of the Kingdom of Denmark (Constitution), Act No. 169 of June 5 1953 ], RETSINFORMATION.DK.) The legislature enacts a piece of legislation listing the names of residents seeking citizenship twice a year. (Behandlingen af en ansøgning om dansk statsborgerskab, JUSTITSMINISTERIET (last visited Oct. 22, 2105).)

Applicants who meet the state requirements of financial stability, a criminal background check, and residency and who pass the language and culture tests set by the government can lodge an application for Danish citizenship with the local police. (§ 28 Executive Circular Letter 2015.)

Residency

To qualify to apply for citizenship, the applicant must generally have resided in Denmark for nine years. Nordic citizens and refugees have shorter residency requirements. (§ 7 Executive Circular Letter 2015.) These requirements remain have not been altered by the recent change in the rules. (§ 7 Executive Letter 2013.)

Ability to Speak Danish

The new rules require greater knowledge of Danish. Previously, residents only had to pass a language test (called a“Level 2” test) as part of the application process for citizenship. (§ 24 stk 1 Executive Circular Letter 2013.) The new rules require that applicants pass a level 3 language test. (§ 24 stk 1, Executive Circular Letter 2015.) However, applicants who have been self-sufficient for eight-and-a-half years out of the last nine years are still allowed to take the easier, level 2 test. (Id. Retningslinjer for naturalisation [Guidelines for Naturalization] Statement No 2.)

Knowledge of Society and History

Applicants must pass a civics and history test, containing questions on information ranging from the number of members in the Danish Parliament to the names of the most important Danish holidays. (§ 24 para 3 Executive Circular Letter 2015; sample test questions available at Jens Arvid Spærhage Hansen, Kan du bestå statsborgerskabsprøven 2015?, JYLLANDSPOSTEN (Oct. 21, 2015).) The test previously required that the applicant answer 22 out of 30 questions correctly; the new test will include 40 questions of which 32 must be answered correctly. (Hansen, supra.)

Financial and Solvency Requirements

Formerly, a person seeking Danish citizenship had to prove that he or she had been self-sufficient (had not relied on government aid) for at least two years and four months out of the last five years (§ 23 stk 2 Executive Circular Letter 2013.) Under the new rules. this requirement has been increased to four-and-a-half years during the same period. (§ 23 stk 2 Executive Circular Letter 2015.)

Quarantine Time for Criminal Behavior

Applicants must not have committed criminal acts within a quarantine time prior to applying for application. The period of time a person must have been “crime free” has now been increased by 50%. (Addendum 2, Executive Circular Letter 2015. Examples of criminal acts that temporarily bar citizenship include driving under the influence, an act that must not have been committed for more than four-and-a-half years before the application for citizenship is made. (Addendum 2, art. 2 Executive Circular Letter 2015.) Acts against the state (offenses under Chapters 12 and 13 of the Criminal Code) that have resulted in fines bar applicants from applying for citizenship for nine years. (Id. art. 4.) The longest period for which permission to lodge a citizenship application will be delayed applies to individuals who have been sentenced to prison, who are subject to a 30-year ban before they may apply for citizenship. (Id. art. 14.)

Exemptions from Requirements

The language and knowledge of Danish history and society requirements can be waived for persons who are mentally or physically ill, provided that they submit a statement from a specialist attesting to the fact of the disability. (§ 24 stk 4 Executive Circular Letter 2015.)

Children under the age of 12 are not subject to the language requirements, nor are they required to take the Danish history tests. (Id. Addendum 3a.)