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Danish citizenship: What rules could cause your application to be denied?

Denmark tightened its citizenship requirements earlier this year, adding a number of conditions to existing rules that can prevent applications meeting requirements.

Danish citizenship: What rules could cause your application to be denied?
Hopefuls for Danish citizenship must be aware of several criteria which could affect their applications. Photo by Palle Knudsen on Unsplash

Applying for citizenship 

Danish citizenship can only be granted to foreign nationals via legal nationalisation: your application must actually be approved by a parliamentary majority. Accepted applications are normally processed in parliament twice yearly, in April and in October.

Citizenship entitles you to a Danish passport and gives you the right to vote in parliamentary elections, as well as providing a permanent basis for residency in the country.

You must, of course, meet a number of closely-defined criteria and requirements in order to be eligible for citizenship by naturalisation. These fall into six broad categories, all of which will be set out in further detail below.

  • Give a declaration of loyalty to Denmark
  • Fulfil prior residency criteria
  • Have no criminal convictions
  • Be free of debt to the public sector and be financially self-sufficient
  • Meet criteria for Danish language skills 
  • Pass a citizenship test and demonstrate knowledge of Danish society

This 2019 article guides you through the application process, but it’s important to keep in mind that the criteria the Danish government sets for being eligible for citizenship are liable to change (and have changed since the article was written – more on that below).

The most common reasons applications may be rejected, including those introduced this year, are detailed underneath.

READ ALSO: Should British-Danish dual citizenship applicants also apply for post-Brexit residency?

New citizenship rules  

In April this year, parliament passed a new agreement on rules for Danish citizenship. The newly-introduced rules can impact any application submitted after April 10th 2020 – around a year before the new rules were voted through.

Some of the new rules – specifically, a criteria that applicants may not have any previous unconditional or unconditional criminal sentences – apply regardless of when the application was submitted.

An applicant for citizenship who has previously received a conditional or unconditional sentence under paragraph 9 of the Danish criminal code can no longer qualify for Danish citizenship.

A number of other previous convictions for crimes covered by other paragraphs, including terrorism, gang crime, sexual offences and crimes against children also effectively ban the offender from citizenship.

However, less serious infractions of the law can also prevent you from applying for citizenship, or delay it.

Fines of more than 3,000 kroner, for example for breaking traffic laws, can result in a suspension period during which you are barred from being granted citizenship. The suspension period is four and a half years. The suspension period also applies for breaching immigration laws, welfare fraud or negative social control.

New rules will require citizenship applicants to have been in full time work or self-employment for three and a half of the last four years, an increase on earlier demands. This rule only applies to applications submitted after April 20th 2021.

You can read more about employment requirements on this section of the immigration ministry website. Some exemptions apply, including ones related to age and ability to work for those with disabilities.

Existing rules

The rules pre-dating the 2021 updates can be summarised as follows.

At the time of your application, you must already have a permit for permanent residency in Denmark and be registered as living in the country, and have lived in Denmark for a specified number of years.

Normally, you must have lived in Denmark for nine consecutive years (without living elsewhere for more than three months) in order to qualify for citizenship. This period is reduced in some cases: for refugees it becomes it eight years, citizens of Nordic countries need a two-year stay and people married to Danes qualify after 6-8 years, depending on the length of the marriage.

In general, you must have passed the national Prøve i Dansk 3 language test, the final exam in the national Danish language school system. As such, you will be comfortable with speaking, reading and writing in Danish at the time you apply for citizenship.

You must also have passed the Danish citizenship test.

Public debt and self-sufficiency

You will also be required to prove that you provide for yourself. That means, for example, documenting that you have not received state social welfare support such as the basic unemployment support, kontanthjælp, or the welfare benefits provided to those granted refugee statues (integrationsydelsen), within the last two years.

Furthermore, you may not have received benefits of this type for more than a total period of four months within the last five years.

Other types of state benefit, such as the state student grant (statens uddannelsesstøtte, SU) and state pensions do not exclude you from qualifying for citizenship.

Unemployment insurance, parental leave and sick leave payouts (dagpenge) received over a total period of over four months will be added to the two years in which you must document that you were not supported by the state. Therefore, these types of benefit (which are partially self-funded) do not preclude you from applying for citizenship, and you can be in receipt of them at the time you apply.

Overdue repayments to the state, in the form of repayable social welfare payments, child support, excess housing support (boligstøtte), payment for daycare, municipal loans for paying deposits on rental housing, and unpaid taxes and fees can all result in rejection of a citizenship application.

The types of public debt which can exclude citizenship include:

  • Welfare benefits for which the recipient is obliged to reimburse the state
  • Child support payments paid in advance by the state
  • Payment for municipal childcare
  • Student loans (SU-lån) for which the repayment date has passed
  • Repayment of housing support (boligstøtte)
  • Repayment of a loan for paying the deposit on rental housing, unless a repayment agreement is in place and being complied with by the applicant
  • Traffic fines of 3,000 kroner or more
  • Fines payable to the police
  • Overdue taxes

You can read more about public debt on this section of the immigration ministry website.

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Citizenship test in Denmark: The new ‘Danish values’ questions faced by applicants

Denmark’s citizenship test has been expanded from 40 to 45 questions with a new set of questions aimed at assessing the ‘Danish values’ of would-be new citizens.

Denmark's flag Dannebrog flying in Copenhagen. The country's citizenship test has been expanded to include questions about national values.
Denmark's flag Dannebrog flying in Copenhagen. The country's citizenship test has been expanded to include questions about national values. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix

According to the government, which introduced the new questions with the backing of parliament earlier this year, the additional questions do not make the citizenship test harder.

Candidates taking the Danish citizenship test on Wednesday become the first to take the exam in its new format.


Since 2015, the Danish citizenship test (indfødsretsprøven), held twice annually, has consisted of 40 multiple choice questions on Danish culture, history and society. The pass mark on the test is 32/40.

With the extra questions on Danish values now added to the test, the pass mark becomes 36/45. Additionally, at least 4 of the 5 Danish values questions must be answered correctly.

A few – but not many – exemptions apply meaning some people do not have to take the citizenship test. This includes children under 12 or people from Norway or Sweden, or people from the Danish minority in German region Schleswig-Holstein.

But this means adults who have lived their entire lives in Denmark, but are not Danish citizens because their parents aren’t Danish, are required to take the test and prove they have adopted Danish values if they want to become citizens and thereby have the right to vote in elections and the other rights conferred by citizenship.

The Danish values questions can revolve around topics including free speech, gender equality and the relationship between law and religion.

The test – which has a maximum time of 45 minutes – will be taken by 3,438 persons on Thursday, according to official figures. The time limit has not been increased from earlier tests, despite the extra questions.

The new test was voted through parliament by the Social Democratic government in April this year with the support of conservative parties, rather than its usual allies on the left wing.

The spokesperson for citizenship with the left-wing party Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten), Peder Hvelplund, called the new questions “odd” in comments given to broadcaster DR.

“I can easily find Danes who also are members of parliament whom I absolutely do not share values with. That makes neither their nor my values something that isn’t Danish. They’re just different,” Hvelplund told DR.

The government’s citizenship spokesperson Lars Aslan Rasmussen rejected the argument that the Danish values in the test are subjective.

Rasmussen said the test should fulfil the function of showing the applicant understands the society of which they would like to be a part.

“I actually think it’s very simple. Should girls be allowed to do the same things as boys, does Denmark have the death sentence? These are very simple questions which I think you should be able to answer if you live in Denmark,” he told DR.

He also noted that the test should not be passable by “answering questions you’ve revised from a booklet”.

The Danish citizenship test is held twice yearly, normally at the end of June and the end of November. The November 2021 tests are the first with the new questions.

People who passed the old version of the test will not be required to retake it in order to apply for citizenship.