For members


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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For members


What are the rules on retaining Danish citizenship when born and raised abroad?

Children of a Danish parent, born and raised outside of Denmark are stripped of their citizenship after the age of 22, unless they have lived in Denmark for a certain amount of time. We explain the rules and what they mean.

What are the rules on retaining Danish citizenship when born and raised abroad?

When a child has a Danish parent, they are automatically given Danish citizenship at birth, wherever in the world they are born.

There are some exceptions for people born before July 1st 2014. These are dependent on the legislation at the time, such as which parent is Danish and whether the parents married before the child turned 18. There is more information about that here. 

For example, children born in marriage to a Danish mother and a foreign father between January 1st 1961 and December 31st 1978, did not obtain Danish nationality by birth so their mothers had to register their child for citizenship. If this didn’t happen, it’s possible to apply for Danish nationality by naturalisation according to the “Princess Rule”.

If the child gets automatic citizenship outside of Denmark, they have until the age of 22 of retain it and then they automatically lose it.


How to retain Danish citizenship when born outside of Denmark: The 22-year rule

You retain your citizenship if:

  • Losing it would make you stateless.
  • You have lived in another Nordic country for at least seven years before the age of 22.
  • You can show a strong connection to Denmark by residing in the country for a total of at least one year before reaching the age of 22. This can be in the form of a year’s stay, or short-term visits that add up to a year. For the latter, other circumstances will be taken into consideration, such as a personal connection to Denmark. Living in the country is defined as at least three consecutive months of residence, including having a personal registration (CPR) number and residential address.

This information needs to be documented before the age of 22 in order to keep Danish citizenship. The application can be submitted to a Danish embassy or consulate abroad or directly to the Ministry of Immigration and Integration.

Dispensations before the age of 22

If you have not retained your citizenship by living in Denmark before the age of 22, you can still apply to keep it before you reach this age.

For this, you need to submit this application form, which considers the the number of times and lengths of visits you have had to Denmark before the age of 22, at what age you were when you visited (for example more visits closer to 22 suggests the connection is of your own initiative); your proficiency in the Danish language; and your connection to Denmark, for example through contact with Danish relatives or through Danish associations.

On the application form, you need three Danish residents to confirm your visits to Denmark and your proficiency in the Danish language before you turned 22.

READ ALSO: Do children born in Denmark automatically get Danish citizenship?

After the age of 22

The Ministry of Immigration and Integration states that the dispensations are only for people applying before the age of 22. However they do accept later applications, which are assessed  on an individual basis and based on the person’s relationship to Denmark before the age of 22, not after. The application form is the same as applying before the age of 22.

If you do not fulfil the requirements on the form, such as multiple visits to Denmark, language competency and connection to the country, you will lose your Danish citizenship aged 22.

When should I submit the application?

The assessment is to retain Danish citizenship, not prove it. So the application has to be made between the age of 21 and 22. An application submitted before the age of 21 is considered to be an application for proof of Danish citizenship, which is something different. An application after the age of 22 is less likely to be approved.

How long does the application take?

The processing time is between 13 and 15 months (2023) from the time the application is received at the Ministry of Immigration and Integration. It costs 1,200 kroner.

READ ALSO: How to apply for citizenship in Denmark 

Why is this citizenship legislation in the news?

A case has been brought to the EU Court of Justice concerning the daughter of a Danish mother and an American father who has held, since her birth in the United States, Danish and American citizenship. After reaching the age of 22, she applied to retain Danish nationality, but the national authorities told her that she had lost it when she turned 22.

The applicant started legal action calling for the annulment of the decision. The case is now pending at the High Court of Eastern Denmark (Østre Landsret), which asked the EU Court whether such decision is compatible with EU law.

The EU Court ruled that Denmark is in principle entitled to decide that its nationals born abroad who have never lived on its territory lose Danish nationality at the age of 22. However, that measure must “have due regard to the principle of proportionality when it also entails the loss of European citizenship”.

“EU law precludes the permanent loss of Danish nationality and therefore of European citizenship without the person concerned having been notified or informed of this, or having had the opportunity to request an individual examination of the consequences of that loss,” the EU Court said.

For Danish legislation to be compatible with EU law, the person concerned “must be given the opportunity to lodge, within a reasonable period, an application for the retroactive retention or recovery of the nationality”.

The Danish Court will have to consider the EU verdict in its final ruling.