According to the Ministry of Higher Education and Science Denmark, 80% of the foreign graduates from Danish universities leave Denmark after two years of their graduation. It is probably because of the uncertainty around settling down in Denmark. One of the recent studies of Aarhus University Professor found that immigration rules in Denmark are changed after every 3 months . Frequent changes and constantly tightening the requirements for permanent residency create a basic sense of uncertainty and lack of predictability. It not only makes it difficult to live a normal life but people who think they are on the right track towards getting permanent residency find that they face yet another new set of requirements.
In the pre-2016 scenario, education was counted as full time work. International students, reunified spouses of Danes and their children were eligible to apply for Permanent Residency by showing that either they have been working or studying in Denmark. But the laws were changed in 2016. Education was thereafter, no more counted as full time work. Thus International students, reunified spouses and their children would either leave the country or stop studying and have to take unskilled jobs to fulfil employment requirement before they can apply for permanent residency.
Here is how immigration laws have been effecting these groups and adversely effecting Denmark and the integration of these new Danes.
The elimination of education has directly affected international students. An international student roughly pays a fee of 80,000 per year to a Danish University. Apart from that, a student works up to 80 hours a month and pay taxes. Chrissy Patton, an American student in Denmark who graduated from Aalborg University in January 2020, is now on an establishment card. Although I’ve graduated with my Master’s degree from a Danish university, have lived here for the last five years, passed the Danish language exam PD3 and have a full time job, I still won’t qualify for permanent residency anytime soon as I have to work full time for a minimum of 3.5 years before I can be eligible to even apply, says Chrissy Patton.
I will likely have to rely on the pay limit scheme in order to meet the 3.5 year requirement, but that means I should have a permanent job contract with a salary of more than 436.000 DKK a year (and this amount increases every year) which is extremely difficult for a new graduate, adds Chrissy Patton. International students in such cases decide to leave Denmark despite they are well integrated, highly qualified, have full time job just because they could not extend their stay by not showing few more thousands krones of income a year. If education is counted as full time work they could not only stay in Denmark but also get permanent residency and focus on their career which ultimately contribute to the Danish society and economy.
Thousands of Danes are married to individuals from out side of EU. They join their spouses after fulfilling number of requirements of the strict and controversial family reunification laws. Thereafter, these spouses have to fulfil individually all the requirements to get permanent residency. They have to either work full time for 3,5 continuous years after graduation which means a wait of 8 years after coming to the country (that also if they get full time job and work without any break during these years) or leave studying and start unskilled odd job. When they leave education it not only stop their personal growth but also Denmark ends up with unskilled labour force. Another International student of Architectural Technology, graduate of KEA Denmark, Katie Larsen came to Denmark in 2015 from the States. She is now married to a Dane. She has represented Denmark at Dutch Design Week 2019, with a project rooted in Danish history and culture, at a conference for the world’s best design graduates. She could not apply for permanent residency as education is not counted as full time work so she applied for family reunification.
Katie lost her job after the corona crisis and thereafter, have to leave Denmark with her Dane husband to study in The Netherlands and come back after few years under EU laws. I was two months away from completing my mandatory integration contract with Slagelse Kommune, a contract that required me to work for at least a year to prove my “self-sufficiency”. But then I lost my job due to corona crisis and my any hope of applying for permanent residence in the next 4 years has also been ruined says Katie. In case education was counted as full time work just like before 2016, I would have gotten permanent residency by now. I decided to leave Denmark to take a masters degree in the Netherlands and come back under EU laws. This would take almost the exact same amount of years as if you stay in Denmark to get a masters degree. The big difference is if you stay in Denmark, and lose your job for more than 6 months, you start over again and have to wait another 4 years. So it punishes you to stay in Denmark even if you are contributing says Katie.
Reunified Young Children
The children of reunified international workers is another group of people who suffer because of the strict permanent residency laws. When a child of foreign worker join their family at the age of lets say 14 and their parents could not get permanent residency while they are under 18, then these youngsters have to fulfil all the permanent residency requirements by their own. They either have to leave their education to get permanent residency in next 4 years or wait for another 8 to 10 years before they can get permanent residency. Their life is totally uncertain before they have gotten permanent residency.
Maya Young, who came to Denmark when she was 14 under her father work visa. She is now 17 and studying at a folkeskole in Hundested. Her father will still not be eligible to apply for permanent residency permit by next year and she will turn 18. This means that after she turns 18, she will have to fulfil all the permanent residency requirements by her own.
Maya says, If education counts as full time work so I can apply for my permanent residency permit next year as I have been studying ever since I came to Denmark almost 3 years ago. This will bring calm in my life and I will be able to focus on my studies and career. Now she has to either leave education which she does not want or wait for another 8 to 10 years before she can complete her education and work full time for 3,5 continuous years to be eligible to apply for permanent residency. During these years her future in Denmark will totally be uncertain which will effect her studies and career.
The current bill at the Danish parliament argue to include education as full time work. The bill is presented by Radikale Venstre party MPs and have support from Enhedslisten, Socialist Folkeparty SP, Alternativet and Frie Grønne.
Danish politicians must consider these young highly qualified individuals lives before voting on this bill. Education if counted as full time work will only benefit Danish society and economy.
Naqeeb Khan (left) and D. Valentino (right) with Danish MP Andreas Steenberg (Radikale Venstre) at the Danish Parliament after a meeting regarding education to be counted again as full time work.
Written by: Naqeeb Khan