Denmark has now for years been one of the most strict countries for highly skilled professionals and immigrants due to its ever changing and tough immigration policies. According to a 2017 Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science assessment, 80 percent of foreign graduates from Danish universities leave Denmark within two years of their graduation. There are some who stay and challenge the system. They include spouses of Danes, green card holders and researchers. Despite meeting all requirements they face the ever changing rules. The recent study by a law professor at Aarhus University found that Denmark’s immigration laws have changed 68 times in last 15 years. This translates to a change in immigration laws every three months. These changes are then applied retroactively which means that applicants are told about the change in the rules after they submit their application .
Ahmed Nawaz (fictitious name) has a similar story. Nawaz is a software engineer. He came to Sweden in 2007 where he completed his Master degree in Software engineering in 2009. Those were the beginning years when Denmark had announced green card scheme. He easily got his Danish green card in 2010 and came to Denmark in 2011. When I came to Denmark, I had a plan says Ahmed. I planned to first make some savings and start a family life here in Denmark and invite my spouse and kids. At the same I also planned to focus on learning Danish language. Everything was going smoothly until immigrations laws start changing constantly. I got trapped in these laws changes and their retroactive implementation, says Nawaz. If I got rejected this time for my citizenship application it will be my third time getting rejection letter due to changes in rules with retroactive effects.
The June 2015 Danish general elections resulted in a overwhelming victory for far right parties and a large number of seats were won by right wing Danish People Party (Danske Folkeparti DF) for the first time in history. This promptly turn into tightening of immigration rules as DF came with one and only agenda to tighten the immigration laws. Little did Nawaz knew that these general elections and the far right victory will make his life miserable in the coming years.
Rejection of Permanent Residency application in 2015
After living 5 years in Denmark and meeting all requirements, I applied for permanent residency on December 15, 2015 and paid a fee of DKK 5400 says Nawaz. I was focused on my job and family life. I thought I will receive permanent residency permit in few months after which I will not be worried about visa extension and kicking out of Denmark after losing job. But the troubles were about to start says Nawaz.
At the end of January, 2016 bill L87 was passed from the parliament which tighten the permanent residency rules. These rules made it compulsory for applicants to have lived for 6 years before they can be eligible to apply for permanent residency. It was 5 year of stay before this bill was passed. Though the bill was passed on January 26, 2016 but it was retroactively applied on all applications submitted after 10th of December 2015, the date when the bill was presented in the parliament for the first time. This covered Nawaz application and after few weeks he received a rejection letter from immigration office stating that his stay in Denmark has not been 6 years therefore, his permanent residency application is rejected. I felt betrayed as my application was not only turned down due to retroactive enforcement of rules but also I did not get back my DKK 5400 which I paid for my application, Nawaz says. I continued my life and thought to apply in one year for permanent residency.
Residency requirement raised to 8 years in 2017
In March 2017, once again a new bill L154 was presented to the parliament to tighten the permanent residency requirements. These new rules raised the residency requirements from 6 years to 8 years. When I was about to apply for permanent residency again in March 2017, I was again told that now the residency requirement has raised to 8 years so I have to wait for another 2 years before I can be eligible to apply. This was another shock for me says Nawaz. As my kids were going to schools and they felt integrated in Denmark so I again committed myself to continue my life and apply for permanent residency in 2 years for the sake of a better and certain future of my kids.
Rejection of Permanent Residency application in 2018
The residency requirement for permanent residency are counted from the time of ones CPR registration in Denmark or from the time of ones first visa application submission date in case one has submitted application in side Denmark. As Nawaz submitted his first green card application in Denmark in October 2010 so his residency years should have been counted from then. But he got rejection of his 2nd Permanent residency application in early 2019. The reason immigration office has stated is that he had stayed longer out side of Denmark in the beginning which has reduced his number of years of stay in Denmark. This time again he paid a fee of over DKK 6000 but did not get a refund after rejection.
Permanent Residency in 2019
After getting his second rejection letter for his permanent residency application, he then again applied in 2019 and got his permanent residency in October 2019 after 8 and half years of stay in Denmark. Nawaz says, I finally made it to permanent residency despite a long process and number of rejections due to changing rules and their retroactive implementation.
Citizenship Application in 2020
In June 2020, Ahmed submitted his Danish citizenship application after meeting every requirement and residing in Denmark for over 9 years. He lost his job due to corona lockdown in March 2020. Due to extended corona lockdown he could not find a job so he started a web development course at Next Copenhagen to enhance his knowledge and increase his career opportunities. He is still few months into completing the course and he is hopeful to start a new job soon.
New citizenship rules and their retroactive implementation.
When the Danish Social Democrats took over the office in 2019, it was thought, it might be the beginning of a normal life but it started to get even worse. On April 20, 2021, Minister of Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye along with Venstre, Liberal Alliance and Conservative party spokespersons through a press conference, announced new and tighten citizenship laws. Human Rights organisations and experts called them unreasonable, discriminatory and racists. Among other new requirements, three and half years full time work in last four years is one. The worse part is again the retroactive implementation of these new rules on all applications submitted after 10th April, 2020.
Probable rejection of Citizenship application in 2021
The new citizenship rules include employment requirement. It is due to this requirement and its retroactive implementation that Nawaz thinks he will get another rejection letter from Danish immigration. I am devastated to hear about these new rules and their retroactive implementations, says Nawaz. It is like running on a treadmill which never ends anywhere. I am still studying web development course after which I will probably get a job and then I have to work 3 and half years to be eligible to apply for citizenship. This means that I will probably get Danish citizenship in 2026 instead of 2022 that also if I did not get sick or do not lose my job again or rules are not changed again says Nawaz.
Nawaz is living with his wife and two children at the outskirt of Copenhagen. His kids are now going to school. Elder is in 8th standard while the younger is in 6th. Nawaz says, I am not only worried about my future in Denmark but my kids. Though they are well integrated but I am afraid, what has been happening to me over the last one decade might happen to my children one day. This makes me feel scare about my children’s future.
Nawaz along hundreds of others who are in similar situation after the new citizenship rules are announced, believe that a fair and moral way of implementing these rules especially the employment requirement would be to apply the new rules 3 years from now i.e. from 10th May 2024 rather applying retroactively from 10th April, 2020. This will allow everyone to fulfil the requirements mentioned in the ministry circular. It will save Nawaz from getting his 3rd rejection letter from Danish immigration due to changes in rules and their retroactive implementation despite meeting all requirements when submitting application.
- Naqeeb Khan is a research graduate of the University of Glasgow, Scotland and resides in Denmark. He is president of Green Human Resources and an executive member with the Danish Green Card Association (DGCA). He can be contacted via email.
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