An open letter to Danish Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye; It will be a dictatorial directive to implement new citizenship laws on those who have already applied a year ago

Minister of Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye (S) expects that fewer people will get citizenship after a new agreement tightens access to Danish citizenship. Photo: Emil Helms / Ritzau Scanpix

Dear Mattias Tesfaye,

Every human being has the right to a fair and free chance to survive and grow. These rights are not only guaranteed in the Danish constitution but recognised by UN Human Rights Conventions and EU directives. Over the last few years various Danish governments has been breaching the equal opportunity rights of immigrants thus violating the fundamentals of Danish values and its constitution.

The constant implementation of laws retroactively and asking immigrants to meet the requirements in an earlier time in the past makes it more like a dictatorial directives rather any democratic norm. Unfortunately your signed circular CIS nr 9298 af 06/05/2021 dated 6th May 2021 regarding new Danish citizenship rules are also violating the basics of UN human rights conventions, EU directives and the Danish democratic norms. It proposes to implement the new Danish citizenship law on all those who have applied after 10 April 2020 which is 13 months prior to the date of agreement over on the law.

Read more: Circular letter on Danish Naturalisation

Though, I consider the new proposed rules illogical, discriminatory and unfair but its implementation on the already submitted applications make it unjustified and probably illegal. It violates the basic right of a person to have a fair chance to meet the set requirements. I recommend following points to be reconsidered in the new proposed and circulated rules and urge to change its implementation plan.

  • Residency Requirement:

I believe that the residency requirement for citizenship applicants is unjustified. The current residency requirement for citizenship is already one of the highest in Europe i.e. 9 years but this new residency requirement will make it over 11 years. It is because the new residency requirements ask applicants to hold Permanent residency for at least 2 years before the citizenship application is processed and it takes almost 9 years to obtain permanent residency in Denmark. This requirement will also make hurdles for young people who are born and raised here as they will also need to wait for 2 years after getting Permanent residency when they turn 18.

  • Work Requirement:

Majority of the immigrants are working full time but many of them also leave jobs for a while to join various professional courses and/or university degrees to strengthen their skills and knowledge especially after getting Permanent Residency. During this period they either take dagepenge (A-kasse, an allowance through a paid Union), supplementary dagepenge (working part time while taking part of the dagepenge A-kasse) or use their savings for a time being for their brighter future. The work requirement will force many to remain stagnant at one position without any training and development as they will need to show full time work for citizenship application. It will also in near future force many to stop their dagepenge (A-kasse) subscriptions as it will be of no use if one cannot avail for at least first 10 years of their stay in Denmark. It will surely have adverse impact on the economy of many employment Union firms. This requirement will also force many to leave their university education or never start one rather keep working unskilled jobs or remain in the same position which will ultimately impact Danish labor market.

i). COVID-19: Imposing Work requirement at a time when thousands of people have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 will make it impossible for many to fulfil this requirement. During 2020 many people lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 economic lockdown so requiring immigrants to show full time work for last 3 and half years during this pandemic will be unfair. 

  • Implementation of the rules:

The shocking part of these new rules is the implementation date. You have announced that these new rules will be applied retroactively from April 10, 2020. It is almost 13 months prior to the agreement between the parties on new citizenship rules. It might make the new rules illegal as the court review might declare it illegal to apply rules on those who have already submitted their application a year ago after fulfilling all the requirements of the time.

Read more: OPINION: Denmark’s new citizenship requirements are discriminatory and racist


Considering Denmark a democratic country, I would like to recommend the following more logical and fair alternatives for the above mentioned concerns.

  1. I urge that residency requirements of holding Permanent residency for 2 years before the process of citizenship application is unnecessary. I would recommend to drop this requirement as it only contribute to further hurdles in the integration of immigrants as they will be unnecessarily delayed from getting Danish citizenship which give them the right to vote and a sense of identity in the Danish society.
  2. I would urge the following recommendations for the work requirement clause of the new circulated rules.
    1. Firstly, I recommend to abolish the work requirement for citizenship applications. It is because an applicant of Danish citizenship has already shown full time work for up to 4 years while getting permanent residency. Thus requiring 3 and half years full time work in last 4 years for citizenship application is unnecessary and contribute to an unskilled labor force. It will only make the probable new Danes stagnant at the same position as they will have to continue working in the same job without training and development which in many cases is only possible to either start studying full time or go for various courses which takes years.
    2. One of the reasons to abolish the work requirement is COVID-19. Thousands of people lost their jobs during this pandemic which has made it impossible to show 3 and half years full time work in last 4 years. Thus it will take years before many could meet this requirement.
    3. In continuation to 2.a and 2.b, I would recommend to consider dagepenge (A-kasse) as an applicable source of regular full time work. It is because dagepenge itself require a person to fulfil certain requirement which include full time work in last 1 year. This will help the probable new Dane to not only continue their development by taking various courses and university degrees but it will also help various employment Union firms to have higher subscriptions. It will also add a more skilled labor force into Danish labor market.
  3. I believe that the implantation plan described in the 6th May 2021 ministry circular will make the new rules illegal as they are prescribed to be applied retroactively from 10th April, 2020. I believe that;
    1. If the government would like to give a fair chance to each applicant so it will apply the new rules 3 years from now i.e. from 10th May 2024. This will allow everyone to fulfil the requirements mentioned in the circular.
    2. If the government would like to be unfair but still in one way justifiable so it will apply the new rules from either 10th May 2021 or from 20th April 2021 on which date the agreement was signed between the parties.
    3. I believe if the government apply the new rules from 10th April 2020 which the circular has also mentioned, it might make it illegal as it probably violates various human rights laws including the Danish constitution.

I believe that a more suitable way of implementation of new rules would be to apply from the date of signing the agreement which is 20th April, 2021. It will mean that all those who have already applied, their applications will be processed on the basis the old rules. This will also mean that ministry will not be responsible to pay back probably over a million Danish Krone as a return fee. It is because each applicant who has applied from 10th April 2020 has paid a fee of 3800 DKK and their are thousands who will be effected by these new set of rules and thus ministry will be responsible to pay back their fees.

I would be pleased if you consider these recommendations and make changes to the new rules accordingly. I am open to any further discussion or meeting that be virtual or face to face regarding the new rules and my recommendations.

I will be eager to read your response to my letter.

Best Regards 

Naqeeb Khan

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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