With the right-wing Dansk Folkeparti (DF) astutely leveraging its status as governmental support party over the past couple of years, Denmark's immigration rules were decisively stiffened to a point where immigration from outside the EU became incredibly difficult.
But the current government took office with a pledge to ease up on the strict regulations and are now making an attempt to honour those promises. New immigration laws are scheduled to be implemented on May 15 for family reunification cases and on June 1 for cases involving permanent residence.
Some of the more significant changes scheduled to come into effect are as follows:
- The point system used in family reunification cases will be removed. The point system, which was ratified in 2011, has been a massive hindrance to family reunification in Denmark.
- The immigration test 'invandringsprøven' will be removed. Anyone who currently wishes to immigrate under the umbrella of family reunification must take this test.
- The economic safety net will be reduced from 100,000 kroner to 50,000 kroner. This is the amount the individual has to deposit to the council as a bank guarantee thereby illustrating that they will not be seeking social benefits. Additionally, the 50,000 will be structured in a way that it can be significantly reduced with the passing of Danish language tests.
- The Danish test level needed to be passed will be lowered from Danish Test 2 (Prøve i Dansk 2) to Danish Test 1 (Prøve i Dansk 1) for permanent residence applicants.
- To achieve permanent residence, applicants must have worked three out of the last five years instead of two years and six months out of the last three years, as the rules currently stand. The new regulations will also consider most educations to be the equivalent of full-time work. This law will help keeping more foreign students and professionals in Denmark. Additionally, the system in which applicants must amass 100 points through work, language and volunteer requirements will be removed.
- As of now, applicants for citizenship must show that they have been self-supporting for four and a half out of the last five years. That will be changed to two and a half out of the last five years. Additionally, the Danish Test 3 (Prøve i Dansk 3) will be lowered to Danish Test 2 (Prøve i Dansk 2) and the difficult citizenship test, which even native Danes have trouble passing, will also be scrapped.
- The steep 8,000 kroner per person fee currently required just to apply to the family reunification scheme will be eliminated.
The minister of justice, Morten Bødskov, said that he is elated that the new government has decided to loosen some of the stifling laws that were passed in 2010 and 2011 under the guidance of the former Venstre-Konservative government and DF.
“We will be getting a new immigration policy that will better reflect the political sentiment,” Bødskov told DR news. “We will still have the 24-year rule [which prohibits family reunification if one of the individuals is under the age of 24] and affiliation requirement [which states that applicants need a stronger connection to Denmark than another country], but in the future the immigration laws will be used more to promote integration in Denmark.”
Social advisor Mette Blauenfeldt, who works in the integration department at the refugee-aiding Dansk Flygtningehjælp, is also pleased that the immigration laws are set to become more lenient.
“I think it looks really good. The new tone indicates that refugees and immigrants should be treated with respect,” Blauenfeldt told the social advisors' union Dansk Socialrådgiversforening. “The modifications support the new tone. They allow the immigrants to adapt to Denmark quicker because the demands to obtain permanent residence will be reduced.”
While the new immigration laws will move Denmark away from the stricter laws incorporated in 2010 and 2011, immigration lawyer Åge Kramp insists that although things are going in the right direction, the shift is inadequate and the Danish immigration policy will still be far too stringent.
“It’s a step in the right direction for sure, but the new law fails to deal with several aspects that continue to stigmatise the immigration process here in Denmark,” Kramp told The Copenhagen Post. “I am particularly disappointed that they have chosen to keep the three year penalty associated with receiving social help and thereby continue to use discriminating laws that simply are not conducive to immigration or integration.”
Kramp continues to battle for the rights of immigrants in Denmark and in January successfully campaigned for a 7-year-old Thai girl to stay in the country with her family after the authorities had designated her for expulsion.
These sentiments were echoed by immigration reform advocacy group Ægteskab Uden Grænser (Marriage Without Borders), in a recent response to the proposed law.
“Justice Minister Morten Bødskov has conveyed that the law will better represent Danish politics, and that may be true, but in fact it is the Danish political forum that needs to shift,” they wrote. “If Danish immigration policy is to be normalised to the standards befitting a Western nation, then all the debilitating issues must be resolved. Unfortunately the new law will not do that.”
It is important to mention that the new rules will not be retroactive. To be considered within the sphere of the new law, one must wait until they are ratified before starting an application. The exception to this could be if a case is still pending as the law transition takes place. Kramp said that those who see their cases denied based on old criteria may be able to re-apply under the new rules.
Even with the ratification of the new laws in May and June, Denmark will continue to have some of the most harsh immigration laws in Europe.