Why do we make things so difficult for ourselves? On the one hand we encourage highly skilled, experienced professionals to come to Denmark, and then we frustrate them by requiring that these very same professionals go back to driving school. Essentially, our message is: Welcome to Denmark, when are you going home?
This is both ridiculous and completely unacceptable. Even more disturbing is the fact that this requirement was implemented close to a decade ago, yet no one seems capable of or interested in fixing the problem!
When I moved to Denmark more than 25 years ago, I could easily exchange my California driving licence for a Danish licence. Like most Americans, I already had extensive driving experience at a young age, so it was only natural that I was not required to retake tests in order to continue to drive in Denmark.
This is unfortunately no longer the case. Today we require all foreigners, including experts, researchers and executives from the US, Canada, Australia and several other countries to pass both a practical test and a mildly peculiar theoretical test – regardless if they have driven a car for 25 years, or two. This has nothing to do with their experience or ability to drive, only the rules of driving tests in their home country! This seriously damages Denmark's reputation as an international business destination.
So, while Denmark is working hard to attract highly skilled people, the Ministry of Justice makes it extra difficult for the same people to get a Danish driving licence – without any credible evidence that this group poses a traffic risk. Ironically, these very same people can drive in Denmark – if they are ‘just’ tourists.
Although the EU has harmonised the requirements for obtaining a driving license, it has not prevented other EU countries from addressing the problem. For example, Finland and Belgium exchange driving licences for virtually every country, France has reciprocal agreements with more than 100 countries and the Netherlands has a special exemption for the expat group Denmark aims to attract.
This goes to show that there are plenty of opportunities to remove one of the most annoying burdens of moving to Denmark. However, it requires first and foremost that there is a political will to address the problem constructively – as opposed to simply dismissing the issue by claiming “road safety”.
We encourage the minister of justice to take swift action to ease the process for obtaining a Danish driving licence for the people we’re actually trying so hard to attract. And we stand ready to assist with ideas on how to solve this problem, without compromising road safety.
The author is the executive director of AmCham Denmark