Government proposes end to ‘points system’

Disagreement over strictest family reunification rules set to split opposition

When the government presents a bill to parliament today proposing to scrap the controversial ‘points system’ for family reunification, it could get the support of half the opposition as well.

“The points system doesn’t work optimally. There are things that need to be adjusted, and we want to help those adjustments happen,” the opposition Konservative (K) party’s immigration spokesperson, Mike Legarth, told Politiken newspaper.

Just last summer K helped their former coalition partners, Venstre (V), and Dansk Folkeparti (DF), implement the current points system for family reunification, which requires non-EU spouses of legal Danish residents and citizens to earn the right to stay in Denmark by amassing ‘points’ for higher education, full-time work, Danish language skills, community service, and other criteria.

The criteria are so strict – and the minimum number of points needed to qualify for residency is so difficult to achieve – that a number of highly-educated, top-earning spouses have been unable to make the cut. In September, it was reported that the number of resident permit approvals had fallen by 70 percent due to the points system.

That result has led K, another opposition party, Liberal Alliance (LA), and many business organisations to protest the same strict rules that the left-of-centre parties Radikale (R) and Enhedslisten (EL) have condemned on civil rights grounds.

“At a time when the business community needs competent workers from outside, a person can be hired by a Danish company at a high salary and still not be able to get residency for their spouse if the spouse doesn’t also have a full-time job,” K immigration spokesperson Mike Legarth explained to Politiken.

LA political spokesperson Simon Emil Ammitzbøll said his party was also ready to negotiate with the left-of-centre government on the immigration rules, “if we think it will pull Denmark in a more liberal direction”.

LA does not, however, support the plan to reduce the cash ‘security deposit’ required for non-EU spouses from 100,000 to 50,000 kroner, as the government is proposing. Ammitzbøll told Politiken that foreigners ought to be able to prove they can support themselves without help from the welfare system by putting 100,000 kroner in escrow.

According to V immigration spokesperson Inger Støjberg, if the points system is scrapped – and it appears there is a majority behind that decision now – Denmark “is going back to the situation we had earlier, where people who didn’t contribute to Danish society were coming to Denmark.”

Støjberg added that the proposal to end the points system bore the signature of R, as opposed to the other governing partners, Socialdemokraterne (S) and Socialistisk Folkeparti (SF).

“There’s no doubt that this here is a softer immigration policy. Nor is there any doubt that it’s clearly the Radikale who have prevailed once again in this government,” Støjberg told Politiken.

The justice minister Morten Bødskov (S) told Ritzau that the government intended to “stick to a robust and fair immigration policy” based on the 24-year-rule [the rule that the Danish spouse and the non-EU spouse both must be at least 24-years-old to qualify for residency in Denmark] and tilknyttning, the requirement that the family proves that it has a stronger connection to Denmark than another country.

But the points system, Bødskov said, had turned out to be “bureaucratic” and “an obstacle to normal, well-functioning families being able to live together”.

Besides, the justice minister added, “Danish businesses have also complained about it”.

If the government’s proposal is passed in parliament, the points system for family reunification could expire in mid-February. Another immigration ‘points systemÂ’ – in which an immigrant residing in Denmark on a temporary permit must amass 100 points through work, language, and volunteer requirements, in order to earn a permanent residence permit (opholdstilladelse) – would not be affected by todayÂ’s proposal. However, the government has indicated that it will take up changes to permanent residence permits later this spring.