Curtain falls on citizenship test

Proponents of new citizenship exam say it’s about time that the test is changed to a more modern version. Detractors lament the move

When over 2,500 people sit down to take the citizenship test today, it will be the last time that the exam, known as ‘Indfødtsretsprøven’, will be used in its current form. The government is due to present a proposal in January that would create a more modern version of the citizenship test.

The new test, to be named ‘Statsborgerskabsprøven’, is still being developed, but will reportedly focus on aspects of daily life and politics.

In addition, the Danish language proficiency demands will also be eased as part of the government's ambition to relax immigration laws.

“We’re doing away with the current citizenship test. The new test will focus more on societal issues than the old test did,” Lennart Damsbo-Andersen, a spokesperson for Socialdemokraterne (S), told Berlingske newspaper. “The test taker won’t have to know all about Denmark’s history, the royal lineage or all the little towns in Funen, because all that is being removed.”

And although immigration lawyer Aage Kramp said he felt the new test should have been introduced earlier, he hailed the change.

“It’s definitely a move in the right direction. Whether the first Holstein War began in 1848 or 1849 doesn’t reflect someone’s ability to be a Danish citizen,” Kramp told The Copenhagen Post. “It’s only reasonable that the new citizenship test reflect a modern view to becoming a Danish citizen.”

The test has been a part of the naturalisation process for foreigners since 2005, when the former Venstre-Konservative government, together with its key ally, the right-wing Danish People's Party, managed to push through a law requiring that applicants for citizenship should be tested on their knowledge of Danish society and history.

In 2008 the test was made even more difficult when applicants were given less time to answer the questions and more correct answers were required to pass.

The opposition at the time argued that the test was so difficult that many ethnically Danish citizens couldn’t even pass it. A survey by weekly publication A4 in 2010 showed that every fifth Dane would fail the citizenship test if they had to take it.

Jan E Jørgensen (Venstre) indicated that he would wait to hear the government’s proposal on the new test before assessing the move, but Christian Langballe (Dansk Folkeparti) called it a “sad day”.

“It’s a shame and I simply cannot believe that they would want to scrap the citizenship test. We Danes are a product of our own history, and it’s essential that people who come here know that history,” Langballe told Berlingske. “Dansk Folkeparti will do everything it can to reinstate the test in its current form.”

To obtain citizenship in Denmark, applicants must have permanent residence, live in Denmark, have no debt, be self-sufficient and speak Danish. The primary difference between permanent residence and citizenship is that citizens have the right to vote.

Should parliament approve the new test, it would go into effect in June of 2013.

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