Universities complain of difficulty employing foreigners

Despite promises from the government, the number of rules and the cost of employing foreign researchers have increased

Universities wanting to employ foreign researchers are still facing significant immigration barriers, Information newspaper reports.

After the current centre-left government assumed power in 2011, it stressed that attracting and keeping highly skilled foreigners  was a vital pre-requisite for Denmark’s ability to compete internationally.

But despite promises to ease immigration restrictions, the government has actually made more it expensive and more difficult for universities to hire foreigners.

For example, last year’s immigration reform collected the responsibility for processing all applications for working and studying in Denmark in the Danish Agency for Labour Retention and International Recruitment under the Ministry of Employment.

This meant that universities were required to produce more documentation than they previously needed, which slowed down the processing time for applications.

Universities now have to produce a signed contract before a residency permit is granted as well as documentation proving that the employment conditions comply with those set by unions.

But universities point out that there is no need to provide this evidence because employees are automatically covered by collective bargaining agreements because the institutions are state-subsidised.

“The immigration authorities used to understand that as state institutions we did not need to prove that our salaries complied with collective bargaining agreements because it was taken for granted,” Michael Winther from the International Center at Aarhus University told Information.

Foreign researchers are also still forced to pay a 3,165 kroner fee in order to be granted residence permits despite the fact that minister for higher education, Morten Østergaard (Radikale) last year stated that he would get rid of them.

Navigating immigration regulations is so complex that the University of Copenhagen (KU) has had to establish a new department in order to advise foreign workers.

“We have no choice but to play along because the [Danish Agency for Labour Retention and International Recruitment] is our means of employing highly-regarded foreigners,” Morten Sand Henriksen from KU’s International Staff Office told Information. “But it seems bureaucratic to introduce extra rules.”

Vivian Tos Lindgaard, from KU’s international human resources department, contends that the immigration rules send the wrong message.

“Researchers experience that the whole approach is full of mistrust and it can be hard to explain to some of the world’s leading researchers in their field why they are being treated with suspicion,” Lindgaard told Information.

Information reports that Danish universities have attempted to collectively lobby the government to ease the regulations that have been tightened, but were reportedly told they should get used to no longer being “spoiled”.