A foreigner’s perspective: Dual citizenship in Denmark

A foreigner’s perspective: Dual citizenship in Denmark

In June of this year, a majority of parties in the Danish parliament (Folketinget) entered in an agreement that will allow dual citizenship in Denmark. The agreement is being turned into a law proposal this fall, and the law will come into effect in the summer of 2015. This means that foreigners no longer have to give up their own country’s citizenship if they want to become Danish, and that Danes living abroad who had given up their citizenship to acquire another one will be able to reclaim it.

The agreement was based on a report created by a task force that investigated how dual citizenship could be implemented in Danish law. The report has its starting point in the government’s declaration (regeringsgrundlaget) from 2011, which states that “Denmark is a modern society in an international world. Therefore, it shall be possible to have dual citizenship.” The report then goes on to investigate current laws, arguments for and against dual citizenship, and recommendations for how it could be implemented in Denmark. If you’re interested and fluent in Danish, you can read the full report here.

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As is to be expected, the agreement was preceeded by a huge debate among politicians and in the media, with arguments for and against dual citizenship presented by both sides of the discussion. I just thought I’d give my point of view as well, as a foreigner living in Denmark.

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The only two parties that did not enter the agreement were Dansk Folkeparti (as to be expected) and Konservative, which came as a surprise to some. The main arguments brought forward against dual citizenship were that it would “devalue” Danish citizenship if it wasn’t exclusive any longer. Some politicians and editorials also warned not to “just let anyone in”, completely ignoring the fact that the requirements to acquire Danish citizenship would not be affected by this new law and, in fact, remain completely unchanged. Dansk Folkeparti wrote in a press release that dual citizenship would “hollow out” the value of being a Danish citizen, and that citizenship is very much about declaring your loyalty to a single country. They acknowledge that Danes living abroad may feel Danish, but ultimately, every individual must decide where their loyalties lie.

Konservative are a little more differentiated, and point out that they do endorse dual citizenship in some cases, for example for minorities in the border region between Southern Jutland and Nothern Germany. However, they want to restrict the possibility to acquire dual citizenship to those countries that Denmark has good diplomatic relationships with, so that potential problems could be solved more easily. While I can somewhat understand that reasoning, it is always very difficult to try and apply double standards, and there will always be cases where this is unfair.

Apparently a politician for Dansk Folkeparti used to say that “you can’t love two women”, meaning, you have to decide where your loyalties really are. I’ve come across a wonderful counter-argument for this, saying that you can love both your mother and your wife. I think this really hits the nail on the head, because just because you’ve fallen in love and want to get married (read: moved to a different country and want to become a citizen) doesn’t mean you stop loving your mother (read: your home country).

Of course, this is the more emotionally charged side of the discussion. There’s also the very practical side. In Denmark, you can’t vote for parliament unless you are a citizen. This means that, even though you live here and might have done so for years, you only have limited rights to have a say in how your country of residence is going to be run (all the while paying the full same taxes as Danish citizens). Further, citizens from non-EU countries can gain more benefits, for example for travelling.

It is in the nature of this issue that the practical and emotional side of the discussion can’t be fully separated. Personally, I would consider applying for Danish citizenship when I meet the requirements. If I decide to stay here indefinitely (which is a possibility – sorry mom!), then I want to be able to vote and I want to feel a real part of society. But I was born and raised in Germany, and I will always be German at heart, for better or worse. I will always get goosebumps when I hear the German anthem played before a soccer match, and I have a black-red-and-gold Hawaii necklace hanging from my desk lamp in the office. I would never want to be not German, even if I should want to become Danish, too.

Another expat’s opinion can be found on the How to Live in Denmark podcast by Kay Xander Mellish here.

I’d love to hear from you – would you consider applying for Danish citizenship, and are you glad you’ll be able to keep your own? Or as a Dane, what do you think about dual citizenship? Please share in the comments below!

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13 thoughts on “A foreigner’s perspective: Dual citizenship in Denmark”

  • I had to give up my Romanian citizenship last year in order to “become” Norwegian. I´m a very practical person, so I thought it would be like a walk in the park, but instead I ended up thinking about it for a couple of years. Not only was it a bureaucratic nightmare, but it cost a fortune, too. For dual citizenship!

    • I think it makes no sense to have to give up your original citizenship to acquire a new one. In today’s modern world, we should be way past this “loyalty” thinking. I can absolutely imagine that it would be very hard to give up your Romanian citizenship! Are there any plans to make dual citizenship possible in Norway?

  • I was considering dual citizenship – but that was in order to pick up the American one I actually could pick up being a daughter of an American. However, now you get to pay taxes like every other American – which would mean double the tax for my dad and me and so my dream of becoming American is vanished and gone. Now, as a German living in Denmark, I still have the option of becoming Danish – but frankly, I don’t really see that as an option just yet. It’s my dream that one day, we’ll be able to see Europe the way it should be – a union of nations which follow the same rules, same interests, have the same pros and cons, basically, a union where it shouldn’t matter which passport it is that you are carrying around with you. In my opinion, dual citizenship shouldn’t be necessary for Europeans in Europe. But if I still live in Denmark in let’s say ten years and I have children that will grow up here, it could very well be that I give in for the convenience – after all I’d need a Danish citizenship in order to buy the grounds for a house – which alone is an argument enough to become Danish.

    • I agree with your sentiment that dual citizenship should not be a necessity within the EU, but I think it will always be an emotionally charged subject and most people aren’t able to view it from a purely practical perspective (I know I don’t). And in a country like Denmark, where the EU is generally regarded with some skepticism and people are a bit concerned that “lille Danmark” will get a bit lost among all the other big countries, I don’t think there’d be a big lobby for such ideas!

  • I will explore the requirements for becoming Danish next year. I cannot see major benefits other than voting for parliament when you are an EU citizen (I am Spanish) but the real benefit would be to stand at the same level as the rest of the Danes: my family, my neighbours, my colleagues. I am fed up with their veiled racism (which I combat all the time, with irony about my origins, but also reminding them I pay, in some cases, a lot more taxes than they do). I hope my future children can also have double citizenship (my husband is Danish) and feel Danish and Spanish at the same time.

    • Hi Mercedes, thanks for sharing your point of view! I feel the same way – the main practical reason would be voting for parliament and having a say in what my tax money is used for. But I completely understand the feeling of wanting to be regarded as a fully equal part of society – although the people who don’t see us as equals now would probably still not see us as “full” Danes even if we got dual citizenship…

  • I’m torn between the option. On one hand I want to get a danish citizenship in order to be able to vote in the parliament (and since I’m already paying hefty income tax anyway) and to be able to travel visa free to most countries (the peril of having non EU Southeast Asian country) but my country doesn’t allow dual citizenship at the moment so that makes me think twice.

    I love my country and for sentimental and practical reason (like I’m planning to head back for retirement), I don’t want to give up my current passport.

    I do think your loving two women analogy is perfect. One does able to love both countries. Why the hell not? DF is just scared of things. Many things.

    • I can understand how it must be difficult to make that decision. Maybe your country will allow dual citizenship in the future? And you are absolutely right about DF! Scared of their own shadow!

  • Hi Laura, I have a question for you,
    I am a Danish citizen with Naturalized citizen of Denmark with Danish passport, I was not born in Denmark. I have been living in U.S. over 15 years now. I have been very loyal to my Danish citizen no matter who will ask me where I am coming from? I’ll always say: I am a Danish citizen from Denmark.
    My question is: With a new law Dual Citizenship will come new year? Those people like myself are living
    outside of Denmark, living for many years aboard, am I loosing my Danish citizenship which I have a Danish passport??? I like to become U.S. citizen also new year.
    Thank you.

  • I am a United States citizen, was born in California, and worked hard to become fluent in German. I spent a lot of time in Munich and lived in Vienna for almost a year, which finally got my fluency official with the passing of the ÖSD test – basically a certificate stating one is fluent enough to be employed in a German-speaking country. I’ve only visited Denmark a handful of times, but I have been to my ancestral homeland in Sønderborg several times and have even established contact with cousins!
    Though I live and work in the U.S., I feel a very strong connection to my roots in Germany, and also in Denmark. I wear German and Danish pins at work on each country’s day of independence and always have a Danish flag in my bedroom. There’s an affinity for Denmark which began the first time I visited, and seems to get stronger with every visit, and with every interaction I have with Danes.
    My current understanding is that obtaining dual citizenship is complicated in Germany. I’ve read up on it, though not recently. After reading this article and a few others online, I am wondering how possible it would be to obtain Danish citizenship. These thoughts are still in their infancy, and I have a LOT more research to do, but I am planning on taking Danish classes starting in January 2016. If I become fluent, would I be required to reside in Denmark before I could be considered for citizenship, even if I am of Danish ancestry? Sorry if this question seems ignorant to some. As I said, my thoughts on this are just starting to form….
    Thank you for writing this, though! I enjoyed reading it very much!

    • Hi Erik, thanks for your comment! My understanding – without being an expert! – is that it’s recently become easier to get dual citizenship in Germany, for example as a German, I no longer automatically lose my citizenship if I acquire another country’s.
      As for Danish citizenship, there are a number of hard requirements that must be fulfilled, among others a language fluency requirement, a permanent residence permit, and 9 years’ uninterrupted residence in Denmark. As I understand, there is no way around the residence, the time can be shortened to a minimum of 6 years if you’ve been married to a Dane for a long time. Good luck with learning Danish, in any case, hope you’ll find it fun!

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