Family reunification for the wealthy and educated only

Danes can bring their foreign spouses to Denmark if they have a well-paid job lined up or if their profession is in demand. The rest will have to prove that their combined attachment to Denmark is greater than to any other country – an impossibility for Danes who've worked their entire careers abroad

Tough immigration laws have made lives difficult for Danes living abroad and those with partners from outside the EU. This is, in part, deliberate. Both left and right-wing governments have tried to prevent non-Western immigrants from seeking partners in their country of origin and bringing them to Denmark under family reunification laws.

They do, however, want Danes to be able to move abroad for their careers, and eventually return home with a foreign spouse. But writing the rules to restrict the former and enable the latter has proved challenging.

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The first solution was to demand that Danes could only bring a foreign partner to Denmark if both are at least 24 years old and have a greater attachment to Denmark than to any other country. If they didn’t satisfy the attachment rule, they could still qualify for family reunification if one of them had been a Danish citizen for at least 26 years.

But the government had to go back to the drawing board after the European Court of Human Rights ruled last year that the 26-year-rule was indirectly discriminatory to naturalised Danes. In other words, Danes who had acquired citizenship later in life were not in the same position to satisfy the requirements as Danes who had been granted citizenship at birth.

The government then had to choose whether to scrap the attachment rule entirely, which would make it much easier to seek family reunification, or just get rid of the 26-year rule.

They did the latter, which meant that all Danes wanting to bring their partners to Denmark would have to satisfy the attachment rule. The law still prevented pro forma marriages, but it also meant that Danes who had spent their entire working lives outside Denmark were finding that returning home with a foreign spouse was an impossibility.

The government was under pressure to find a solution, and in May it passed a law specifying that Danes don’t have to satisfy the attachment requirement when applying for family reunification with a foreign spouse as long as they have a job with a salary of at least 408,000 kroner per year, or if their profession appears on the Positive List, indicating a shortage of qualified professionals.

While the law secured a majority in Parliament, opposition Social Democrats (Socialdemokratiet) demanded that the law include a sunset clause and be renegotiated next year.

READ MORE: Collateral damage of a flawed immigration system

The party’s main concern is that Danes who return to retire or to work in fields that do not command a high salary are not helped by the new law.

During the consultation period, the organisation Danes Worldwide – which represents Danish expats – pointed out this preferential treatment.

“The law accommodates one special group of highly-paid Danish citizens, which will of course benefit from the new weakened conditions. But at the same time, a large group of Danish citizens are being ignored – those who don’t earn 408,000 kroner or work in a profession on the Positive List,” Secretary General Anne Marie Dalgaard wrote.

Danes Worldwide also proposed that the attachment clause be abolished, and a petition that was launched ahead of the law change in May collected over 10,000 signatures from Danes living in 90 countries. M

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By Peter Stanners

Co-founder and Editor-in-chief. Occasional photographer.

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