Denmark: Retroactive Residency Rules Criticized

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By Marcus Hoy

March 22—A new Danish law primarily designed to tighten asylum rules is having a negative effect on the status of skilled foreign employees, a Copenhagen-based attorney tells Bloomberg BNA. In a March 18 statement, Oleksiy Martynyuk of the ImLaw legal firm said that a retroactive residency clause contained in the Law on Amendments to the Aliens Act (102/16) would punish foreign employees who had recently applied for permanent residency. His firm is preparing a class action lawsuit against the government, Martynyuk said, which will be filed if the law is not revised.

While it has received most international attention for allowing authorities to confiscate refugees' valuables, the law also extends from five to six years the time in which residents must spend in the country before they can apply for permanent residency As a result, Martynyuk told Bloomberg BNA, over 1,000 permanent residency applications filed by foreign employees could be made invalid. The law's retroactive effect means that all permanent residency applications filed between Dec. 10, 2015, and Jan. 26, 2016, will be deemed invalid, and individual application fees of 5,450 kroner ($825) will not be refunded.

Deter Skilled Workers

If allowed to stand, Martynyuk told Bloomberg BNA, the law would deter other skilled foreign workers from choosing Denmark as their destination.

“Skilled foreign workers are highly valued in Denmark, especially in the IT field, and the Confederation of Danish Industry [DI] is on the record as saying that more efforts should be made to attract them,” Martynyuk said. “Unfortunately, if this measure is not repealed, Denmark's appeal to foreign workers is liable to fall.”

“Despite the language barrier, many skilled employees have chosen Denmark above nations such as the USA, Canada and the UK,” Martynyuk said. “However, many of those affected are now saying that they would have reconsidered had they known that Denmark would change immigration law retroactively. If this change is allowed to remain, I think there could be big problems in the future in persuading highly skilled workers to come to Denmark.”

‘Made in Haste'

Not only should the law be rethought, Martynyuk said, but the government should provide a guarantee to future skilled workers that it will not change their residency conditions retroactively once employment has been accepted.

“This law was primarily concerned with refugees, but [the government has] applied it to all immigrants,” Martynyuk said. “I don't think that the intention was to affect skilled workers in this way. However, a solution was needed very quickly and the Danish Parliament was pushed for time. The law was made in haste.”

Over 80 foreign employees have already indicated their willingness to join a class action suit, Martynyuk said, and he expects this number to rise to over 100. No suit has yet been filed, in case other employees decide to join the class action. The government should also be given the opportunity to respond to a March 11 letter sent to political parties detailing employees' concerns, Martynyuk said.

While the campaign has the support of some opposition politicians, Martynyuk said, no official opinion has yet been provided by the DI. When contacted by Bloomberg BNA March 16, the DI did not wish to comment on the case.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marcus Hoy in Copenhagen at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

For More Information

Text of the Law on Amendments to the Aliens Act is available in Danish here.

For more information on Danish HR law and regulation, see the Denmark primer.