Moving to Denmark
A comprehensive guide to moving to Denmark
Denmark has a lot to offer for expats who appreciate great food, beautiful scenery, and a relaxed atmosphere. Are you ready for moving to Denmark? Our Relocation Guide offers advice on visa requirements, public transportation, and other aspects of this little European kingdom.
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Relocating to Denmark
Once a Viking nation and a European force to be reckoned with, Denmark has, a millennium later, evolved into a thriving little nation that plays an important role in European and Scandinavian politics. Expats moving to Denmark will not only benefit from the country’s close proximity to other European nations; they will also enjoy the comparatively mild climate and the very high quality of life. Again and again, surveys have deemed the people of Denmark the happiest in the world.
Denmark has more to offer than a beautiful countryside and a happy population, however. The Danes are a very design-savvy bunch and are known around the world for their style in furniture, fashion, architecture, and graphic design.
Denmark: An Introduction
Anyone moving to Denmark will find themselves in a small country between the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, just north of Germany. Denmark consists of the peninsula Jylland (Jutland), the islands of Sjælland (Zealand), and Fyn (Funen), and upwards of 400 smaller islands, most notably Lolland and Bornholm. Wherever they choose to settle down, expats who move to Denmark enjoy a temperate climate with mild, windy winters and cool summers.
Denmark is the most densely populated country in Scandinavia. It has an area of just 43,000 square kilometers, but its population of 5.6 million is only half that of Sweden and actually greater than Norway’s.
The Autonomous Provinces in Denmark
When thinking about the Kingdom of Denmark, most people are only thinking of Denmark proper, i.e. Jutland, Zealand, Funen, and the other surrounding islands. However, two autonomous provinces belong to Denmark as well: the Faroe Islands and Greenland. A move to either of Denmark’s provinces gets you in touch with a completely different environment, culture, and language — not to mention a rather frosty climate.
The Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands, where population estimates range between 46,000 and 50,000 people, lie a two-hour plane ride northwest from Copenhagen. The 18 mountainous islands, located between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Norwegian Sea, boast dramatic landscapes, peaceful mountains, and wild oceans along 1,100 kilometers of coastline. Moreover, you are never more than five kilometers away from the ocean. The largest town of the archipelago is Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroes, with almost 20,000 inhabitants.
A move to Denmark’s Faroe Islands will also introduce you to a nation directly descendent from the Vikings. Faroese, the local language, derives directly from the Old Norse spoken in the Middle Ages. Other Scandinavian languages, such as Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish are spoken as well. However, expats moving to this Danish autonomous province need not worry. Many Faroese have a good grasp of the English language as well.
If you would prefer an even frostier environment, Greenland will impress you with giant icebergs and layers of inland ice that are kilometers thick and frozen solid. With its 2.2 million square kilometers — 1.8 million of which are covered in ice — it is the 12th largest country in the world, and yet just 58,000 people call it home.
However, to the surprise of many, green mountains and beautiful wildflowers are found in Greenland as well, next to various fjords and hot springs. The flora and fauna of this enormous island is indeed breathtaking. Upon moving to Denmark’s northernmost province, you may encounter such wildlife as whales, seals, polar bears, and reindeer.
Greenland’s native people have long since learned to survive and thrive under extreme conditions. Located east of the Alaskan archipelago, Greenland has traditionally been home to hunters and sealers who lived in small, isolated communities.
The culture of Greenland is still reflected in the country’s language, clothing, and food. Greenlandic (also known as Inuit or Kalaallisut) and Danish are the official languages, and a basic command of either can be of great help to expats moving to Denmark’s northern autonomous province.
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A General Introduction to Visas for Denmark
When to Apply for a Short-Term Visa
Before making the move to Denmark, many expats decide to go on a fact-finding trip. If you would like to do the same, you may need to apply for a Schengen visa. Check the Danish Immigration Service for a list of countries to see if you do.
The Schengen visa allows you to travel to Denmark and other Schengen states and stay for a maximum of 90 days. Keep in mind, however, that, while there are some business-related activities you may carry out, it is not allowed to travel to Denmark on this visa to look for work.
If the Danish authorities suspect someone is trying to use the Schengen visa in order to seek long-term or permanent residency or employment, they can be banned from the country for up to five years. Similarly, overstaying your visa can result in the same penalty period, and you cannot apply for a new visa during that time.
Thus, short-term visas are great for business trips or fact-finding visits. However, if you wish to live and work in Denmark, you should acquire a residence and work permit.
How to Legally Work in Denmark
The good news for expats who wish to work in Denmark is that, under specific regulations depending on their nationality and qualifications, they actually may not need a work permit at all. Nordic citizens (Finns, Icelanders, Norwegians, and Swedes), for instance, are free to live and work in Denmark. Nationals of EU and EEA countries, as well as Switzerland, may essentially do the same, although they need to apply for a registration certificate within the first three months of their stay.
The Danish immigration authorities have designed a handful of schemes to make it easier for expats-to-be who need a work permit to obtain one:
- The Positive List includes jobs and professions that currently have a labor shortage in Denmark. If you have been offered a job that is on the list, you can directly apply for a work permit.
- The Pay Limit Scheme applies to expats who can expect an annual salary of at least 400,000 DKK (approx. 60,000 USD).
- The Fast-track schemesimplifies the process by which certified companies can hire or transfer highly-qualified expats to work in Denmark.
- The Greencard Schemeis the only way to enter Denmark with the purpose of looking for a job. Eligibility for this scheme is based on your educational level, language skills, work experience, and more.
- For researchers it is particularly easy to acquire a work as well as residence permit. A written job offer is a prerequisite, though.
If you do not fit into any of these schemes, however, all hope is not quite lost. You can still obtain a work permit if you have a job offer for a position in Denmark for which there are no equally qualified candidates available in Denmark or the EU/EEA. However, the job must require a certain degree of skill. Carpenters and bricklayers, for instance, usually do not qualify.
Apart from these standard rules, there are more ways to obtain a work permit for self-employed expats, religious workers, athletes, and trainees. Some groups are exempt from the usual rules, such as diplomats, musicians, and performing artists, as well as transportation personnel. You should be able to find all the information you need with the Danish Immigration Service.
From Cars to Trains: Getting around Denmark
Getting around Denmark is actually quite easy. Not only are extensive road networks and the usual modes of transportation readily available, you can also travel by boat and ferry to one of the surrounding islands or explore Denmark by bike.
Additionally, Denmark is very well located within Europe, in close proximity to other Nordic countries as well as Germany and the United Kingdom. For travel-addicted expats, it serves quite capably as a transportation hub.
Driving with Daisy in Denmark
Driving in Denmark is easy and hassle-free. Not only are roads in good condition, traffic is also fairly light — aside, of course from rush hour on busy streets. Since the country is fairly small, you will easily find your way around the Danish motorways. The roads that lead out of town are usually named after their main destination, and there is no shortage of road signs or rest stops.
Denmark is very easy to explore by car, but if you wish to also tour the many charming islands, you will need to go by ferry. Ferry rates are quite reasonable, but are usually somewhat higher during the summer. For some ferries, you should make reservations ahead of time, even if it is only a few hours. Particularly during holidays and on weekends, ferries can be quite crowded or even completely booked as many people, Danes included, flock to the smaller islands for a bit of relaxation.
For information on road conditions, traffic, ferry cancellations, and more, you can contact the Danish Road Directorate by calling 7244 3333.
Alternative Means of Transportation
If you’d rather not take the car, you can safely fall back on Denmark’s train network. The service is not only reliable, trains also travel frequently, and the fares are quite affordable. Most long-distance trains run at least once per hour during the day. Denmark’s train network is operated by DSB, and on Rejseplanen (travel planner) you can check connections and times for both trains and busses.
In broad terms, fares amount to roughly 2 DKK per kilometer and therefore always depend on your destination. Seat reservations have to be paid for separately and are usually 30 DKK.
It’s a good idea to get a Rejsekort (travel card), which can be ordered and reloaded online. This is not only much easier to use than buying individual tickets; fares also become quite a bit cheaper, and the card can be used on both trains and many busses.
Exploring the rest of Europe via plane is also pretty easy from Denmark. Most international flights arrive and depart from Copenhagen, and domestic flights in Denmark are rather limited. However, a few flights do connect Copenhagen to Aalborg, Aarhus, and Sønderborg. Some of these smaller airports also handle a selection of inter-European flights.