‘I wanted to develop my career’: How a masters degree prevented a midwife from becoming Danish

When Katja Taastrøm started a Masters degree in Midwifery one and a half years ago, she had no idea this would add another five years, at least, to her long wait for Danish citizenship. Next week she'll meet Denmark's immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye online to ask him to change the law.

'I wanted to develop my career': How a masters degree prevented a midwife from becoming Danish
Katja Albert Taastrøm said the tightened retroactive citizenship laws offended her sense of justice. Photo: Katja Albert Taastrøm

Under the much-criticised new citizenship law brought in last month, applicants have to have worked at least 30 hours a week for at least 3 years and 6 months of the last 4 years leading up to their application, and university studies do not count. 

Even though Taastrøm applied for citizenship in June 2020, the new law applies a full 13 months retroactively, back to April 2019. This means that even though her application met all the requirements at the time she sent it in, and continued to do so right up until May this year, from this May it no longer does. 

“I felt rejected, I felt I wasn’t a part of the community,” she told The Local of the moment she realised the implications of the new law. “I thought, ‘I need this passport, so I can vote. I want to have democratic rights in this country I’m living in. It was a roller-coaster of emotions.”


Until she began her masters, the 45-year-old had worked full-time as a midwife in Denmark for more than 11 years, and she only decided to study further because she realised that there needed to be more midwives engaged in research. 

“The way I see it, all the research is very dominated by the doctors, so to keep birth as something normal as far as it is possible, we need to we need to be able to discuss with them on the same level, ” she explained. “We need to have the research competencies ourselves.”

It’s annoying that the citizenship rules no longer allow applicants to educate themselves further, and might mean that Taastrøm has to delay her plans to do post-graduate research when she finished her course next year.

But what enrages her the most is the retroactive application of the rules. 

“It’s my feeling of justice. It’s not OK that my application is affected by rules which didn’t exist when I made it,” she complained. “I’m really provoked by it, and especially for the young people, who have been living here all their life and tried to be a part of society, and now they have to get some work, instead of an education.”

When Taastrøm’s Danish husband saw her fuming about the changes, he advised her to go to the media, and she has since been interviewed by state broadcaster DR and many others. 

“My husband said if you want to have democratic rights, you can’t just sit on the sofa and be sad, you have to educate people about how stupid these rules are.

“Most Danes don’t know about it, and the politicians have only said that these rules are made to keep criminals out.”

Even so, she’s not certain her interviews with the media will do much to change Danish opinion. 

“I’m not very optimistic that this will change anything, but I tried,” she said. “It was a nice story, a German midwife, why won’t we include her? You know?” 

But she felt none of the reporters in the Danish media who interviewed her really conveyed the broader points she was making about how many other foreigners are being unfairly excluded from citizenship by the new restrictions.  

This is what she wants to hammer through to Mattias Tesfaye when she takes part in the virtual public meeting with him on June 17th.  

“I want to show that those who are affected of the new rules, almost all of them are citizens trying to be a part of Denmark, trying to work for it, and engaged. It’s not affecting those [the criminals], they are talking about. It’s affecting other people.” 

Apart from her own citizenship problems, and Danes’ increasingly hostile attitudes towards immigration, Taastrøm says that after 14 years in Denmark, she feels very integrated, and “quite Danish”. 

“I do. I will always also be German, but I feel very much a part of Danish society.” 

Even her friends back in Germany are now starting to pick on the worsening conditions for foreigners in Denmark, however. 

“You know when I moved to Denmark, my German friends, they said, “It’s a great country, open-minded. fantastic. And now they call and say, “shouldn’t you just move back, while you still have time? You know, it’s really bad.”

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How do Denmark’s citizenship rules compare to Sweden and Norway?

We take a look at how Denmark’s citizenship requirements compare to other Scandinavian countries.

How do Denmark’s citizenship rules compare to Sweden and Norway?

Gaining citizenship of one Nordic country grants you rights in the others, such as making it easier to move there, work there, and even become a citizen. So, where is it easiest to become a citizen, and where will you be waiting the longest?

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash


Length of stay: 9 years

Normally, you must have lived in Denmark for nine consecutive years (without living elsewhere for more than three months) in order to qualify for Danish citizenship.

This period is reduced in some cases: for refugees it becomes eight years, citizens of Nordic countries need a two-year stay and people married to Danes qualify after 6-8 years, depending on the length of the marriage.

Other exceptions are made for those who have taken a significant portion of their education in Denmark, who may qualify after five years. If you moved to Denmark before your 15th birthday, you can become nationalised after you turn 18.

EU and non EU citizens must have a permit for permanent residency in Denmark for a minimum of two years before applying for citizenship.

Language test

Applicants must have passed the national Prøve i Dansk 3 language test, the final exam in the national Danish language school system. This involves a reading, writing, speaking and listening test which equates to B2 Danish.

There are certain exemptions from the language requirements. Residents of Greenland and the Faroe Islands, as well as Swedish and Norwegian speakers, do not need to document Danish proficiency. Dispensation can be given for applicants with certain types of illnesses and disabilities, and different rules apply to children.

Citizenship test

A condition of getting Danish citizenship is to demonstrate knowledge of Danish society, culture and history, by having passed a citizenship test (indfødsretsprøve).

In April 2021, the existing citizenship test, consisting of 40 multiple choice questions, was supplemented with five extra questions about “Danish values” such as equality, freedom of speech and the relation between legislation and religion. 

The pass mark is 36/45 and at least four of the five Danish values questions must be answered correctly. 

Children under 12, Swedish and Norwegian citizens, and people from the Danish minority in German region Schleswig-Holstein do not need to take the citizenship test.

Other requirements

  • Sign a declaration pledging allegiance and loyalty to Denmark and Danish society and promising to abide by its laws.
  • Be free of debt to the public sector and be financially self-sufficient.
  • Have no criminal convictions.
  • Hold a full-time job or been self-employed for three and a half of the last four years. 
  • Attend a ceremony, declare you will uphold Denmark’s laws, values and principles and shake hands with an official.

You also need to submit paperwork to prove your identity, current nationality, residency and economic activity in Denmark.

Processing time and fees

At the end of 2021, the processing time for applications was approximately 14 months, according to the immigration ministry. The fee is 4,000 Danish kroner (~€537).

After this time, you receive a letter notifying you that you can expect to be accepted for citizenship at the next round of parliamentary procedure (which happens twice yearly), provided you still fulfil the requirements at that time.

Once the new law making you a citizen comes into force, you will be sent a declaration that you have been accepted for citizenship with one final condition: you attend a ceremony, declare that you will uphold Denmark’s laws, values and principles, shake hands with an official and become a citizen.

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Length of stay: 2-5 years

EU and non EU citizens can apply for Swedish citizenship after living in Sweden for five continuous years with right of residence. 

In some cases, this period can be even shorter.

Nordic citizens who have lived in Sweden for at least five years can become Swedish citizens through notification. This involves filling out a form and sending it to the local country administrative board, with a fee of 475 kronor.

The alternative is to submit an application for citizenship to the Migration Agency, which Nordic citizens can do after living in Sweden for two years. No other requirements below are needed for Nordic citizens.

EU and non-EU citizens who have lived with a Swedish citizen for at least two years can apply for citizenship earlier, after three continuous years in Sweden. However applicants will be asked to show that they have adapted well to Swedish life. This could be shown through learning the language, proving you can support yourself, or through the length of your marriage.

The requirement for continuous residency in Sweden means that if you spend more than six weeks abroad in any given year, it will extend the period of time until you can apply for citizenship.

For non-EU citizens, the process for getting citizenship is just the same as for EU citizens, except there is an additional requirement for a permanent residence permit. Permanent residency for non EU citizens is usually granted after four years of living in Sweden.

Other requirements: No outstanding debts or recent crimes

In addition to length of stay, EU and non EU citizens must have “conducted themselves well in Sweden”, and the Migration Agency will request information on whether you have debts or have committed crimes in the country.

An application can be rejected if a person has unpaid taxes, fines, or other charges. Debts to private companies passed on to the Swedish Enforcement Authority could also impact the application, even if they are paid, as two years must pass after payment to prove you’re debt-free. If you’ve committed a crime, there’s also a qualifying period before citizenship can be granted which depends on the sentence. 

An automated test (in Swedish) can be filled in here to see if you meet those requirements. 

Language and citizenship test: May soon be required

While Swedish language skills and knowledge of Swedish society are not currently a requirement for citizenship, this could change in the future. In January 2021, the Swedish Ministry of Justice and Migration put forward proposals to introduce an A2 language exam for would-be Swedes, with exceptions for vulnerable individuals who have made a reasonable effort to learn the language. There are also proposals for a knowledge test about Swedish society.

These proposals will be subject to a long political process before they can be put into law, so at present the requirements are proof of identity, duration of residency in Sweden, and no record of serious criminal offences or debts.

Processing time and fees

The Migration Agency says applicants should expect an average of 39 months between submitting their application and becoming Swedish. Readers of The Local have reported the process taking anywhere between a couple of weeks to over three years. The application costs 1,500 SEK (~€150).

Photo by Mikita Karasiou on Unsplash


Length of stay: 6-8 years

EU and non EU citizens can apply for Norwegian citizenship after living in Norway for eight years out of the past eleven years and if they have held residence permits that were each valid for at least one year during that time.

A new rule, which came into effect in January 2022, means that if you have sufficient income, you can apply after six years rather than eight. Currently sufficient income is 319,997 kroner (~€30,520), but this can change annually.

Those with Norwegian spouses, registered partners, or cohabitants can apply after living in Norway for three of the last ten years. 

Nordic citizens over the age of 12 can apply for Norwegian citizenship after two years living in Norway and do not need to fulfil any further requirements below.

Language test

EU and non EU citizens have to pass an oral Norwegian language test at either A2 or B1 level. A2 refers to an elementary level of Norwegian, and B1 is considered semi-fluent. 

The change to the language requirement from A2 to B1 will apply from autumn 2022 at the earliest, according to the UDI

Citizenship test

Applicants must pass a citizenship test (statsborgerprøve), or a social studies test if aged between 18 and 67. The tests must be taken in Norwegian, either Bokmål or Nynorsk.

For the citizenship test, applicants need to answer at least 24 of 36 multiple choice questions correctly to pass. Topics included in the test are history, geography, democracy, welfare, education, health and working life in Norway.

Other requirements

After filling in an online application, applicants have to deliver a series of documents in person, including birth certificates, marriage certificates (if applicable), a full list of entries into and departures from Norway, at least seven years of tax returns, and a police report certifying “good conduct”.

Processing time and fees

It costs 6,500 kroner to apply if you are over 18. However, the fee is cheaper or completely waived if you are a Nordic citizen, previously held Norwegian citizenship, or are under 18 years of age. 

Applications take around 16 months to process but this can vary.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to apply for Norwegian citizenship


Even if Sweden decides to include a language and citizenship test in their application process, the country will remain the easiest and cheapest in Scandinavia in which to become a citizen, although there’s a downside – it also has the longest processing time for citizenship applications.

Here’s the roundup.

Swedish citizenship

Application Fee: ~€150 (1,500 Swedish kronor) 

Length of time living in country: 3-5 years 

Language level needed: None, but this may change

Citizenship test: None, but this may change

Other requirements: No record of serious criminal offences or debts

Dual nationality allowed: Yes

Processing time: Around 39 months

Norwegian Citizenship 

Application Fee: ~€250 (2,500 Norwegian kroner)

Length of time living in country: 6-8 of the past 11 years

Language level needed: A2 Norwegian, soon to change to the more difficult B1 Norwegian

Citizenship test: Yes

Other requirements: A full list of entries into and departures from Norway, at least seven years of tax returns, and a police report certifying “good conduct”.

Dual nationality allowed: Yes thanks to a law change in 2020 

Processing time: Around 16 months

Danish citizenship

Application Fee: ~€537 (4,000 Danish kroner)

Length of time living in country: 9 years

Language level needed: B2 Danish

Citizenship test: Yes

Other requirements: No record of serious criminal offences or debts and be financially self-sufficient; sign a declaration pledging allegiance and loyalty to Denmark and its laws; hold a full-time job or been self-employed for three and a half of the last four years; attend a ceremony.

Dual nationality allowed: Yes 

Processing time: 14 months – 2 years