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WORK PERMITS

Do Danish bank account rules hold back international recruitment?

Current Danish rules require many people who come to Denmark to work to open Danish bank accounts in order to receive their salary, including for some shorter postings. Business interests claim a 2021 requirement for foreign workers to have a Danish bank account presents unnecessary obstacles to international recruitment.

Do Danish bank account rules hold back international recruitment?
Since January 2021, foreign workers in Denmark have been required to have a Danish bank account. Some say the requirement is an obstacle to international recruitment. Photo: Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen / Reuters / Ritzau Scanpix

On January 1st, a new law came into effect requiring foreign workers in Denmark to have a Danish bank account. 

Previously, the law only applied to residents with work permits under either the ‘Pay Limit’ (beløbsordningen in Danish) and ‘Fast Track’ schemes. Now, it applies to residents under a wide variety of schemes, including skilled workers, researchers, farm managers, interns, and more.

Why was the regulation adopted?

According to the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI), the intention behind the requirement is to strengthen SIRI’s ability to “monitor whether employees do in fact receive the salary stated in the employment contract.” 

But, employers say the legislation creates one more hurdle to hire internationals who are very much in-demand for some of the industries that have experienced growth during Covid-19, such as pharmaceuticals and IT.

“The more requirements you place on employers recruiting internationally, the less appealing it becomes for both parties,” Søren Kjærsgaard Høfler told The Local. He’s a political consultant in global mobility at Dansk Industri (DI), an organisation representing approximately 18,500 companies across Denmark.

He said the catalyst for the new extension of the requirement was a series of cases surfacing in 2019 where several restaurants were exploiting the Pay Limit scheme, which requires employees to make a certain amount (445,000 kroner per year in 2021). 

The restaurants were paying the appropriate sum into the employee’s bank account, but the total payment was later divided among several employees, rather than going toward the person holding the Pay Limit Scheme permit.

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“That situation was absolutely one that needed to be dealt with,” Høfler said, “but the way they chose to deal with it was to add an unnecessary obstacle to all labor schemes.” 

How is it impacting companies hiring internationals?

Philip Wiig, Denmark’s managing director for global consulting firm Accenture, told The Local the requirement has negatively impacted its operations.

“It’s one of many tripwires that make it difficult to bring qualified people into Denmark,” Wiig said. Although Covid has put a temporary pause on the issue, he added, as international hiring begins to return to pre-pandemic levels, it will be an issue once again. 

Accenture has had several employees get fed up with the process and choose not to come to Denmark. Several others weren’t able to get a bank account set up in the specified time frame, for one reason or another. 

The bank account must be created no later than 90 days after the date a residence and work permit is granted or 90 days after the employee enters Denmark, whichever happens last. 

The fact that newcomers are granted three months to set up a Danish bank account, Høfler said, is a result of the challenges one faces when setting up a Danish bank account. 

“The issue with the Danish bank account is that it is not as easy to obtain as it sounds,” Høfler said. “It can take months as part of a larger process when entering Denmark.”

Why might it be difficult to set up a bank account in 90 days?

“In order to comply with the anti-money laundering rules, the Danish banks must know the identity of their customers,” Kjeld Gosvig-Jensen, executive director of legal at Finance Denmark, told The Local. “Banks must know the name and civil registration (CPR) number of a customer and obtain evidence in this respect, for instance, a copy of a customer’s passport and national health insurance card.” 

READ ALSO: Is life in Denmark impossible without a personal registration number?

However, a CPR number can only be obtained after arrival in Denmark with proof of address. Finding an apartment or house can take time, and then the wait for CPR number can be up to six more weeks. 

Additionally, when the requirement of a Danish bank account for Pay Limit and Fast Track employees was first announced in 2017, stricter legislation to prevent money laundering had made banks more cautious about setting up accounts for foreign employees.

Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, was at the epicenter of the third-largest money laundering scheme in the world. Billions of euros were laundered through its operations from February 2007 and January 2016. Non-resident bank accounts were at the heart of the scandal.

“It’s no surprise Danish regulators and the banks themselves are apprehensive when it comes to opening non-resident bank accounts,” writes GlobalBanks, a platform covering banking solutions around the world, to which the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority directed The Local.

This prompted Finance Denmark, a trade organisation for Danish banks, to send out a letter to financial institutions notifying them that they are obliged to create accounts for foreign nationals that are entitled to work in Denmark.

And what about getting paid in those first 90 days?

According to SIRI, a foreign employee’s salary can be paid to a foreign bank account during your first 90 days in Denmark. 

However, this isn’t clearly understood by all employers, who may be nervous to risk finding themselves afoul of the requirement (GlobalBanks’ own guidance got this fact wrong). 

“Some companies will try to pay salary into a foreign account until the Danish account is set up,” Høfler said, while others might prefer to wait for fear of finding themselves afoul of the requirements.

Are there any exemptions to the bank account requirement?

The requirement doesn’t apply to you if you are a foreign national covered by EU-regulation, including the Assocation Agreement with Turkey, nor does it apply to accompanying family members.

Additionally, residence permits granted under the Positive List for highly educated workers, the researcher scheme, and the researcher track within the Fast Track scheme are exempt, if the employment doesn’t exceed 180 days in a 12-month period.

However, Wiig and Høfler think it should apply to all schemes and be extended to 12 month stays. For Accenture, even short-term engagements are often longer than 180 days.

“It’s important to know that most companies consider a short term posting anything less than 12 months,” Høfler said. During short term postings, it’s common for the employee to maintain their home, family, and other commitments in their home country.

In these circumstances, the person prefers – and in some cases has to – keep all expenses including payroll in the home country,” Høfler said. Getting paid into a Danish bank account can also have unforeseen implications on certain social benefits and rights in their home country, he added.

“We often hear that companies now reduce their short-term postings to less than 180 days or else drop it altogether,” Høfler said. “Then Denmark loses out on that worker, that knowledge, and that tax revenue.”

What’s the bigger picture here?

“The real question here is, does the bank account requirement actually solve the issue?” Høfler asked. When asked, SIRI said it didn’t have data on the requirement’s effectiveness at this time. 

Høfler and Wiig think the requirement was too broadly implemented and has resulted in unforeseen consequences.

“I fully support trying to address the issue of exploitation, but this requirement is a very blunt instrument that applies to everyone rather than addressing the issue specifically,” Wiig said. “There’s a lot of collateral damage with this as it is.”

Høfler hopes for fresh discussion of the requirement this fall, when Denmark’s parliament opens its annual negotiations to discuss the upcoming year’s finances.

“I don’t think the government’s intention was to create an obstacle to international recruitment,” Høfler said, adding that international labour comprises 10 percent of Denmark’s work force. “The requirement will hopefully come up again this fall, since we are looking into how to strengthen our labour market. One way to do this will be improving the recruitment of highly skilled international labour, which includes eliminating unnecessary requirements like the Danish bank account on all labour schemes.”

“Denmark strives to be seen as a country that invites the best minds from around the world,” Wiig said. “When we put in these tripwires that make it more difficult, we find that the reality doesn’t match our vision of what Denmark aims to be.”

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WORKING IN DENMARK

How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

If you want to work in Denmark as a non EU citizen, you must apply for a residence and work permit and then get extensions to this, if you want to work in Denmark longer-term. Here's a guide to what you need to know.

How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

The rules regarding residence and work in Denmark are administered by the Danish Immigration Service and The Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) under the Ministry of Immigration and Integration.

As an EU citizen, you can freely enter Denmark and begin to work upon arrival without needing a permit to work. The case is different for those who are not EU citizens.

There are various ways to get a work permit, depending on your profession. A list of different types of work sectors and requirements needed, can be found on the website nyidanmark.dk.

These include Fast-track scheme, Pay limit scheme, Positive lists, Researcher, Employed PHD, Guest researcher, Special individual qualifications, Herdsmen and farm managers, Establishment card, Start-up Denmark, Trainee, Certification, ESS Scheme, Authorisation, Labour Market Attachment, Drill rigs and other mobile workplaces, Volunteer, Sideline employment, Employment for adaptation and training purposes, Work permit for accompanying family members.

The Pay Limit Scheme is currently being debated in Parliament by the Danish government due to the country’s labour shortage and the need to attract more international workers. 

At the moment, you can get a work permit on the pay limit scheme if your salary is at least 448,000 kroner a year. You don’t need a specific educational background or a job within a specific professional field. If you have requested asylum in Denmark and have been offered a job with a high salary, you can also apply based on this scheme. 

The government has proposed that the annual salary requirement be lowered to 375,000 kroner over a two-year period, to allow more international workers into Denmark on the scheme.

However, four conservative parties – the Conservatives, Liberal Alliance, Liberals and Nye Borgerlige (New Right), would like the annual salary permanently reduced to 360,000 kroner but do not want the scheme to include nationals of Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

READ ALSO: Danish conservative parties want to exclude Muslim countries in foreign labour rules

The Fast-Track Scheme makes it faster and easier for certified companies to recruit foreign employees with special qualifications to work in Denmark. This means that as a highly qualified employee, you can have a quick and flexible job start in the certified company.  The scheme allows you to alternate between working in Denmark and working abroad.

The four conservative parties also want the fast-track scheme to be expanded, so that companies with five employees can make use of the scheme. At the moment the requirement is that companies must have 20 employees to be able to use the scheme.

The Positive List, for people with a higher education and for skilled work, is a list of professions experiencing a shortage of qualified professionals in Denmark.

If you have been offered a job included in the Positive List, you can apply for a Danish residence and work permit based on this scheme.

The Positive List for people with a higher education and for skilled work is updated twice a year on 1st January and 1st July. Here is the latest updated list.

For requirement details of other work sectors, you can find more at nyidanmark.dk as mentioned above.

What about partners and family members?

A residence and work permit based on a job in Denmark allows your family to come with you to Denmark. 

A permit can be granted to your spouse, registered or cohabiting partner as well as children under the age of 18 living at home.

Holding a residence permit as an accompanying family member to an employee in general allows you the right to work in Denmark. Therefore, you do not need to apply for a separate work permit if you get a job. You are also allowed to run your own business and sign up to a programme in an educational institution.

However, you must apply for a work permit if you want to work for the same company as your partner (who is referred to as sponsor), or if you want to work for a company closely linked to your partner’s company.

How long will my permit last?

Work permits are no longer than four years but you can apply for an extension three months before your current permit expires. So you also need to apply for an extension to residency based on your work permit, which will be on the same conditions as you got the first one.

In order to extend your permit, your employment must not have changed. This means that you must be employed in the same position, by the same employer and under the same or improved terms of employment.

If you change jobs, you need to apply for a new work permit or if your salary or other employment terms are diminished, you must inform SIRI.

If you have a resident permit based on your partner (sponsor’s) employment and their employment is extended, you must also apply for an extension of your residence permit.

Permanent residency

Once you become a permanent resident, you no longer need to extend your work and residence permit.

Permanent residency for non EU citizens is granted after living and working in Denmark for eight continuous years, or four years in certain circumstances. You can apply for permanent residency at anytime and it usually takes 10 months to process at a cost of 6,745 kroner.

If you need any more information or have questions about work permits, you can contact SIRI on their contact page.

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