This blog post is all about the logistics of setting up in Denmark and how we did it, as EU members. Just as we finished all our expat admin four weeks ago, Article 50 was triggered for Britain to leave the EU. 20 days later, a snap general election was called. So who knows what the future holds. Without getting too political, all I will say is that being part of the EU has made our move and transition here smooth and straight forward and we are very grateful. I’m sure Rich would like to say a lot more about the current state of affairs in UK politics but I’ll leave that for his family and friends 😉
Before I begin, remember how I’m half Danish. Well I did wonder if that gave me any sort of ‘Pass Go’ card. In my research I found out that if one of your parents is a Danish national, even if you, the child has never lived in the country, you are automatically Danish nationals as well. But…unless you move to Denmark by the age of 22, or claim you’ve got an association with the country by this age, you lose that nationality. Nooo…ten years too late I thought! But actually it isn’t that simple in my case because Dad, although born in Denmark to Danish parents, became a British citizen through his adoption process. His adopted mum was Danish, his adopted Dad British and they always lived in England. So the upshot is that I have to apply to become a Danish resident just the same as anyone else coming from the EU without Danish connections.
So here is the list of what we did, to get it signed and sealed that we could live here properly.
Register as a Danish resident
As a member of the EU, you can stay in Denmark for leisure/holiday for up to three months and you can stay up to six months if you are job-seeking. It is after this time that you must register as a resident if you want to stay longer. You can of course do this as soon as you arrive, if that’s your intention.
So to apply for Danish residency as an EU member, you need to meet one of these criteria:
- you’re in paid employment in Denmark
- you’re self-employed in Denmark
- you provide services in Denmark
- you’re a retired worker, retired self-employed person or retired service provider in Denmark
- you’ve been seconded to Denmark
- you’re a student in Denmark
- you can prove you can finance your stay in Denmark
You can’t apply to be a resident until you’re actually in the country as you need to physically provide your documents. You will need your passport, one passport photo and your proof of meeting one of the criteria above, along with a form which you can print off from the website: http://www.statsforvaltningen.dk
So once you’ve got to Denmark with all your documents, you can go and register at the Statsforvaltningen (State Administration), or International Citizen Service (ICS). We went to the Statsforvaltningen. We waited for about an hour to been seen and then it was very straightforward to process the documents. Two weeks later, we were sent our registration certificate through the post.
So you’ve got your registration certificate and you’re a Danish resident. But this doesn’t really mean anything without a CPR number, which is your personal ID. This gives you access to free Danish healthcare, subsidised daycare, free Danish lessons, a Danish bank account etc etc. Some landlords for long-term rentals also require you to have your CPR number.
Now you need to take a trip to the International Citizen Service (ICS). Our letter told us we could go to our local municipality. After two metro journeys and waiting in the queue there, we were told this was only for NemID (see below what that is). Joys. Another trip and another hour’s queue, we were ready to get our CPR numbers, at the right place of ICS.
This time you need your residence certificate, passport, proof of address in Copenhagen, marriage certificate if married and children’s birth certificates, if you have kids. This process takes a bit longer. Luckily there was a kind worker on hand to bribe Lydia with a banana and croissant. Just when I thought we were done, an error was spotted. My date of birth on the residency certificate had been printed incorrectly. Oh never mind I thought, my passport clearly has the right date of birth, as well as my marriage certificate, so this can be amended right? Wrong. Well it can be amended but that’s down to me. It meant a trip back to Statsforvaltningen (a 30 minute bus trip from our house), another hour’s queue, to get them to amend their mistake, and then a metro journey to return to International Citizen Service with the updated version, to process it all again. Oh and because on paper, the mum has the main responsibility of the child, Lydia couldn’t get her CPR number until I’d done this. This was a “let it go, let it goooo” moment after a tedious trek and queue of a day, with Lydia in tow. So two days later I did it all again, taking poor Lyds with me while Rich job-searched. Luckily I managed to queue jump at the ICS and saw the same lady. Just as well because I didn’t realised the office closed at 2pm and I arrived at 1.50pm. And then hurrah, we had our CPR numbers instantly, a ‘Welcome to Copenhagen’ pack and were assigned a GP.
I have recently discovered that you can actually get both the residency certificate and CPR number at International Citizen Service. I wish I had known this. If you manage it correctly and queue before the office opens at 10am, you can book a slot to get your registration certificate processed that same day and then book another slot to get your CPR number later in the day, as well as your tax card. Which makes me wonder even more, why the error on my residence certificate couldn’t be corrected when I was applying for my CPR. (“Let it goooo!”) Anyway, there’s more info here.
This is your key to online Denmark. You can order your NemID once you’ve got your CPR number and it can be done at the same CPR appointment at the International Citizen Service (make sure you ask for it), or you can go to your local municipality, along with your CPR number. You’re given a user ID and a code card is sent to you about two weeks later.
Your NemID is your Danish online profile and you need it to access things like online phone contracts, travel card top ups, online banking, tax returns, VAT, anything public-authority related, as well as your digital mail. Everyone is expected to have a NemID and Digital Mail, unless you give a reason why you can’t.
Two weeks after asking for your NemID, you’ll receive three small paper cards in the post, each filled with 44 codes. Every time you log in to something like online banking, you enter your NemID (which is a username and password you set up on registration) and then you fill in a code. You’re given the first four numbers of that code, you then have to find that sequence (across 44 numbers x 3 cards) and fill in the remaining six numbers. You do this for every online process. The same code will never be used more than once and the system automatically sends you new cards when you’ve used all the codes. It makes for some blurry eyes but you soon get used to it. Nem is meant to stand for ‘easy’ but I’ve heard many Danes say it is anything but.
You need NemID to set up your digital mail. You receive all post from public authorities via digital mail rather than paper. So for example I’ve had digital mail about our GP and Lydia’s nursery place and application. It’s pretty important so make sure you set it up. You can get alerted to a new digital mail through your personal email address and text (if you have a Danish number).
About two weeks after getting your CPR number and being assigned a GP at the same time, you get your health card through the post. This has your name, address and CPR number on it, which acts as an ID so keep it in your wallet. It was what I got asked for when I was fined on the bus and the ticket man zapped it and got all my info (sad face).
You need your health card to open your bank account. Thanks to fellow expats who told us this as, it would never have occurred to me to wait for a health card before joining yet another queue in a bank. We picked Nordea as a bank, only because I see branches everywhere and in Denmark, you’re charged for taking cash out of an ATM that isn’t from your own bank. When you open your account(s), you need to assign a Nemkonto to your main account (the bank should initiate this but worth checking). This is linked like the digital mail, so the public authorities know where to pay in money like child benefit pay etc.
You are also charged about £20 a year for having a debit card or credit card. We had to order these ourselves online and they took two weeks to then arrive. And we were sent a debit card, not a Dankort which we asked for and were advised to get. I’m not fully sure of the difference yet but when I tried to create a direct debit scheme for my Rejsekort, it asked for a Dankort, so I need to ask the bank about this but for now we are using the debit cards. The time between arriving in Denmark, getting registered, being assigned our CPR numbers, getting health cards, opening bank accounts and then getting bank cards delivered, was seven weeks.
I’m still navigating this system as I go along. Apparently the Rejsekort, which is like the London Oyster card, was only introduced to Copenhagen very recently and is still experiencing some problems. The resident Rejsekort gives you the best price on public transport (buses, metros and s-togs, which are the trains.) So I waited for my CPR number before getting one and went to Copenhagen Central Station to queue (again!) and get it, as I hadn’t sorted my NemID to order online. There are various options and I went with the Travel Map flex, which means I can lend it to friends or family to use. The monthly passes are also very good if you know what zones you travel across on a regular basis. I’ve recently discovered there’s an app called mobilbilleter, where you can pay for trips as you go, or top up with credit for multiple journeys. The bonus of this, is that you don’t have to remember to swipe your Rejsekort at the start and end of your journeys or between modes of transport. Unlike in London, there aren’t ticket barriers here, so it’s easy to forget to check out on your card. You’re then charged as if you’ve continued travelling around the whole of Copenhagen for the day. Rich learnt this the hard way. Twice. If you have that ‘doh’ moment soon after you’ve left the station/bus, you can check out using the app Check Udvej, which will save you some money.
And then there’s the old fashioned option of just paying for a day ticket or single ticket at the machine/on the bus. But you need Danish kroner in coins to do this, or a bank card for the metro/s-tog, which of course will charge you the exchange rate if you haven’t got your Danish bank card, and it’s not the most cost-effective option.
If you’re a visitor, I’d recommend mobilbilleter or getting a visitor Rejsekort, which is available at Copenhagen Central Station and various other station machines. If you’re with a Danish friend/family member, they can add you to their journey on their own Rejsekort, but remember this can only be done for the metro and s-tog and not the bus, as we discovered to our detriment with the bus fine scenario!
On top of this, I’ve heard you are charged to take a bike on the s-tog but not the metro. How this works, I don’t know, as we are not yet bike owners. As soon as we are, I’ll be posting all about it 🙂 And maybe the conclusion of this travel-ticket-purchasing system, is to just get a bike!
Danish Language Courses
When you get your CPR number, you are entitled to 250 hours of Danish language lessons completely free, which is an amazing opportunity to learn the language. The classes are divided into five modules of 50 hours with an exam at the end of each section. You have 18 months to complete your 250 hours of Intro Dansk, which starts the day you sign up. Once you have completed this within 18 months, you can then progress to The Danish Language Training Programme, which gives you another 3-3.5 years of free language lessons. When you have your CPR number, you can choose a language school and class time that suits you best. There can be a bit of a wait for a class to fill up and start a new module. I am still waiting for mine but Rich has started his evening classes and is busy practising! But I’m sadly realising that my brain doesn’t hold new information like it used to. I hope this is just because of the many plates I have spinning now I’m a mum, freelancer and new expat, as opposed to just getting a bit thick.
There are loads to choose from but for a sim only pay-as-you go, Lyca is the recommended provider and is what Rich has. My British phone contract runs until October and it isn’t worth the charge of leaving it early, when I get EU calls and texts included in my package, so I still have a British number. It hasn’t stopped me doing anything but it doesn’t make me feel very Danish. Other phone contracts that have been recommended to me are Fullrate, Oister, Tjeep and 3.
Once you’ve got a CPR number, you can get on the waiting list for a nursery. We had to wait until we knew where we were going to be living after our two-month rent was up, as I didn’t want to swap nurseries. Waiting lists are long but the rule is, you will get something within two months. It may not be your first choice of nursery and it may be a childminder, but you will get something. You are also assigned a ‘movers spot,’ which helps you jump up the waiting list, if you’ve recently moved to the area and need a place asap. I’ll dedicate a whole post to nurseries as there’s a lot to say. But after looking around seven, I got a movers spot for my second favourite place and had to wait two months, which is now one month away. My favourite nursery had a six-month waiting list; without a movers spot it would have been at least a year. So get on the list early is my advice.
It is possible to rent in Denmark without being registered and it then gives you an address to get yourself set up. There’s also the option of Airbnb for somewhere short-term, while you settle and look at long-term rentals.
I have found both our places (two month and six month contracts) through the website Lejebolig. Both times have been through private landlords (families) for fully furnished places. This has suited our situation perfectly because we are still in a little bit of limbo regarding Richie’s work situation. Many people have an opinion on renting in Copenhagen. The long-term rental market is competitive and generally requires at least three months’ rent for a deposit plus a month’s rent in advance, which is a LOT. And some landlords require a CPR number. I know we have been lucky so far and haven’t had to meet that criteria. But it did take a lot of research and looking at the websites a few times a day, to get in there first when something suitable came up. For both our places, I rang the landlords within hours of the properties being advertised.
And then you’re done! (Minus what I did to set up as a freelancer but there’s only so many ‘to-dos’ a blog post can take.)
It took us about seven weeks to complete all of the above, which was when it was time to move to house number two! Thankfully, moving house is when the online identity NemID comes into its own. I just had to fill in one form at borger.dk for all three of us and everything got updated. You have to register your new address no later than five days after moving, otherwise you’ll get fined. Danish efficiency!
So there you have it. Turning a thought about moving abroad, into a reality, can really be done. We’d done our research before moving but we also learnt a lot along the way, so I hope this helps or inspires others.
When I first asked my younger sister Izzy about my Denmark idea, and whether I was a bit mad, her response really stuck with me. In her laid-back, twenty-something living in London kind of way, she replied:
“It’s just a bunch of logistics Em.”
And you know what Izzy; it really is.