Integration – at your own expense

The recent tax agreement between the government and their supporting party, the Danish People’s Party will require self-supporting foreigners to pay DKK 12,000 to learn Danish. The new user fees are not the first time that tighter rules have been imposed on this particular group of foreigners.

Conflicting signals on integration

"You have a duty to learn Danish when you live in Denmark". In an effort to manifest this position through policy, the government and Danish People’s Party have introduced a range of new measures, including fees for using interpreters in the health service.

At Copenhagen Language Center, we agree that a command of the Danish language is important when you live in Denmark. However, we find it difficult to comprehend the underlying  logic in the decision by the government and Danish People’s Party to restrict access to Danish language courses, while at the same time imploring foreign residents to master Danish.

The introduction of user fees to cover a portion of the cost of Danish courses – part of recent tax agreement between the government and their supporting party, the Danish People’s Party – will require self-supporting foreigners to pay DKK 12,000 to learn Danish.

Integration at your own expense

Consequences for integration and retention

Language is the key to successful integration. Denmark learned this the hard way back in the 1960s and 70s, as the country failed to integrate an entire generation of immigrants. The first law on Danish language courses was adopted in 1986, and since then thousands of immigrants have seized the opportunity for free Danish classes. But now it is going to cost money to learn Danish.

The direct consequence of these high user fees is that far fewer foreigners will learn Danish. The most likely indirect consequences will be a significant decline in foreigners who permanently settle in Denmark – and those who do will have a much more difficult path to integration. The new policy will have a tangible impact on the lives of foreigners, who will have to struggle even more to establish a foothold in the job market and in everyday life. These impacts will also be felt by the Danish business world, where labour is in short supply.

Self-supporting foreigners are by far the largest group of foreigners in Denmark, and they comprise about 70% of students currently enrolled in a Danish course. The new user fees are not the first time that tighter rules have been imposed on this particular group of foreigners.

1.Just two months ago, the government established a new voucher scheme as an incentive to make self-supporting foreigners complete their Danish language courses faster.
2. Six months before that, a deposit of DKK 1,250 was introduced.

405 x 298 Brugerbetaling på danskuddannelse 2

It’s now or never – enrolment required on arrival

The deposit, voucher scheme and user fees all seek to encourage foreigners to take their Danish courses seriously and learn Danish as quickly as possible. This objective is certainly sensible, but a user fee of DKK 12,000, combined with the two other measures, will not strengthen integration – on the contrary, it will keep many students from ever enrolling in a Danish course.

The deposit must be paid at the time of enrolment and the user fee is set at DKK 2,000 per module, payable in advance. The first three modules are relatively short, which means that many new students will have to pay DKK 7,250 within a period of just six months.

At the same time, foreigners must now make a decision about Danish language courses within four weeks of arrival in the country. This new policy requires them to make a very quick and final decision about whether to prioritise Danish classes AND they must also ensure that they have the financial means to complete their Danish studies.

Most newly arrived foreigners in Denmark spend their first month here looking for a place to live, getting settled down at their new job or school, and generally finding their bearings in a brand new country. Would any reasonable person conflate a lack of time and energy to enrol in Danish classes at this early juncture with insufficient motivation? Certainly not.

User payment on Danish courses

User fees will miss the target

Self-supporting foreigners in Denmark is a group comprised of individuals in the country to work or study, accompanying spouses, and people who moved to Denmark under the EU’s rules on family reunification. It includes both highly skilled workers and unskilled workers, who often take jobs in the hotel & restaurant, construction, and service sectors. It also includes students enrolled in higher education courses in Denmark – students with the potential to become extremely valuable employees for Danish businesses, despite their limited financial resources at present.

Under the new policy, Danish language courses will be reserved for the foreigners who have the means and the desire to pay out of their own pocket. User fees will fail to deliver the intended effects, instead limiting access to Danish courses to those with the strongest financial resources – and barring many of those who could ultimately prove most beneficial to Danish society. Is that really the desired aim?

It's not all bad news

The tighter rules open new doors for self-supporting foreigners who want to learn Danish. We are experiencing a significant change, as Danish language courses are being re-thought and modernized to be compliant with the private sector requirements. The new rules have encouraged the posibility of expanding beyond the public law-limited offer, towards a more flexible and needs oriented teaching model.

This shift sets the students in the center and aims to adapt the teaching program to the individual needs, instead of canalizing all th efforts towards passing centralized module tests. Private and public Danish classes generally have similar pricing, but the difference between content and stucture can make a read difference while learning Danish.


Join the discussion

  • PThomas

    I’m not saying that I agree with the changes, but I don’t exactly see how it it “paradoxical”. Foreigners under the Danish Integration Act benefit from their partner being a Dane and that they either have to be here or their own country. Therefore, if they’re to be here permanently, then it is best that they integrate and help them along. For those who are here for work, they’re earning money, so the government would also like them to further pay their way. And then leave when they’re done, so it doesn’t have to support them when they get older.

  • Konj

    I understand way of expression on this article because it is written by Sprogcenter. And of course as someone who study in Denmark from other EU country I am not glad to hear that. It’s also not really some welcome news for new students and immigrants and it will just miss the target by any means. BUT tell me one more country that offers free education, money support for foreigner students if they work and free healtcare? There are high tax rates but guess this is something you know before moving here. And it has to be to keep this system sustainable. I would rather complain about ” impossible” way to obtain citizenship. If you know you will always be imigrant probably you will not plan to stay here. You just get feeling that foreigners are at same time welcome and unwanted here.

  • Liz

    Let’s start by saying that NO country gives language lessons for free.
    It is easy to complain about Denmark, but let’s also look at our own countries and see how do they help foreigners. Free English lesson?SU? Dagpenge?free healthservice?….no you just don’t get that for free.

    This new tax agreements are the result of our own behaviours as foreigners, not necessarily you and me, but all those ones that sign into danish lessons and didn’t show up in class. So blame them for the new taxe regulations that unfortunately the comming foreigners will have to pay for.

    Who do you think pays for the teacher,computers, books, etc? Nothing is for free in this world, and it is pople that works everyday that pays for our education. Is danish one of the most difficult language to learn? Yes! Did you knew that before you came to Denmark?Yes.

    Let’s move on and if you really want to stay in Denmark then you should contribute to this country as you will like any foreigner do the same in your homeland.

    1. Tanveer

      You say such a bullshit comment that you should be ashamed of yourself without knowing the fact. I pay 48% tax of my salary and at the end I am the looser. People like you live on the public help and our tax money and you say we dont belong here? Think before you comment!

  • Andrei

    I saw that the payment new rule is a consequence of reducing the taxes of working people. I can understand that when the goverment dicides to cut off taxea for its own people, there must some other people to fill the economy hole up. And I understand that the foreigners are the ones who “suffer” because, well, we are that part of society in wich the Folkeparty doesn’t give a damn. That party doesn’t like us very much anyway.
    But it is what it is. I am paying for my education since last summer, because my 3 years of free Danish education ran out. For me isn’t such a big deal anyway.

  • Gary

    Congratulation to delete my comment!
    The decision is to pay 12000DKK and obviously the success is not guaranteed, well… It will affect loads of people working in language centres, because people will not be stupid to pay this money…

  • Gary(a foreigner)

    Well pay 12000 DKK is just insane! My sis studies master diploma in engineering(not some ridiculous course), she speaks fluent english(obviously) and she is keen and eager to learn danish, but she is a self-supporting person. I agree to pay a deposit and if you cannot success during the course you will not get back that money, that would be fine. Everyone knows that the danish is one of the most difficult language, i know because i tried to learn it by curiosity and this language doesn’t make any sense(no offense), the written and spoken danish is completely different(!?). Everyone speaks about equal behavior, but in a country where everybody speaks fluent english, you cannot get a job equally to your skills(like and engineer) if you don’t speak danish. I never lived in Denmark and possibly i never will be because of these nonsense things, i prefer tostay in UK. If they implement this changes, it will work in the opposite way i bet on it…

  • Chris

    Jeg taler ikke meget dansk, men jeg prøver. Når regeringen kræver en forandring, gør de den mest beskidte ting og forventer derefter modstand. At de vil have folk til at betale for tolke på hospitalet, er så primært racistisk og voldsomt ydmygende, at når nogen kræver lægehjælp mest, kan de få lov til at misforstå, misbruge og mishandle en lidelse eller eksperimentere med et menneske bare fordi han er i forvejen tales der om, hvor Folkepartiets retning er på vej. Det er dybt foruroligende, at den måde, hvorpå de ønsker at påvirke integrationen, ikke længere er et incitament og opmuntring, men ved at trække tæppet under poeples fødder. Ved at lave politikker, der får folk til at blinde og pludselig overraske.
    Ingen selv i de fattigste lande i verden nægter behandling til nogen på grund af ikke at tale et sprog.
    Dette er grænseoverskridende devisve, umenneskelig og skal kritiseres.

  • Christian (a foreigner)

    Some of the rules make sense. When the courses were free a ton of people signed up for them, but not so much were actually attending and willing to learn the language. Furthermore, those who attended once or twice didn’t bother to even return their textbooks and materials they took from the language school. At the end of the day, the money come from the taxpayer’s pocket and this is definitely NOT the most efficient way to utilize them. I would much rather have a better health system (compared to the expensive disaster that it is now) than to pay for someone who is not interested in learning the language but still consuming funds in one or another way.

    It is fine to pay in order to learn the language, it is a skill you can “sell” worldwide. But as long as language schools are made non- profit and you get an adequate tax break for this.

  • Michael W. (native Dane)

    The mandatory Danish exams makes good sense for most but collectively punishing our guests and migrants like this is completely missing the target and will have the exact opposite effect. Shame on you, Dansk Folkeparti..

  • Laxmi

    Liked it ????????
    It is paradoxical that foreigners under the Danish Integration Act are given financial incentives to complete a Danish course, while self-supporting foreigners are now financially punished for doing the same.

  • Emon

    Foreigners are not circus animal or joker but in recent years immigration and integration became a circus ground. I invested a lot of my time energy and money to get a career in a developed country. I chose Denmark whereas I could have chosen any western country like canada usa or European countries like Germany Sweden etc. But at that time I got work permit in Denmark which was fairly easy and could lead me to a successful career. But after 2014, I was unable to concentrate to career as I they introduced strict rules to fulfill the requirements. I’m always on the go to fulfill them that I forgot to live. Now I’m tired and about to give up. But I wasted a lot of my time which I can’t get back. I convience my mind, just a little more, don’t give up. But then a new rule comes in. So when a new rules come, I smile and say, why don’t you say “go home, we don’t need you here”. At least then I would think this way, I wasn’t welcome there, so I left.

    1. Rafik

      Precisely how I wake up feeling everyday. Once struggles so hard to meet this requirements that we forget to live.
      But the don’t get any easier. I have a case where I recently changed jobs, but can’t hold my holidays from my previous company, because it doesn’t count I have to earn a minimum amount of money in a year, and having holidays earned from a previous employer here in Denmark does not count towards that, even though the money is transferred to feriekonto.
      A Danish person however is allowed to. This are just some of the daily struggles as foreigners paying taxes face everyday. And they just keep coming
      The country is being made less and less attractive, the effect which will be felt years to come, when the bubble bursts.

    2. Jonathan

      You are very welcome 🙂 The restrictions are meant for the foreigners that does not add value or at least try to. And as it is for danes those restrictions will target some, but ultimately hit everyone if they are not carefully conceived and carried out. Summa Summarum, ergo sum: YOU are welcome, but we need to protect the country from people who only do harm or have no will to add value. And unfortunately they are half the world. They come from poor, religious countries that have never undergone spiritual, cultural or legislative reform. And therefore they can’t add value here, unless they prove it by paying to get in to the luxury of the danish state or at least prove good will. Im sorry this hurts your case – and I will try to do my little best to change this law if it proves to be headless.

  • Sher Khan

    Its pretty hard to understand these changes. Its might safe some money but in long run its not beneficial for Denmark.

  • Snigdha Chowdhury

    Ya it is Perfect decision as long as they dont expect us to speak Perfect Danish.
    Question of “Hvad siger du”?
    Never would be asked back.
    As Becouse people Will try to learn as much they can afford.
    Goverment does not care About integration The only thing they care About inviting people from outside and put them in a trap and squiz them for money and taxes.

    1. Jonathan

      That’s simply just plain wrong… Its exactly this attitude we are trying to avoid when passing law like this.

      I think this bill is targeting the wrong people, but it still hits people who dont care for this country where it hurts the most – the wallet.

      Ultimately the danish strictness and lack of elasticity makes for a stronghold of a state where you actually have to lose the attitude to become part of the welfare system.

      When that is said, I partially agree with the viewpoints of the school. I think this law could be smarter.

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