Category Archives: Dual citizenship

Introducing: A Dual Danish-Australian citizen

Dual citizenship will let me celebrate my whole identity, both Danish and Australian. Photo by Mick 2014.

Dual citizenship will let me celebrate my whole identity, both Danish and Australian. Photo by Mick 2014.

And again there is reason to celebrate: On the eve of my return to Australia, I have regained my birthright and am again a Danish citizen.

Those of you who have followed my blog will know that I have longed for being recognised again as Danish, after losing my Danish citizenship when I became an Australian.

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Reflections on the gap

Mind the gap. Photo: Lone. 2015.

Mind the gap. Photo: Lone. 2015.

Normally, the gap year is reserved for the young, fresh out of high school, ready to conquer the world. But like youth, the gap year really is wasted on the young.

For starters, at that age you have very limited means. This means you have to work a shitty job in a shitty café – or worse – to fund your fun year out. At 48, I have accumulated a certain amount of wealth from many years of working really hard and living quite frugally, as well as an amount of long service leave I could use sensibly for the purpose. I compare this with the time when I as a 16 year old also took a gap year to attend an English language course at Cardiff University for three months. I really had very limited means and no steady income. I am sure Cardiff would have been much more fun with dosh.

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Bureaucracy and suffrage

Every bridge (and there are many), every lamp post, every tree along the streets are adorned with election posters. Photo: Mick. 2015.

Every bridge (and there are many), every lamp post, every tree along the streets are adorned with election posters. Photo: Mick. 2015.

Today is election day in Denmark. The Danes residing here will decide who should lead Denmark for the next four years. It is a great day for democracy, the day when people can exercise their democratic right to influence the society they wish to live in. A society better for people, better for the planet.

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Immigration and bureaucracy

Still not sorted, but at least for the time it takes to process my 'family reunification' application, I have permission to stay in my birth country. Photo: Lone. 2014.

Still not sorted, but at least for the time it takes to process my ‘family reunification’ application, I have permission to stay in my birth country. Photo: Lone. 2014.

Travelling half-way around the world and shifting 10 time zones in 24 hours turns day into night and night into day, playing serious havoc with sleep patterns. But possibly what has kept me awake in the middle of the night is the long list of things we need to achieve as quickly as possible so that we can become part of Danish society.

You see, Danish society is like a closed and exclusive club, nervously assessing the worthiness of potential new members. Denmark’s tracking of its members is streamlined across many public and private systems – a veritable dream for the Australian bureaucrat, whose cross-agency work is stymied by the absence of a single unique identity number and further complicated by privacy legislation. The key to Danish efficiency is the CPR number, a unique number made up of your birth date and four additional numbers, under which you are registered in the Central Person Register.

Admission into Club Denmark requires registration of your address with the local government of your residence, using your CPR number. Once you have this Open Sesame, an abundance of possibilities emerge, which are otherwise unattainable to the outsider. We quickly found out that without a registered address you cannot get a Danish mobile phone account; you cannot set up a bank account in a reasonable time period and you cannot get NemID, the digital identity system in Denmark required for online transactions, including buying the best value Rejsekort for discounted public transport. You cannot access services that Danes take for granted.

Luckily, we both have CPR numbers – I was allocated mine when born and my husband got his when we married in Denmark in 1991. But to register an address we also have to have lawful permission to stay in the country. As a citizen of the United Kingdom, all my husband needed to do was to register as a EU citizen wanting to reside in Denmark. Because I am no longer a Danish citizen, my situation was more complicated: I could apply for permission to stay based on my former Danish citizenship or apply for family reunification with my husband. I baulked at the latter: why should I, born and bred Dane, rely on a foreigner to get into my own country?

We followed the instructions online – nyidanmark.dk. We are both university educated and I have native command of Danish. Yet when we stood in Furesø local council service centre, we realised nothing is straight forward. Firstly, the take-a-number system we know in Australia from delicatessen counters are omnipresent in public administration and retail in Denmark. The lack of queue culture in other areas of Danish life is amply compensated for by these machines – provided you know about them. You can almost hear the snickering by people jumping in front of you in the queue, while you wait and wait for your turn which will never come until you discover the number system. Secondly, it turned out that we needed to go to a government department, Statsforvaltningen, rather than the local council to register as an EU citizen first.

Statsforvaltingen is out of the way and not particularly inviting, like they don't actually want your inquiries and applications.

Statsforvaltingen is out of the way and not particulary inviting, like they don’t actually want your inquiries and applications.

So the next day we travelled out to the department – a strangely out-of-the-way anonymous-looking building, with poor signage and an unwelcoming entry. Now wisened to the take-a-number culture, we quickly claimed our place in the queue with a diverse bunch of folk in a cacophony of different languages.

Unfortunately, our documentation to demonstrate Mick’s financial self-sufficiency was inadequate since the currency of our Australian bank holdings were not identified. I guess it could have been Indian Rupees or Russian Rubles. So we were sent away again to get acceptable documentation. They also clarified that I would be best off to apply for family reunification, rather than rely on my former Danish citizenship. In spite of my initial misgivings, I saw the sense: it saved us from dealing with yet another public service entity.

Third time lucky, by day 4 in Denmark, I got a stamp in my Australian passport that I have lodged my application for permission to stay, so I will not be deported when the three month holiday available to Australians expires. The application may take up to six months to process – while my UK husband will have his registration card in a couple of days.

All this anxiety and humiliation associated with reclaiming ones birth right will soon be a thing of the past. On Thursday 18 December 2014, Danish Parliament passed a law to permit dual citizenship. This law is expected to commence on 1 September 2015 and has transition provisions for people like me, who had to relinquish our judicial Danishness because we wanted to be part of the country we happened to live in. I will be first in the queue on 1 September 2015.

Citizenship seems a formality – a judicial technicality – but as my experience with returning to Denmark demonstrates, it has real and significant consequences not to belong to Club Denmark, quite aside from the emotional effect of feeling locked out of one’s birth country.

I love and belong in both Denmark and Australia and I look forward to being able to be formally recognised by both exclusive clubs. Then I can worry about other stuff in the middle of the night – like a cure for jetlag.

We have arrived in Copenhagen. Photo: Mick. 2014.

We have arrived in Copenhagen. Photo: Mick. 2014.

Go global Danmark!

Dual citizenship will let me celebrate my whole identity, both Danish and Australian. Photo by Mick 2014.

Dual citizenship will let me celebrate my whole identity, both Danish and Australian. Photo by Mick 2014.

Together with thousands of expats across the globe, I am celebrating that Denmark has moved one step further toward dual citizenship this week.

I was born about 1000 years after my ancestor, Harald Bluetooth, raised Denmark’s birth certificate in Jelling. Jelling was my mother’s childhood home, and my parents had bought their first house in the town, when I joined the family. I was raised in Denmark through the 1970s and 1980s. I love the country of my birth and upbringing. It gave me my sense of identity, my Danishness, my culture, my language, and in the sandy soils of the Jutland heath, my roots are still healthily burried and tugging at my heart strings.

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Undivided loyalty?

The iconic symbol of connection between Denmark and Australia - Sydney Opera House by Jørn Utzon. Mick Keast. October 2013

The iconic symbol of connection between Denmark and Australia – Sydney Opera House by Jørn Utzon. Mick Keast. October 2013

Diogenes (404-323 BC) was a Cynic and even though he lived in a dog house, he called himself ‘citizen of the world’. In today’s increased mobility and connectivity, we can all be citizens of the world, virtually and actually. Except reality is that we are citizens of one country, maybe two, but always only one if you are Danish.

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