How to move to Denmark: Step-by-step guide

Wise
06.17.21
8 minute read

People dream of moving to Denmark for its egalitarian society, progressive ideals and focus on design and aesthetics. In Denmark, you’ll find bakeries, high-quality universities and bustling industries.

But moving to Denmark isn’t just about buying a plane ticket. This is a relocation guide that will get you started with settling down in Denmark. For info on visas, bank accounts, health insurance and finding a job, read on.

If you’re also looking for a fast and cheap solution to send money to Denmark from the US or the other way around, open a Wise account today and save on fees – but more on that later.

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📝 Table of contents

Step 1: Figure out the legal requirements to move to Denmark

It can be difficult to get a permanent residency visa in Denmark if you're from outside the EU. To enter Denmark, you'll need a valid passport and as a US national, you can stay in Denmark for 90 days without a visa.

If you’d like to stay longer in Denmark, you have to apply for temporary residency before entering the country, which is valid for 5 years. This gives you the right to work in the country and provides you access to healthcare and education.

To immigrate fully to Denmark and obtain a visa for permanent stay, one must have lived in Denmark for 8 years, or worked for 4 at a certain income level, before naturally acquiring a permanent residency card. Getting a Danish visa costs around 3,000 DKK (480 USD).

However, the Danish government has many schemes designed to allow expats to move more easily into the country. For example, the Pay Limit Scheme allows expats into the country who expect an annual salary of at least 400,000 DKK.

For more info, it’s a good idea to check Life in Denmark, a website dedicated to expats looking for more information about moving to Denmark.

💡By handing in your visa application, you’re both applying for a residence and work permit at the same time – no need to get them separately However, once you get your visa, don’t forget to call the Danish tax authorities (SKAT) to get your tax number.

Requirements for Australian citizens

Australians moving to Denmark face the same challenges that Australians do. It’s easiest for Americans and Australians to move to Denmark as a student, an employee, or as a spouse or partner of a Dane.

Requirements for EU citizens

People from Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland) can freely live and work in Denmark. For EU citizens, the rules are similar, but non-Nordics must apply for a registration certificate within 90 days of arriving in Denmark.

Requirements for UK citizens

UK citizens in Denmark have the same rights as EU citizens.

Requirements for students

Students in Denmark from the EU/EEA area or Switzerland only need secure a place on a course at a Danish university. Students from outside the EU should apply for student visas. This visa is straightforward, and can be obtained with proof of ID and an acceptance letter for a Danish university. A student visa will last the length of the academic year.

Step 2: Set up your finances in Denmark

Denmark is an expat hub, which means that opening a bank account as a foreigner is straightforward. Each bank has its own unique policy. To open a standard account, you’ll need your photo ID, proof of address and proof of your employment or student status. You’ll also need a CPR (Centrale Personregister) which is issued along with your residence permit. Without a CPR number, you can’t open a Danish account.

If you already have an account with an international bank, they may operate in Denmark. If they do, you should be able to open an account and conduct simple transactions online. You can read more here about how to open a bank account in Denmark.

💡Once you’re set up in Denmark, you may want to transfer money into and out of your Danish account from the US. You can save money on foreign currency transactions through Wise. The end result of transactions with banks and exchange companies is often a poor exchange rate and hidden charges. For the real exchange rate, the same one you find on Google, use Wise to move your money. With a Wise account, you can store and manage money in dozens of currencies such as Danish kroner, which makes bill-paying easy and cost-effective.

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Step 3: Get a place to live in Denmark

Finding housing in Denmark can be expensive. It’s recommended that you rent before buying a property. The most popular areas to live in Denmark are in its largest cities: Copenhagen, Aarhus, Aalborg or Odense. The north of Copenhagen is more expensive than the south. It’s easier to find housing if you have a residency permit, since many agencies and landlords will request your CPR number.

Apartments for rent are called lejelejlighed. These types of rentals are small and are sought-after in Denmark, because they're the cheapest. Sometimes they have shared communal space. A rækkehus is also a sought-after type of property to rent in Denmark; they're terraced houses that are larger than most apartments and have small private gardens.

To rent property, you’ll have to pay three months of rent upfront as a deposit. You’ll also need to pay this amount through a bank transfer. Most leases run for one year, and there are rental agencies to help you that specialize in dealing with letting to expats. You should expect to sign a rental contract between yourself and the landlord.

Here are some approximate housing costs in Denmark:

HousingApproximate costs
Rent, per month, one-bedroom outside city centre5,000 DKK
Rent, per month, one-bedroom in city centre7,000 DKK
Utilities, per month1,200 DKK

Start your housing search online through the following websites:

Step 4: Find a job and get employment in Denmark

Once you've obtained your working visa, it is important to know that you need to speak Danish if you want to get a full time job in Denmark. All government jobs require Danish fluency, and 40% of the jobs in the country are government-provided. Being fluent in English won’t guarantee that you’re seen as special, since most Danes are also fluent – though your chances are higher to land an English-speaking job in the bigger cities such as Copenhagen or Aarhus. The best way to find a job without speaking Danish is through an engineering or tech job. The more specialized you are in a field, the better.

To get started, here are a few job-search resources in Denmark:

💡The average Danish salary is around 45,000 DKK a month (7,500 USD) gross. Keep in mind, however, that Danish income taxes are considerably high. Taxation is being done based on income and the highest marginal tax rate including labor market tax can reach 56.5 per cent.

Study in Denmark

If you don’t pursue a job Denmark, studying in Denmark can also be an option as the quality of education is excellent in the country. Moreover, if you’re a parent, you might be looking for a school for your children.

First, it’s important to note, that schools in Denmark are somewhat different from the schools in the United States.

For example, from the age of 6 to 16, you can freely enrol your child at a folkeskole (people’s school) within your municipality, which should cover the period of compulsory education. This can be a great option as these schools offer free Danish culture and language courses to people newly arriving – no need to worry about the lack of Danish skills.

Moreover, for those aged between 16 and 19, the Danish schooling system offers plenty of options for secondary education as schools can either be vocational or academic-focused.

Besides, there are also private schools and plenty of international schools available in Denmark, especially around Copenhagen. In these schools, the curriculum is usually taught in English. Plus, private schools are relatively cheap in the country as the state provides a subsidy.

Higher education is free of charge in Denmark. The most prestigious universities are located in Copenhagen and Aarhus, but you can find great options in Aalborg and Odense, too.

Step 5: Make sure your healthcare is covered in Denmark

Denmark has some of the highest quality healthcare in the world. Individuals can choose from a range of medical facilities that cover most medical services. Denmark operates through a universal public healthcare system, which means that all citizens have access to it.

Public healthcare means that hospitals provide medical treatment for all citizens. Expats from outside the EU are entitled to free emergency health care, but will need international health insurance for routine medical care. Permanent residents can register with Citizens Services, at which point they’ll receive an ID number and a health insurance card.

EU citizens are also entitled to free healthcare, as long as they provide proof of their European Health Insurance Card. Supplemental care can be provided for citizens who prefer to pay extra for private care.

To find a doctor, look for the list provided by the National Registration Office. You’ll see doctor’s names and addresses on this list. Most people ask neighbours or friends for a recommendation. You should make an appointment with a GP before you see a specialist. Also, most Danes speak English, so you can safely assume that your doctor is likely to speak English.

Step 6: If you haven’t already, learn the Danish language

If you move to Denmark as the spouse of a Dane, you’ll have to take a language proficiency test 6 months after you arrive. You’ll want to make sure you brush up on the basics of speaking Danish.

Many people find it easy and accessible to learn Danish online. Duolingo and Babbel are the most popular platforms. You can also use the more personalised platform SpeakDanish.

In person, you can explore courses at higher education institutions and adult learning centres. Programmes are often offered by the local council (the kommune) or certain high schools in the region where you live. Additionally, look into private language teachers and classes. Note that the government provides free Danish courses to anyone with a residency visa.

Step 7: Don’t be lonely - make friends and get in touch with other expats in Denmark

Denmark may be a small country, but there are foreigners moving in and out all the time. If you’d like to stay connected to the expat community, the following websites will get you started:

Step 8: Make sure you’re prepared with important contacts in Denmark in case of an emergency

The following are numbers and departments that you can contact in case of an emergency:

Denmark has a relaxed and enjoyable pace of life. It’s a country which takes great care of it’s residents and provides a strong work-life balance. A relocation to Denmark requires planning, but is sure to be well worth it.

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