Home » News » DUAL CITIZENSHIP FOR DANES: Peter Hessellund-Jensen’s Speech at Danish Constitution Day Celebration at The Danish Home in Croton-on-Hudson, NY

DUAL CITIZENSHIP FOR DANES: Peter Hessellund-Jensen’s Speech at Danish Constitution Day Celebration at The Danish Home in Croton-on-Hudson, NY


June 9, 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Saturday, June 7, 2014, Peter L. Hessellund-Jensen of the Peter L. Hessellund-Jensen Law Offices in New York gave a Grundlovsdag speech at The Danish Home in Croton-on-Hudson, New York on the proposed law permitting voluntary dual citizenship for Danes. The audience clearly had an intense interest in the subject and Peter was asked to share this portion of his speech with The Danish Pioneer Newspaper, since many in the audience felt that this good news on the proposed law should be broadcast to The Danish Pioneer’s readership. Thank you to Peter Hessellund-Jensen for contributing this story.

By Peter L. Hessellund-Jensen –

There has been much discussion in recent years regarding the question of dual citizenship for Danes. Current Danish legislation shows a major difference between Denmark and the US regarding how nationality can be gained or lost.

The US, as is the case with most other countries, does not require that Americans give up their US citizenship, when they become foreign nationals. That is not the case with Denmark, which strips its nationals of their citizenship, when they voluntarily become foreign citizens.

In addition, when foreign nationals become US citizens, the US does not require that they renounce their foreign citizenship. Again, that is not the case with Denmark, which requires that anyone wishing to become a Danish citizen give up his or her foreign nationality.

While Denmark, along with most countries permits its citizens to retain dual citizenship, if the foreign nationality has been conferred without being sought being sought by the citizen, Denmark is now one of the very few remaining countries in Europe that prohibits voluntary acquisition of dual citizenship.

This is why there are so many Danes in the USA, who have been living with their green cards for decades. They certainly love this country, but cannot bring themselves to take the final step and become US nationals and thereby lose their Danish citizenship.

There are others over here who have taken that step, either for reasons of employment or estate taxes, as well as those who long ago decided to become US citizens and live out their lives over here, but who now would like to live their later years in Denmark without having to give up their US citizenship.

There may be US citizens, who lost their Danish nationality when they were brought over years ago as children by Danish parents. These people too might want to become Danes again, but also wish to remain American.

This will change. As early as at summer’s end next year, all of those people may finally have a possibility of achieving their wishes.  Denmark is now joining the majority of nations that permits voluntary dual citizenship.

On June 4, the governing parties together with most other parties constituting a majority in the Danish parliament reached an agreement on the broad legislative principles of dual citizenship. The government will propose legislation based on these principles at the beginning of the parliamentary year in October. The legislative process will thereafter take about 3-4 months. Additionally, Denmark will as soon as possible, formally renounce an increasingly obsolete 1963 international convention prohibiting dual citizenship.  This convention, which has now been renounced by most of its signatories, has a notice period of one year.

While we do not know precisely what final form the new law will take, until the legislative process is completed, some aspects can be predicted relatively easily.

The law will repeal the current provision in the Danish nationality act that provides that a Dane automatically lose Danish nationality if he or she acquires foreign citizenship through application or through acquiescence or becomes a public official in another country.

Moreover, under current law, if a Dane is below 18 years of age and one of his or her parents, who has custody, acquires foreign citizenship, then the Dane loses his or her Danish nationality unless the other custodial parent remains Danish. This provision will presumably also be repealed. As will the regulations requiring that a person seeking Danish citizenship, lose his or her foreign nationality either automatically or by application.

There will be a five-year transition period following the law’s enactment, which will make it possible to regain Danish citizenship, if it was lost due to the acquisition of a foreign nationality. There will be no limit on how far back in time that the Danish citizenship was lost. Anyone who lost his or her Danish citizenship many years ago will still be able to regain it through this process.

People, who had lost their Danish nationality, because they were below the age of 18 when one or both of their Danish custodial parents sought foreign citizenship, will also be able to regain their Danish citizenship during this transition period.

The reacquisition of Danish citizenship will probably only require an application, but a conviction for a crime resulting in incarceration during the period of foreign nationality would, in most cases, disqualify that individual from applying.

The new law will not change current law with respect to the loss of Danish citizenship by those Danes who were born outside Denmark, who never had Danish residence or periods of stay in Denmark indicating some association with Denmark, and who fail to file an application for retention of Danish nationality by their 22nd birthday.

The proposed new law will not affect the existing procedure for applying for Danish citizenship by foreign nationals who have never previously been Danish citizens.  However, such applicants will no longer have to give up their foreign nationality.

It should also be borne in mind that the new law will not only apply to Danes, who have become US citizens, but also to Danes who have acquired the nationality of any other country.

The new legislation will bring Denmark further into the global mainstream, and there will be many Danes in Denmark, the US and other countries who will have good cause to be pleased.

Over their careers, Danes will be able move much more freely between Denmark and their adopted homelands.

In addition, in many cases, they will return to Denmark to impart skills, knowledge and contacts that they attained during their time in foreign lands.

For those here who may be contemplating becoming US citizens, but who do not want to lose their Danish nationality, even temporarily, I suggest that they wait until we learn more.

We will learn more in October, when the Danish government presents its proposal to parliament, and probably all we need to know concerning the repeal of the Danish prohibition of dual citizenship by this time next year.

By Peter L. Hessellund-Jensen

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