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

TransferWise content team
27.09.17
7 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.

Living in Denmark - quick stats:

Before going to Denmark, here’s a snapshot of the country:

  • Total population: 5.73 million
  • Capital: Copenhagen
  • Currency: Krone (kr)
  • Total number of expats: 476,000
  • Expats from the US: Fewer than 10,000
  • Expats from Australia: Fewer than 10,000
  • Expats from the UK: 17,000
  • Official language: Danish
  • Weather: Denmark has a brisk climate. In February, the average temperature is 0°C (32°F) and in July, the average temperature is 17°C (63°F); it's frequently damp and rainy, and there are no truly dry seasons
  • Biggest cities: Copenhagen, Aarhus, Odense, Aalborg
  • Average salary: Denmark is a democratically social state, so there isn’t a massive difference between the highest-paid and lowest-paid Dane; the average salary is 20,272 kr per month

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. As a foreign national, you shouldn't plan to stay in Denmark for more than 3 months without a visa.

Requirements for Australian citizens

Australian citizens will need a visa for a long-term stay in Denmark. Generally, 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. 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 400,000kr.

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 American citizens

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

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: Make sure you can afford the cost of living in Denmark

Denmark is known to be expensive, but is comparable to other Western European nations in terms of cost of living. As it stands, krone are worth approximately:

  • €1 = 7.5 kr
  • £1 = 8.3 kr
  • $1 = 6.29 kr

Here are some standard costs to help plan your budget in Denmark:

Good or service in Denmark Approximate Cost
Rent, per month, one-bedroom outside city centre 5,000kr
Rent, per month, one-bedroom in city centre 7,000kr
Casual lunch for two, including wine 600kr
1 pint of beer 45kr
Utilities, per month 1,220kr
Fitness club membership, per month 235kr
1 pair of jeans 685kr
One-way ticket on local transport 23kr
Monthly transport pass 378kr
One gallon of milk 25kr
One loaf of bread 14kr

Step 3: 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 number, 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 your home country. You can save money on foreign currency transactions through TransferWise. 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 TransferWise to move your money. With the TransferWise Borderless account, you can store and manage money in dozens of currencies, which makes bill-paying easy and cost-effective.

Step 4: Find a job and get to work in Denmark

It’s important to speak Danish if you want to get a 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. The best way to find a job without speaking Danish is through an engineering or tech job. The more specialised you are in a field, the better.

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

Step 5: 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. Raekkehus are also sought-after rentals; 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 specialise in dealing with letting to expats. You should expect to sign a rental contract between yourself and the landlord.

Start your housing search online through the following websites:

Step 6: 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 healthcare system, which means that all citizens have access to it.

Public hospitals provide medical treatment for all citizens. 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.

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.

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 7: If you haven’t already, learn the 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 8: 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 9: 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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