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New government will make life easier for international researchers

In its recently published political manifesto, the new Danish government promises more flexible visa regulations and better conditions for the families of researchers.

The new government promises better conditions for international researchers. File photo: Jesper Rais

Denmark has a new prime minister, and the majority in the Danish Folketing has switched from a centre-right coalition to a centre-left coalition. The first thing that the new government did was to announce its political manifesto, presenting the most important initiatives to be taken during its term of office. Among other things, the new government has promised better conditions for international researchers and staff working in Denmark – and for their families as well.
“When you ask people what they need in order to do a good job of work when they move to another country, one of the things they underline is that they need their families to feel comfortable and secure. That’s why this is one of the areas we plan to do something about,” explains Annette Vilhelmsen, who is the spokesperson on business affairs for the Socialist People’s Party – one of the parties in the new coalition government.

Twiddling your thumbs at home

According to Michael Winther, who is head of staff mobility at Aarhus University’s International Centre, the conditions offered to the families of researchers could be improved a good deal – particularly with regard to access to the Danish labour market for the spouses of researchers living in this country.
“Birds of a feather flock together. So when an intelligent researcher arrives at Aarhus University, the chances are that they will be bringing an equally intelligent spouse with them. And these spouses don’t want to sit at home twiddling their thumbs! But at the moment it’s very difficult for them to use their qualifications on the Danish labour market,” he says.
Annette Vilhelmsen isn’t sure that new legislation is the only way to help the spouses of international researchers in Denmark to find employment here.
“We know that the best way to get a job is by using your network. So it’s important to set up a variety of professional networks which our international staff and their spouses can join when they arrive in Denmark. Tailor-made grants for the spouses of international staff are another option,” she says.

Revising the visa rules

The new government also intends to “implement a major reform of the Danish visa regulations”, as stated in the new manifesto. If this means that the system is going to be made more flexible, Michael Winther will be delighted.
“The current rules are complicated to put it mildly. It’s not so bad when we apply for a residence permit for researchers intending to spend several years in Denmark. But lots of the world’s top researchers – people who we’d love to attract to Aarhus University – often come for just a few months or even a few weeks at a time. And in many cases it’s difficult to plan these visits sufficiently far in advance to satisfy the current visa regulations,” he says.
Annette Vilhelmsen has also heard stories about the way the Danish visa regulations some-times put a barrier in the path of researchers wanting to come to Denmark.
“I’ve just been told about one international member of staff who got a visa but couldn’t bring his wife with him for five more months. That’s obviously hopeless! In some areas the current rules are excessively complicated, and we need to iron out such difficulties. It shouldn’t be so hard to come to Denmark to research and work,” says Annette Vilhelmsen.

The new government aims to make the following changes:

The government will make determined efforts to improve conditions with a view to attracting international companies and highly qualified individuals from abroad. As a result, the government will strengthen international recruitment including improving the way we welcome the families and spouses of international staff and improving the framework of the lives of such families during the time they spend in Denmark. One way of doing this involves promoting the establishment of international schools.
To strengthen the business opportunities of companies vis-à-vis their international partners and to strengthen the Danish tourist industry, the government will implement a major reform of the Danish visa regulations to ensure that they remain up to date and in harmony with the visa regulations applying in the countries around us.

Source: The new government manifesto entitled Et Danmark, der står sammen. This title can be translated into “One Denmark, Standing Together”, but the manifesto is only available in Danish at the moment.