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Working in Greenland

Applications for a residence and work permit by foreign nationals who wish to work in Greenland are processed by the Danish Immigration Service on consultation with the Greenlandic Government.

Once the Danish Immigration Service receives an application for a work and residence permit in Greenland, the application is forwarded to the Greenlandic Government, which issues a recommendation about whether it supports the applicant's application.

Since Greenland and Denmark are two distinct travel areas, a residence permit in Denmark does not carry with it the right to reside in Greenland. Likewise, a residence permit in Greenland does not carry with it the right to reside in Denmark.

Whether you qualify for residence in Greenland in order to work depends primarily on your nationality and qualifications.

Nordic citizens

If you are a citizen of a Nordic country, i.e. Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden, you are free to live, work and study in Greenland. Neither a visa, residence permit nor work permit is required.

Citizens of Nordic countries can enter Greenland without a passport. However, citizens of Nordic countries in Greenland must be able to identify themselves upon request. Such could be the case when checking in at a hotel. A driving licence or debit card is a valid form of identification.

EU/EEA citizens and Swiss citizens

Since Greenland is not a member of the European Union (EU), the EU regulations on free movement do not apply to Greenland. 

There are no special arrangements for EU citizens (other than Nordic citizens) who apply for a residence and work permit in Greenland.

Residence permit on other grounds

If you already hold a residence permit in Greenland on the grounds of family reunification, of asylum or on humanitarian grounds, you do not need a separate permit in order to be able to work in Greenland.

Responsibility of obtaining a residence permit

It is your own responsibility to obtain a work permit if you are required to. If you work illegally in Greenland, you risk deportation, and you and your employer risk consequences according to the Criminal Act for Greenland.

Conditions for a residence and work permit

Normally, professional or labour market considerations must warrant a residence and work permit. Such could be the case if there is a lack of qualified Greenlandic professionals in a particular field.

The rules also apply to volunteer work.

When processing your application regarding residence and work in Greenland, the Danish Immigration Service will normally pay particular attention to the following:

  • whether there are available professionals residing in Greenland who are qualified to carry out the job in question (applies only to certain types of applications)
  • whether the nature of the job in question is specialised enough to warrant a residence and work permit

Regardless of the specific circumstances, you must have a written job contract or job offer which specifies salary and employment conditions. Salary and employment conditions must correspond to Greenlandic standards. The position must normally also be a full-time position (40 hours/week).

In some cases, you must obtain the required Greenlandic or Danish authorisation. For example, foreign-trained doctors must be authorised by the Danish National Board of Health.

Special groups

Certain nationalities, professions or other individuals meeting certain requirements do not need a residence and work permit in order to work in Greenland.

If you are a citizen of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden you are free to reside, work and study in Greenland.

Residence permit issued for other reasons

If you have already been granted a residence permit in Greenland on the grounds of family reunification or asylum, or on humanitarian grounds, you do not need a work permit in order to work in Greenland.

Responsibility for obtaining a residence permit

It is your own responsibility to obtain a work permit if you are required to. If you work illegally in Greenland, you risk deportation, and you and your employer risk consequenses in accordance with the Criminal Act for Greenland.

Groups not required to hold a work permit

The following groups can work without a work permit, provided the duration of their stay does not exceed three consecutive months:

  • researchers and lecturers invited to teach or lecture in Greenland
  • artists, excluding entertainers, restaurant musicians and similar, and professional athletes
  • representatives of foreign companies or organisations which do not have a branch office in Greenland, who are on business trips in Greenland
  • fitters, consultants or instructors hired to fit, install, inspect or repair machines, equipment, computer programmes or similar items, or provide information on the use of such items
  • individuals employed in the household of foreign nationals visiting Greenland for up to three months

In order to be exempt from the requirement for residence and work permit, your stay in Greenland must not exceed three months. For stays over three months, you need a residence and work permit before you start work.

Even if you do not need to obtain a residence and work permit, you are not exempt from visa regulations. In other words, you must obtain a short-term visa if you come from a country whose citizens need a visa to visit Greenland.

The 'fitter rule'

In order to be eligible under the 'fitter rule', cf. point 4 above, you must be employed to fit, install, maintain, repair or inform about the use of machines, equipment, computer programmes or other technical systems. These may include high-tech machines that must be installed by the personnel of a foreign company who are trained in the proper installation of such machines.

You must be employed in or affiliated with the company supplying the imported product, and you are expected to be a paid associate of the company. If you are employed in another company, the company that is supplying the product must have entered into an agreement with the employing company to supply the fitting.

The fact that a foreign company issues a guarantee for a given product under the condition that it is the company's own associates who will fit or install the product in Greenland does not guarantee that the company's personnel will be eligible under the fitter rule.

Who is not eligible?

Ordinary building, construction and craft work is not comprised under the fitter rule. It follows from this that foreign nationals employed to put up, for example, a house that has fully or partly been manufactured abroad, are required to have a residence and work permit.

Disassembly work, most frequently in connection to the disassembly of used technological equipment or machines, is not eligible under the fitter rule. Work of this type requires the foreign national to have a residence and work permit.

In cases not involving fitting of a technical apparatus and/or when the work in itself can be defined as ordinary building, construction or craft work, the foreign national must also have a residence and work permit.

You can be granted a residence and work permit by the Danish Immigration Service if professional or labour market considerations warrant it.

Foreign film companies and actors

If you work for a foreign film company as an actor or are otherwise directly attached to the production of a film (for example, as a photographer or choreographer) which is partially or fully recorded in Greenland, you will normally not be required to hold a residence and work permit.

Other attached personnel, such as kitchen staff or drivers, will normally need a residence and work permit.

In order to be exempt from holding a residence and work permit in the areas mentioned above, your stay in Greenland may not exceed three months.

If your stay will exceed three months, you need to apply for a residence and work permit before you begin working.

Additional information

If you are uncertain about whether you are exempt from holding a residence and work permit due to the fitter rule, please contact the Danish Immigration Service.

Special arrangements

In certain areas, a special practice applies regarding residence and work permits in Greenland.

Oil industry employees and similar in raw goods exploitation

Applications from workers in the oil industry engaged in off-shore oil exploration and other work in the area of raw goods exploitation are processed according to a fast track procedure. Applications for residence and work permits from this group are approved by the Greenlandic Government.

How to apply

If you are an employee

If you are applying for a residence and work permit as an employee (including researchers, athletes, trainees and religious workers), both you and your employer in Greenland (e.g. the company, research institute, sports club or religious group) must supply information for the processing of your application.

It is your employer in Greenland who begins the application process by completing his/her part of the application form and attaching the required documents. The employer sends or gives the form and attached documents to you. You then complete your part of the form, attach the required documents and submit the entire application.

There are different application forms for different types of applicants. Each application form contains a detailed description of how you and your employer in Greenland should complete the form, and which documents you must include.

You and your employer in Greenland can chose one of the following application forms, depending on whether you are a first-time applicant or are applying for an extension of your residence permit:

Application for a residence and work permit in Greenland
> GL/AR1

Application for an extension of a residence and work permit in Greenland
> GL/AR2

An application for a residence and work permit in Greenland is normally submitted at a Danish embassy or consulate in your home country. In certain special situations, the application can be submitted at a police station in Denmark or Greenland, or at the Danish Immigration Service's Citizen Service.

If you submit it to Citizen Service, the Danish Immigration Service will ask the Greenlandic Government for a statement.

Family members

A spouse/registered partner/cohabiting partner who wishes to accompany you to Greenland must submit a separate application. If you have children under the age of 18 who wish to accompany you to Greenland, they can be included in your spouse's/registered partner's/cohabing partner's application.

Each application form contains a detailed description of how it should be completed and which documents you must include.

Accompanying family members of a foreign national should complete the appropriate application form below, depending on whether they are first-time applicants or are applying for an extension of their residence permit:

Application for a residence permit in Greenland (accompanying family members of a foreign national who works or is to work in Greenland)
> GL/FA8

Application for an extension of a residence permit in Greenland (accompanying family members of a foreign national working in Greenland)
> GL/FA9 

The Danish Immigration Service will ask the Greenlandic Government for a statement.

Extension

The length of time your residence and work permit can be extended, as well as the requirements you must meet, depend on the type of residence permit you hold.

Applying for an extension

An application for an extension should normally be submitted at a police station in Greenland. The police will then forward the application to the Danish Immigration Service.

Once the Danish Immigration Service receives the application, it will request a statement from the Greenlandic Government.

Extension of a residence and work permit

Please use the form below when applying for an extension of your residence and work permit:

Application for an extension of a residence and work permit in Greenland
> GL/AR2

The application form contains a detailed description of how to complete the form and which documents you must include.

Extension of a residence permit as an accompanying family member

If you hold a residence permit as an accompanying family member of a foreign national working in Greenland, please use the form below when applying for an extension of your residence permit:

Application for an extension of a residence permit in Greenland (accompanying family members of a foreign national working in Greenland)
> GL/FA9

The application form contains a detailed description of how to complete the form, and which documents you must include.

Permanent residence permit

Whether or not you qualify for a permanent residence permit in Greenland is determined by the type of residence permit you hold.

If you have held a residence and work permit as a self-employed person or an employee, and you have lived in Greenland for seven consecutive years, you will normally qualify for a permanent residence permit if you meet certain requirements.

You must meet the following requirements:

  • you must have held the same basic type of residence permit for the entire seven years and you must still meet the requirements for your residence permit
  • during your residence in Greenland, you may not have been incarcerated (suspended or served) or been given any other form of criminal sentence that involves or could involve imprisonment for a crime that would have carried this type of sentence
  • you may not have overdue public debt in excess of DKK 50,000 (1998 level). However, you can be granted a permanent residence permit if you have a repayment schedule for your debt, and you adhere to the schedule

If you wish to apply for a permanent residence permit, you must state this when applying for an extension of your residence permit.

Important information about your passport

When you apply for an extension of your residence permit, make sure that your passport is valid. The Danish Immigration Service can revoke or refuse to extend your temporary residence permit if you do not hold a valid passport or other travel documents.

Please note that your residence permit can only be extended up to two months before your passport expires. In other words, if your passport expires in 12 months, your residence permit can only be extended by ten months. If you hold a national passport (a passport from your country of origin), it can be renewed by your country’s embassy or consulate general.

The Danish Immigration Service is responsible for renewing alien's passports and convention passports.

Termination

Even though you have been granted a residence permit in Greenland, the Danish Immigration Service can revoke it or refuse to extend it, and you may lose the right to reside in Greenland. This can happen for a number of reasons.

If your situation changes

The Danish Immigration Service may revoke or refuse to extend your residence permit if the grounds on which it was granted no longer apply, for example if you lose your job or close your business. You are obliged to inform the Danish Immigration Service of any changes in your personal situation which could affect your right to reside in Greenland.

If you have found a new job or plan to start up a new company you must apply for a new residence and work permit before beginning work or before your company begins operation.

If you fail to meet the requirements for holding a work or residence permit, the permit may be revoked.

Fraud

The Danish Immigration Service has the right to revoke or refuse to extend your residence permit due to fraud, i.e., if you are found to have given the authorities false information. This applies regardless of whether you hold a temporary or permanent residence permit.

Missing passport

The Danish Immigration Service has the right to revoke or refuse to extend your temporary residence permit if you no longer possess a valid passport or other legitimate form of travel document.

If you apply for an extension of your residence permit, you must include a copy of your passport with the application. If your passport or travel documents are invalid, the Danish Immigration Service will not proceed with the case before you have had your existing passport renewed or have acquired a new passport. You will typically be given one month to do this.

The Schengen Information System

The Danish Immigration Service has the right to revoke or refuse to extend your residence permit if you have been reported as an undesirable in the Schengen Information System (SIS). You must have been reported because of circumstances which would warrant deportation if committed in Greenland, e.g. serious crimes.

This applies regardless of whether you hold a temporary or permanent residence permit.

Your personal situation is taken into consideration

If your personal situation indicates that revoking your residence permit would be particularly traumatic, the Danish Immigration Service may chose not to do so. The following factors will be taken into consideration:

  • your connection to Greenlandic society, including the duration of your residence in Greenland
  • your age, health, and other personal circumstances
  • your connection to other residents of Greenland
  • consequences to close relatives residing in Greenland
  • little or no connection to your country of origin
  • whether returning to your country of origin would endanger you

If you leave Greenland

If you leave Greenland for an extended period of time, or if you no longer maintain a residence in Greenland, your residence permit can lapse.

What does it mean that a residence permit lapses?

If your residence permit lapses, you will lose your right to reside in Greenland. Should you attempt to return to Greenland after an extended period of time, you could be denied re-entry.

If your residence permit lapses, you will need to apply for a new residence permit in Greenland. The new application will be processed according to current regulations. The original grounds for issuing your residence permit will not be considered.

How can a residence permit lapse?

Your residence permit will automatically lapse if you give up your address in Greenland and leave the country, without any intention of returning. This also applies if you hold a permanent residence permit.

There are limits on how long you can stay outside Greenland without losing your residence permit, even if you maintain an address in Greenland.

If you have been a legal resident of Greenland for less than two years, you can remain outside Greenland for up to six months.

If you have been a legal resident of Greenland for more than two years, and you hold a residence permit that can be made permanent, then you may remain outside Greenland for up to 12 months.

If you remain outside Greenland for longer than the permitted time, your residence permit will lapse automatically.

Periods of time abroad serving in the military as a conscript, or performing required community service, will not be considered time living outside Greenland.

Residence in the Faroe Islands or Denmark are considered as time abroad.

Preventing a residence permit from lapsing

Prior to departing Greenland you can apply for dispensation. You can also apply that your residence permit not be considered as lapsed after you have left Greenland and have missed the deadline to return.

Dispensation

You can ask the Danish Immigration Service to dispense with the time limit and allow you to remain outside Greenland for longer than six or 12 months without your permit lapsing. You must apply before you depart Greenland, your residence abroad must be temporary and it must have a specific purpose, such as:

  • work
  • study
  • posting for a Danish/Greenlandic authority, institution, organisation or company
  • posting for an international institution, organisation or company headquartered in Greenland

How long can I get dispensation?

Decisions about dispensation are made on a case-by-case basis, and will depend on a number of factors, such as: why you are applying for dispensation, how long you have lived in Greenland and your ties to Greenland. Normally, the dispensation period can be extended to a maximum of two years. You can apply for an extension of your dispensation period. Applications for extension must be made before the original dispensation period expires.

If you do not return to Greenland before the dispensation period ends, your residence permit will lapse. This means that if you wish to return to Greenland, you will need to apply for a new residence permit.

Family members

If you have been granted dispensation, it can also be applied to your spouse/cohabiting partner as well as any children under the age of 18 who are living with you. The length of your family members' dispensation will be the same as yours.

Application that your residence permit should not be considered as lapsed

You can apply that your residence permit not be considered as lapsed if you are outside Greenland and have exceeded the time limit. The Danish Immigration Service can decide that your residence permit should not be considered as lapsed if:

  • it was your intention to return to Greenland before the six or 12-month time limit, and
  • you were prevented from returning to Greenland by unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. Such circumstances include: illness, imprisonment, war-like situations, natural disasters or problems leaving the country in which you were staying

It is important that you apply as soon as you are able to return to Greenland.

How to apply

Please use the following forms when applying that the Danish Immigration Service dispense with the limit on the length of time you may reside outside Greenland:

Application for dispensation
> GL/BF1

Application that residence permit not be considered as lapsed
> GL/BF2

GL/BF1 is to be used when applying for dispensation from the time limit, and must be submitted before you depart Greenland. FO/BF1 is also used when applying to extend the dispensation period.

FO/BF2 is to be used when applying that your residence permit not be considered as lapsed although you have resided outside Greenland for longer than permitted.

Each application form contains a detailed description of how to complete the form, and which documents you must include.

You can send the application to the Danish Immigration Service or submit it at a police station in Greenland.

If you are not in Greenland, you can submit your application at a Danish embassy or consulate general in the country where you are staying. The application will be sent to the Danish Immigration Service for processing.

If you are abroad and you want to apply that your residence permit not be considered as lapsed, you must do so before you return to Greenland.

Appeal guidelines

The Danish Immigration Service is responsible for making decisions regarding applications for residence permits in Greenland.

If the Danish Immigration Service turns down your application for a residence permit in Greenland, you can appeal to the Danish Ministry of Justice. The regulations for making an appeal will be included with the Danish Immigration Service's decision.

If you are in Greenland, you will normally need to leave the country while the Ministry reviews your appeal.

If you are appealing a decision to revoke or to refuse to extend your residence permit, you may be permitted to remain in Greenland while your appeal is being reviewed. However, your appeal must be submitted no more than seven days after you have been informed of the decision. The regulations for making an appeal will be included with the Danish Immigration Service’s decision.

If the Ministry disagrees with the Danish Immigration Service, the decision will be overturned and you will receive a residence permit. If the Ministry agrees with the Danish Immigration Service, the decision will be upheld and your application will be turned down.

Useful links

The police in Greenland (available in Danish and Greenlandic only)

The Greenlandic Government



Last update: 8/6/2014
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Published by: The Danish Immigration Service
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