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Religious workers

You can be granted a residence and work permit in order to work as a member of the clergy, as a missionary, or in order to perform other functions within a religious order or denomination.

If you are a Nordic citizen, you are free to reside, study and work in Denmark. If you are an EU/EEA citizen or Swiss citizen seeking residence in Denmark based on the EU rules on freedom of movement, you may be subject to special regulations. More information about EU/EEA and Nordic citizens.


If you already hold a Danish residence permit based on family reunification or asylum, or hold a residence permit on humanitarian grounds, you do not need a work permit in order to work in Denmark.

It is your own responsibility to obtain a work permit if you are required to. If you work illegally in Denmark, you risk deportation, and you and your employer risk fine or imprisonment.

Conditions for residence permit

You may be granted a residence permit as a member of the clergy if you can document that you are to work for an existing religious order/denomination in Denmark.

You may be granted a residence permit as a missionary if you can document that you are to work as a missionary and preach a specific religion or belief affiliated with an existing religious order/denomination in Denmark.

You may be granted a residence permit for other religious functions if you can document that you are to work within an existing religious order in Denmark. This applies to, e.g., monks and nuns who traditionally have religious functions within an order. The Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church (Folkekirken) or another officially acknowledged or sanctioned religious denomination in Denmark must confirm that the order is established under or works within the religious denomination.

Furthermore, you must meet the following conditions:

  • You must document that you are affiliated with the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church (Folkekirken) or another officially acknowledged or sanctioned religious denomination in Denmark. Documentation can be a written agreement or declaration by the denomination stating that you are a religious worker within the religious order or denomination.
  • The number of foreign nationals holding residence permits as religious workers must be proportionate to the size of the denomination. The denomination will be asked to state its size (number of members) as well as the number of religious workers affiliated with it.
  • You must document a background, training or education relevant to being a religious worker.
  • You must sign a declaration stating that neither you nor any family members accompanying you will apply for public assistance during your stay in Denmark. This statement is part of the application form for religious workers.
  • You must sign a sworn declaration stating that you will not engage in any activity that poses a threat to public safety, law and order, health, decency or the rights and duties of others. This statement is part of the application form for religious workers.

Normally, you cannot be granted a residence permit if you are solely to work as a teacher - even at religious schools - if you are to teach subjects which are not characterised by preaching a religious message. Likewise, you cannot be granted a residence permit in order to receive religious instruction or to be educated or trained as a religious worker. If you are to study theology or related fields, you may be eligible for a residence permit as a student. You can find more information about studies here.

Conditions for extension of residence permit

It is a requirement for obtaining an extension of your residence permit as a religious worker that you pass the immigration test (testing your Danish language skills and your knowledge of Denmark and Danish society). You must pass the test no later than six months after you were first granted a residence permit. There is no possibility for exemption from this requirement, however cf. below about dispensation from taking the immigration test.

If you were granted your first residence permit as a religious worker before 15 November 2010 you are not required to take the immigration test.

Read more about the immigration test 

If your work includes or will include performing religious or non-religious marriage ceremonies, in order to obtain an extension of your residence and work permit, you must complete a Danish family law course no later than six months after your first residence permit is granted. These two-day courses are provided by the National Social Appeals Board (Ankestyrelsen) , a department of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Children and Integration (Social-, Børne- og Integrationsministeriet), once every three months. The courses are held in Copenhagen and Aarhus depending on where the participants live and their wishes.

Read more about the family law course   

If you received your first residence permit as a religious worker before 1 October 2013, you are not required to complete a Danish family law course.

Dispensation from the immigration test, family law course and fee

In 1963, Turkey and the EU entered into an association agreement as a way to extend certain rights to Turkish citizens working or otherwise economically active in some other way in an EU country. The European Court of Justice has issued a number of rulings that have determined how the agreement is interpreted.

Rulings by the European Court of Justice in the case of T. Sahin (issued on 17 September 2009, C-242/06) and the Commission v the Netherlands (issued on 29 April 2010, C-92/07) have taken up the question of whether charging fees to Turkish citizens is in accordance with the association agreement.

The decisions should be interpreted to mean that Turkish citizens applying for an extension of a residence permit as a religious worker cannot be charged the test fee.

Based on these decisions, the immigration authorities have concluded that Turkish citizens applying for an extension of a residence permit as a religious worker cannot be required to take the immigration test, to complete a Danish family law course, or to pay the test fee.

Such individuals are not required to pass the immigration test and pay the test fee, as is otherwise required for extensions of residence permits for religious workers. The reason is that religious workers are viewed as being economically active.

If you are uncertain about whether you as a Turkish citizen are exempt from taking the immigration test or a Danish family law course, please contact the Immigration Service.

Any decision about whether you need to take the immigration test or complete a Danish family law course will be made based on an evaluation of your individual application. Given that decisions about whether you could be exempt are made based on your family’s situation immediately prior to the date the permit would be issued, further information about how the rules apply in your case will be available from the Immigration Service.

The Immigration Service cannot give a binding answer about whether you would need to take the immigration test or complete a Danish family law course prior to your application being submitted.

Duration

As a religious worker, you can be granted a residence permit for seven months with a possibility for extension for one year at a time, for a  maximum of three years in total.

However, if you are authorised to perform weddings, your residence permit can be extended for one year initially, then for two years, and then for periods of three years, with no upper time limit.

If you have not passed the immigration test within six months of being granted your original residence permit as a religious worker, you cannot be granted an extension.

When applying for an extension, you should use the same application form as when you apply the first time (application form RF1). Please state that you wish to apply for an extension.

Family members

If you have been granted a residence and work permit as a religious worker, then your spouse, registered partner or cohabiting partner, as well as any children under the age of 18 who are living at home with you, are also eligible for residence permits. However, your family members must be able to support themselves and you must live together in Denmark at the same address. Your spouse, registered partner or cohabiting partner is allowed to work full-time for the entire period his or her permit is valid.

Read more about how to apply.



Last update: 9/30/2013
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Published by: The Danish Immigration Service
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