Visa (short term) or work permit?
As a foreign national, in most case, you will need to have a residence and work permit before you can begin working. However, in certain cases you can perform work-related activities while in Denmark on a visa (or a visa-free stay, without holding a residence and work permit.
If your stay is shorter than three months, you are allowed to perform certain types of work-related activity even if you do not have a residence and work permit.
Such activities include teaching or attending a course or participating in meetings, negotiations, briefings and training.
You need a residence and work permit if you take part in creating a product or changing a product, or if you contribute to the output of a company in any way.
It is important that you and the company you are to visit determine the purpose of your visit in Denmark before your arrival. This, in order to ensure that you do not apply for a visa if the purpose of your visit requires a residence and work permit, which would, for example, be required if the length of your activities for the company exceeds 90 days.
Please note that a work permit is required from the first day of your visit if your work-related activities exceed 90 days. Regardless of whether you were required to hold a visa in order to visit Denmark or you were exempt from holding a visa.
Therefore, it is important that you clearly indicate the tasks you are to perform during your visit. All elements of the work to be performed must be explained in detail. In the case of education or training, you must state what the course content is. In the case of computer-related work etc., you must state what type of computer system you will be working on. Providing a full and accurate description of the reasons for your stay shortens application time by reducing the amount of further information the Immigration Service will need to obtain.
If you have doubts whether the activities you are to perform during your visit require a work and residence permit or can be performed on a visa/visa-free stay, please contact the Immigration Service or contact Styrelsen for International Rekruttering og Integration.
Applications are reviewed on an individual basis, but the following examples illustrate standard Immigration Service practice:
- Meetings and briefings: You want to travel to Denmark for five days in order to speak with company employees you are in daily contact with, either over the telephone or by e-mail. During the meeting you will discuss projects that you will complete in your home country. In this scenario, you have not contributed to the company’s output while you are in Denmark, even though you may do so after returning to your home country on the basis of the meetings and conversations you had while in Denmark. You do not need a work permit for this type of activity; a visa is sufficient.
- Stay in Denmark in connection with tender: A person employed by a foreign company wishes to stay in Denmark for 60 to 90 days in order to participate in meetings with a Danish company which has put a task out to tender. The person is in constant dialogue with the Danish company about the tender. During his/her stay in Denmark, the person participates in the process of submitting the tender, ie. work-related activities which could as well be made in the foreign company, but where the stay in Denmark and the ongoing dialogue with/input from the Danish company about the tender makes the process easier. During his/her stay, the person may not carry out any activities that may be included in the delivery to the Danish company (if the foreign company wins the tender). If the foreign company (which may also be a parent, affiliate or subsidiary of the Danish company) wins the tender, the person must hold a work permit in order to participate in the solution of the task. If the stay is with a Danish company where the person is employed by a foreign parent, affiliate or subsidiary of the Danish company, and where the person has specific competencies to be used in the Danish company's production of the offer etc., then the person’s participation in this work requires a work permit.
- Training and internships: You want to travel to Denmark for 60 days in order to receive training and, after completing the training, handle a programming project for the company. This type of activity requires a work permit. The stay can be divided into two parts: the training and the programming. You training does not contribute to the company’s output, but the computer programming does, and therefore requires that you hold a residence and work permit. A work permit is not required if you only receive training in Denmark and then return home and carry out the programming work in your home country.
- Length of stay: You are an employee of the subsidiary of a Danish company scheduled to follow a theoretical and practical training programme at the Danish office, scheduled to begin on 1 October and end on 31 December (including both days). In this instance, you would need to apply for a work permit, as the entire length of the programme is 92 days. Visas are valid for a maximum of 90 days.
- Incomplete information: When applying for a visa, you present an extensive manual that you need in order to perform your job in a company that is the subsidiary of a Danish company. You apply for a 90-day visa, but neither you nor your company can state precisely what your time will be spent on in Denmark. The only information given is that you will receive theoretical and practical training, the specifics will be determined as you go. In this instance, neither the Danish Embassy in your country nor the Immigration Service would have enough information to go on when deciding whether you need a work permit. Your application for a visa will be rejected and you will be told to apply for a work permit.
- The fitter rule: A company in Denmark has purchased a product from your company, such as advanced equipment or a computer programme. The nature of the product is so specialsed that it requires someone from your company to set it up. If the task is expected to last less than 90 days, only a visa is required. However, if you know that the job will take longer than 90 days, you must apply for a residence and work permit before you begin working. Read more about the fitter rule
- Researchers on short term stays: If you have been invited to conduct research in Denmark, and if the stay is shorter than 90 days calculated from the day of arrival in Denmark, then you are not required to hold a work permit. Researchers include academic staff such as research assistants, assistant professors, associate professors and professors who are invited to conduct teaching or similar activities, and participate in research projects. There must be particular reasons why the research should be carried out by you. A university or a company in Denmark can employ and remunerate a foreign researcher without a work permit if the stay is shorter than 90 days, calculated from the day of arrival in Denmark. If it is uncertain whether the stay in Denmark will exceed 90 days, you must obtain a Danish residence and work permit – valid for the entire period including the first 90 days – before entering Denmark. Read more about researchers
- Guest researchers on short term stays: If you hold a Master's degree and have been invited by a private or public research institution to carry out research without being employed or enrolled at the research institution, and if the stay is shorter than 90 days, calculated from the day of arrival in Denmark, then you are not required to hold a work permit. If it is uncertain whether the stay in Denmark will exceed 90 days, you must obtain a Danish residence and work permit – valid for the entire period including the first 90 days – before entering Denmark. Read more about guest researchers
- Potential PhD students on short term stays: If you have been invited to participate in a screening programme in Denmark in order to be admitted to a PhD programme at a Danish university, and if the stay is shorter than 90 days, calculated from the day of arrival in Denmark, then you are not required to hold a work permit. The screening programmes are used by universities and similar institutions to evaluate whether foreign students are qualified for a PhD study and are used in order to select the best qualified students for PhD studies in Denmark. If you are invited to participate in a screening programme as a potential PhD student and you do not yet hold a Master’s degree you are allowed to stay in Denmark for up to 90 days, calculated from the day of arrival in Denmark, without a work permit. Read more about PhD students
Complete rules regarding work permit exemptions are listed in section 24 of the Aliens Order.
Performing unpaid volunteer work
During a visa stay, foreign nationals are allowed to do unpaid volunteer work that does not require a work permit.
The Immigration Service will conduct a specific assessment of the voluntary work in question, to determine whether or not it may be performed during a visa stay.
The work must be performed voluntarily and without payment for a formally organized organization, association, or the like.
Such organizations may include voluntary organizations, associations, public institutions, and loosely organized networks.
By extension, though not limited to humanitarian relief organizations, scout associations, sports clubs, substance abuse prevention associations, patients associations, visiting services, refugee organizations, and parish community associations. The list is not exhaustive.
Examples of unpaid volunteer work:
- Voluntary visitor at a care home
- Volunteer at a library or movie theatre run by volunteers
- Volunteer at an internet café in a library, volunteer at a community networking café for refugees, or volunteer for a shorter period, e.g. at cultural events such as the Roskilde festival
- Unpaid volunteer work at a national convention and thrift shops, as well as selling Christmas trees and fireworks or tending a food stall.
The foreign national has to have made an agreement on performing the volunteer work. The agreement can be both oral and written.
The unpaid volunteer work has to be a part of the organization or association’s core task.
If there is any doubt as to whether or not the volunteer work requires a work permit, you can contact the Danish Immigration Service or the Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI).