Moving to Denmark is attractive to many people for a host of reasons. The comprehensive welfare state, strong focus on community and excellent working conditions all contribute to the country’s sky-high quality of life.
For a lot of people, their foot into Denmark comes through one of three ways:
- Getting a job here;
- Having a Danish partner;
- Studying at one of the country’s universities.
My journey, however, was a little different. While I entertained the idea of getting a full-time job and applied for a few, the truth is that I have zero interest in going back into that kind of setting.
When you’re self-employed, moving to Denmark requires a few extra steps. In this article, we’ll look at the process and how long everything took.
Before We Start…
This article outlines the steps for moving to Denmark as self-employed from another EU/EEA member state, or if you’re Swiss.
I’m from the UK, and when I moved to Denmark, Britain was still an EU member. I also have an Italian father and will soon be getting a passport for said country.
If you’re a citizen of an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, moving to Denmark as self-employed is relatively straightforward. However, the process is more complicated if you come from somewhere else and don’t have the ancestry to obtain a European passport.
I know of a few people in Copenhagen who aren’t EU citizens but have businesses here. However, they moved to Denmark for other reasons first.
If you’re coming solely as self-employed, you need to meet specific requirements and apply before you move here too.
The Work in Denmark website has more information about work permits and the like.
End of August 2020: Finding Somewhere to Live
If I had not found an address of residence, moving to Denmark would’ve been impossible regardless of where I come from.
Initially, the plan was to fly to Copenhagen and find somewhere to live while on the ground. I was allowed to live and work in Denmark for up to three months without registering as a long-term resident. If I failed in that time, I would re-assess and apply for a visa in other Nordic countries.
I started looking at housing portal listings around a month before moving, along with browsing online forums.
And that is when I unexpectedly struck gold.
One day, I was browsing the Copenhagen subreddit. Someone mentioned a company called LifeX, which offers co-housing for newcomers (in pretty fancy apartments, I might add) and lets you use the address for registration.
Side-note: I’ve written a whole other article about LifeX and why I recommend them, so you should check that out if you’re thinking of moving to Copenhagen.
If you want to move here, you must plan in advance. For most people, finding somewhere to live takes a long time.
Beginning of October 2020: Initial Registrations
Around two weeks after having an introductory call with LifeX and choosing my apartment, I moved to Copenhagen. Since I had three weeks until my lease date began, I spent a bit of time in different Airbnb apartments – along with going on holiday to Aarhus for a week.
I had to register first as an EU citizen at the immigration office in Valby, which took less than 10 minutes. Since my business was registered in the UK, I needed to first sign up with self-sufficient funds. Effectively, I needed to show that I could support myself during my stay.
If you’re moving to Denmark (or anywhere, for that matter) as self-employed, saving up beforehand for this stage is a good idea. I had £10,000 (around $14,160) in my savings account, though I don’t know the threshold. As far as I remember, it’s on a case-by-case basis.
On the same day, I registered for my CPR card – which is the health card that all Danish residents receive. You need to have your residency certificate for this stage, along with your housing contract. Again, though, this meeting took less than 10 minutes.
After the meeting, I received my card in the post around two-and-a-half weeks later.
Mid-October 2020: NemID
Once you’ve got your CPR card, you can get your NemID. NemID is pretty much the key to everything in Denmark; you need it for mobile banking, to join the gym, and so on. You can also post digitally once you have this sorted.
At the NemID appointment, the person serving me gave me some of the details I needed to log in and activate my account. The rest are delivered within 3-11 working days.
In the meantime, I applied for a personal bank account with Danske Bank. They sent me my card in the post, but I needed to wait for the rest of my NemID login details to arrive before I could activate mobile banking.
Early November 2020: Setting Up My Business in Denmark and Changing Registration
After activating my NemID and doing a few things related to tax, I applied for business registration as a sole proprietorship. You can register this kind of business on virk.dk.
When registering my business, the portal asked me questions about my industry and asked me to register an address (I used my home), alongside a few other things.
Registering a business in Denmark is incredibly simple. I was told that it would take up to 10 working days, but everything was finalised within 24 hours.
When registering your business and signing up for tax, you’ll receive 10 tax tokens in the post; you pay monthly throughout the year, apart from June and December.
After registering my business, I needed to change my residency status from self-sufficient funds to self-employed. Compared to before, I didn’t need to book another appointment; everything could be done online.
I recommend at this point that you sign up for a business bank account. My personal choice is Lunar, a mobile-only bank that costs 1,980 Danish Kroner (DKK) per year, excluding VAT. The major banks, such as Danske Bank, also offer business accounts – but I found these to be more expensive.
To apply for a residency status change, I had to use my previous case number and supply all the documents to prove that I was self-employed.
January 2021: Application Change Accepted!
I expected the status change to be the easiest part of moving to Denmark, but the waiting time had me tearing my hair out.
While the website said the case is usually processed within 30 days, it took two months for me to answer. But Denmark was locking down again due to COVID-19, and I also applied during the Christmas period. So, this is understandable.
On a snowy January day, I received a message in my e-Boks. I opened it to find my new residence certificate, which allows me to remain in Denmark as long as I am self-employed or in gainful employment.
I need to apply for residence based on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, which guarantees my right to remain in Denmark in November 2021. But I just need to show that I was legally residing here before the end of December 31st 2020 and that I am actively self-employed.
If you’re not a UK citizen, you don’t need to go through that process – neither will I if I apply for my Italian passport beforehand.
From my lease beginning to the self-employed residency change, everything took four months. The process is straightforward, but waiting times are long. So, remember to exercise patience – moving to Denmark as self-employed is well worth it.