Part One: Onboarding
Moving to Copenhagen can be pretty overwhelming, and I found all the sequenced steps to be frustratingly unclear. To help you avoid running around in circles, I’ve put together a step-by-step guide to beginning your awesome new life in Copenhagen.
Each step must be done in order, or you risk wasting a lot of time.
- Getting a job — The first step to moving without EU-Citizenship is getting a job in Copenhagen. Otherwise, you can only be here for 3 months, and many of the below steps will not apply to you. Having a job gives you a work permit that entitles you to live, work, get healthcare, and usually bring your spouse and pet(s). You can also qualify for a residence permit if you are a Researcher, Graduate Student, Au Pair, or “Specially Qualified Individual.” (See step 3)
- Getting around — I highly recommend bringing your bike, and most bike shops will pack one in a box for you for a fee. Fun fact: SAS counts a bicycle box as a single piece of regular luggage! If you did not bring a bike, then I suggest buying one immediately to help you with the apartment hunt. Try DBA (Denmark’s craigslist), Facebook, or SecondHandBikes.dk. Make sure you test-drive the bike, and check its registration on the Danish police website to make sure it’s not stolen. If you’re not into biking, or if you move in the coldest week of the year like I did, you can download the DOT Mobilbilletter app and pay as you go for bus and subway fare with an international credit card.
- Customs Arrival — requires proof of employment and/or Danish embassy approval letter. I found this process to be quite easy, since we had all our paperwork handy, and the Copenhagen airport is amazing.
- Residence Permit — A card that you will probably receive from your job if you are not an EU citizen. EU citizens need to apply for this in the International House, using your employment contract & passport (no need to have address yet). You will need your residence card when traveling in and out of Denmark, and getting your CPR number and yellow card.
- A place to live with an address — Probably the most important step. Begin as soon as you possibly can. To rent an apartment requires proof of residency permit, a passport, and a means to pay rent. The money will probably come from your home country because the next two steps to get a bank account here require you to have a local address first, which is maddening. I found TransferWise to be quite handy for sending large sums of money overseas quickly.
Once you have your proof of residency and an address, you’ve unlocked the next set of tasks.
- CPR number — Your person number, like an SSN. The CPR number consists of ten digits. The first six digits are your date of birth (day, month and year) while the last four digits provide a unique identification number for all citizens in Denmark. Show up early at the International House (opens at 10am most days, and sometimes closes as early as 2pm) to get a number and see a human who can help you with this as soon as you have your proof of address, or apply online. They will also sign you up for NemID and your yellow card if you ask. Bring: proof of residence, passports, marriage certificate if applicable, proof of address, offer letter from your employer.
- Bank account — requires proof of address (a bill, or your lease), CPR number, passport. I would recommend picking a bank close to your house because you have to physically be present for many services. We used Danske Bank because they had a special service for expats.
- Mobile phone — usually requires a CPR number (and ideally a bank account), except with Telenor, which offers prepaid plans without a CPR. Some companies will also require you to be a resident of Denmark and show your residence permit. To buy a telephone online, you need to have a NemID and a Dankort or Visa card. It’s probably easier to just go to a shop and get a phone and a plan together if your employer doesn’t offer phone plans (which many do). My husband had some success with Telia.
- NemID — your digital signature and single sign-on (SSO) for public services. Requires proof of address and a bank account to activate. You will get a letter with a hidden window code to activate, and a physical card in the mail with lots of numbers (keys) on it. Then, you can download the new NemID app which allows you to do the equivalent of a 2-factor authentication for most Danish websites. It’s kind of an amazing system.
With your NemID and CPR number set up, you are finally eligible to get your yellow card, and set up your online life.
- Yellow card — gives you access to the free Danish health care. Requires proof of residence, NemID, and CPR number. Can be ordered when you visit International House to get your CPR, or online later with NemID. When you go to the doctor, you can just swipe your yellow card to check in!
- Digital Post — AKA eBoks or Borger.dk. With NemID you can set up to have your important mail arrive digitally. This includes things like payslips, bills, and letters from your bank or the government.
- Online Banking — requires NemID and a bank account. My bank required me to set this up in person before I could activate it with my NemID.
- Mobile Pay — How locals pay smaller shops and each other for pretty much everything. It is particularly awesome for splitting the bill, and they have a seperate service for ongoing sharing arrangements called WeShare. Payment automatically comes in and out of your bank account when you use mobile pay. Requires a bank account, and NemID.
- Dankort — A special kind of Visa card that you need in case you want to pay some small shops (like hair dressers), or the government for some things (like changing doctors and getting a new yellow card), or to travel outside Denmark without getting travel fees. For some reason, banks are hesitant to hand these out. Requires an existing account, and maybe a yellow card…
- Taxes/SKAT — Fun fact, the word for the Danish tax agency, Skat, translates to “sweetie”. The Danes are weird about their love of taxes. The good news is that if you have a simple situation, you will simply receive a notification via eBoks/digital post in February saying what you owe or get back. It’s not like in the US where you need to fill out your tax paperwork, but if you have things to report (such as donations that were not automatically reported, additional income, or cleaning fees that you want to get a tax break for!), then you will have to manually add those online at the end of the tax year.
The following steps can be done with a bit more leisure, but most within 90 days of arrival.
- Dog License — If you have a dog, look into the Dansk Hundregister. It’s mandatory for all dogs to be registered in Denmark and have insurance in case of attack (sort of like mandatory car insurance in the US).
- Drivers License — required after 90 days. But, then it will take at least 90 days to get a new license. Kind of a no-win situation. Make an appointment at Borger Service (just around the corner from International House) and bring your existing license, passport, a letter from your doctor about your health, and a passport style photo with your CPR number and your doctors signature and stamp and date on the back, and they will give you an interim license that is good for use in the nordics while the police process your new license. Fun fact, your Danish license is good FOREVER.
- Media License (DR) — Someone will probably come and knock on your door or send you a letter (either by post or digital post) saying that you owe a fee for “media usage”. The monthly fee is 160.58 DKK and you need a NemID to register. Edit: I think this has been phased out and incorporated into taxes.
- Paying your bills — You can do this via online banking, but it gets pretty confusing. You can set up auto payments for almost everything through Betalingservice or online banking, but you MUST pay the first bill manually, or you will be charged late fees, typically 100kr. per month. I have learned this the hard way more than once.
Read next: Part Two: Finding an Apartment in Copenhagen