When preparing for my 2 year stint in Denmark I made sure to set aside an extra month before classes were set to start. During this time I moved to Copenhagen, and hoped to get all of the logistical issues resolved and set up. This included dealing with any issues with my visa that might come up, setting up bank accounts, getting a phone plan, finding a place to live, etc. – it sounds great in theory right? After all, as a US Citizen I have an automatic 90 day tourist visa which I was able to head to Denmark on while I waited for my student/work visa to process.
Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize is just how dependent life in Copenhagen is on a CPR number. What is the CPR number? Basically a government ID number – a sort of hybridized form of the US Social Security number and state drivers license number. To get one you have to have a residence permit above and beyond the standard tourist visa and then file to apply for the CPR at your local commune office. Once one recieves their formal visa, registration with the local commune is relatively easy and should only take a matter of hours. Once registered you recieve your CPR number immediately and the actual ID/document is mailed within 2 weeks.
While I don’t regret coming over early, the lead time has largely been a waste of time. As I write this, I’ve been on the ground in Copenhagen for nearly 2 months. My courses are about to start their third week and as hard to believe as it may be, I have to report that about the only thing logistically that I’ve managed to do, is get a haircut and show up to classes. Despite being here for nearly two months I still don’t have my visa. It has been held up by a series of Danish administrative issues and bad information from my local consulate office. While I am not afraid that I won’t receive the visa, and do believe it will arrive this week it has been an incredible roadblock.
You see, to sign up for just about any service in Copenhagen you have to have your CPR number. Even a membership at the local library is impossible without it. Want to register for a call phone plan, vs. over the counter pre-purchased credits? You’re going to need a CPR. A bank account? Definitely going to need your CPR as well as an active passport or visa. For all intents and purposes without a CPR you don’t exist in Denmark.
While it may be somewhat similar in the US (I’m honestly not sure, not having gone through the process in reverse), I was really surprised at just how difficult it is to get anything done without the CPR and the significant delays that have come out of the process. It’s also worth noting that while my experience has been more drawn out than many of the other students, a large percentage of us have had significant delays with our visas and many are only just now getting their CPR numbers and finally able to start truly settling in – more than 2 weeks after courses started.
Don’t assume that sending in your visa early will be sufficient. I turned mine around and sent immigration the application in mid-June, just a week after receiving the initial paperwork. So, for those of you considering a more long-term move to Denmark, make sure you focus on getting your CPR and make it a priority. The sooner you have it, the easier your transition will be. From what I’ve seen and heard these problems are more common among the full degree programs and less of an issue for individuals coming over on semester-long study abroad trips. There also seems to be more dedicated support for short-term and exchange-based programs.
Considering moving to Denmark? Feel free to ask your questions here and I’ll do my best to answer them. P.S. – Before entering the country on a tourist visa while waiting for a student, residence or work visa make sure you research if it is acceptable. In many instances (being a student is one of the exceptions) applicants are not allowed to enter the country on a tourist visa while waiting for their extended-stay paperwork. Doing so may result in the rejection of your application.