Existing in Denmark – the Surprising Need for a CPR Number

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Posted on / by Alex Berger

Locals at Rest - Copenhagen, Norway

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.

Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.

25 Comments

  • wandering educators
    September 18, 2011

    critical information – who knew? what could have made it easier for you?

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      September 19, 2011

      Initially following up 2x a week might have helped speed up the process somewhat as the first issue with the missing 100DKK (added Bank fee on their end that came out of the blue) might have been accelerated slightly. I also might have contacted the Danish consulate here in Denmark, vs. going through my embassy with the question about what funds I needed to show I had access to. They still might have given me the same bad information the consulate did, or they might have given me more accurate info – it’s just hard to know.

      All of that said though, really nothing. While I’m one of the last in the group to get my visa the others only *started* to get theirs August 23rd or so and most only started receiving them mid-September.

      Reply
  • Dan
    September 24, 2011

    Wow, I’m surprised it takes that long. Hope your school is going well

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      September 25, 2011

      Yeah, it’s pretty nuts for sure bud! The good news is that it is definitely worth it!

      Reply
  • Tamlyn Moraes
    August 9, 2012

    Hello
    I just read your story. Well, something quite similar is happening to me.
    I am travelling to be an exchange student in Aarhus University.
    The problem is that I submited everything I needed for the visa, only 2 weeks ago. My plane ticket is to the 19th august.
    Can I arrive there with my tourist visa, and get my student visa there?
    I have 90 days of tourist visa, and they said my case can be process in 90 days( it will be finished by october the lastest).

    I hope you can help me. I am very very concerned.

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      August 13, 2012

      Are you from the US? If so, then yes you can so long as it is a student visa. That’s what I did as well and I know some of my classmates had to do the same thing. Just keep badgering immigration as they’re really good at suddenly messing it up after telling you everything was fine for weeks. Confirm that you’re ok on your 90 day but it won’t be a problem. Just don’t be overly chatty about it while going through immigration (they won’t even ask you about it in reality, be honest if hey do.

      Reply
      • Tamlyn Moraes
        August 13, 2012

        Oh, well I am from Brazil really.
        I will hope that work for brazilians too, otherwise…
        The application is in process, but I will call the danish embassy here and find out about it.
        Thanks a lot!
        Tamlyn

        Reply
  • Yeshvanth
    February 18, 2015

    Hi
    Im from India, i had applied PR denmark visa and now currently i hold a denmark green card visa but its valid till 6 months i.e ends on may 2015. could you help me in giving me the solution for my concern, it will be great ful
    1. currently i could not get leave from my company where im working in india, i could get leave max of 2 weeks, can i come to denmark and apply for CPR and return india… is it possible to return with out getting yellow card..?
    2. or is it any ways to extend my visa for 6 more months with out applying CPR..?
    3. should i stay one month to get the yellow card..?
    4. After getting CPR yellow card can i leave denmark and return my end of this year..?

    Please help me in understanding the process..?

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      February 18, 2015

      Hi Yeshvanth. I’m really not sure. Immigration policies have changed quite a bit and yours sounds like a complicated issue. I know you only have 6 months to be out of country before the Green Card lapses. However, you might be able to come for two weeks, get your CPR created and a residence registered initially, then be able to leave for a little bit.

      I believe that the way it works you can only be out of counter for up to 6 months during any visa before you de-qualify for that visa. But, to know for sure you’ll have to talk to an official representative.

      Reply
  • Somayeh
    April 7, 2015

    I have 6 month visa and i plane to come in Copenhagen from 01.05.2015 to 25.05.2015 regarding process my residence visa and take CPR no ,but I don’t know what should be do for my register adders i send email to a lot of hostel and hotel but is not accepting for give address to immigration .and I want know hotel address is acceptable for immigration for register or no if no what should be do .
    I would be appreciate it if you could give me a prompt replay at most convenient.

    Best Regards

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      April 8, 2015

      I’m afraid I can’t help you with visa information. However, you will need a real address and not a hotel or hostel address to use. Your best option is to email the people at the Copenhagen International House with your questions.

      Reply
  • Nina
    April 17, 2015

    Hi Alex,

    I will be studying for one semester at CBS this fall (exchange student). But I wonder what happens when I can’t find a permanent address to live? Because you need that to get CPR right? And I need my CPR to write exams etc. if I understood it correctly? I’m quite concerned because the housing situation is quite stressful in Copenhagen.. Thanks a lot

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      April 18, 2015

      Hi Nina! Exciting! You’ll have a blast! The University has gotten much better about lining something up, especially for students who are coming for one semester. They should be able to set you up with accommodation and/or a registration. You will need your CPR but I think they’ve set up some workarounds for you. And at the end of the day things are very relaxed here, so even if you are still struggling with the CPR a bit into the semester you’ll be just fine. The Danes’ casual approach can be a bit challenging especially because they don’t always realize why we’re freaking out =) there are also some groups on FB for housing and otherwise use DBA.dk and search once you arrive. You’ll find something, just have to message quickly and be VERY careful of scams. No cash exchanged by wiretransfer or until you move in, etc.

      Don’t miss my series on the Danes: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYhfDSDaZurBoamfv4_5QM3CXWGC8il2S

      Reply
  • Jen
    July 13, 2016

    Hi there,

    I am moving to Copenhagen to start a 2 year teaching job and curious what documentation you need in order to register. You are supposed to do so within 5 days of arrival from what I am finding online. Luckily the school assisted me in finding an apartment but wow the sticker shock of rental prices! It seems the housing market is very tight. I considered doing airbnb for a month or two while I looked but realized the CPR would be a big problem for that. I assume I would need a rental agreement copy, job contract, passport, etc. Anything else I need to register for the CPR at the international house?

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      July 13, 2016

      The housing market is currently absolutely bonkers with virtually zero inventory in Copenhagen. It’s nuts. I don’t recall the exact documents, but an address you can register at and your proof of visa leading to CPR is typically about it =). I believe a quick e-mail to the International House or a review of the New to Denmark site should have the specifics.

      Reply
  • wilfred
    September 25, 2016

    Hi

    Can i give hotel Address while applying for CPR.Whether they will accept it

    Reply
  • Zoe
    November 16, 2016

    I have been here for a bit over three months and stupidly didnt apply for the CPR now Im worried they will kick me out, do you know for how long they kick me out? I am an EU citizen

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      November 16, 2016

      As an EU citizen things will be a bit different, but I suspect it’s urgent you contact the International House and ask them on what you need to do immediately. You don’t necessarily have to provide your contact information for the request, but it is important to clarify and fix the situation ASAP. Housing can be very difficult which is required for CPR registration, so it tends to be more flexible.

      Reply
  • Dirk Fennema Galparsoro
    January 29, 2017

    Good afternoon,

    I am in copenhagen university studying a master programme of two years and I have been here for 4 months, I didnt ask for my residence permit because I have been travelling back to my country every 2 months (in november and during christmas) I was wondering if there is any problem If I am going now to ask for my residence permit or my cpr number or if maybe they are kicking me out.

    Thank you very much

    Reply
    • Dirk Fennema Galparsoro
      January 29, 2017

      I am an EU citizen, I wanted to specify.

      Reply
    • Alex Berger
      January 29, 2017

      Hi Dirk, it’s very important that you make sure everything you do tied to your visa and CPR etc. is completely legal. There’s a fair amount of understanding if you are pro-active in reaching out to correct the situation and communicating misunderstanding. Also, I can’t give you any actual legal advice etc. – however, my suggestion would be to call the International House immediately and to ask them what you should do moving forward.

      Reply
  • Dirk Fennema Galparsoro
    January 29, 2017

    So is there a problem to get my cpr number even if my visa is suppossed to be active? and do you think in the International house they will give me any advice of how to work out? because I want to get CPR number but my questions are will I have a fee or are they kicking me out? Do you know any student who was kicked out because of the cpr number?

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      January 29, 2017

      No way for me to know. I don’t follow individual visa policy and only have casual experience with it via my own process. However, normally once your visa is granted and you move to Denmark you are notified you have a set period of time to activate it. Since it requires housing to get a CPR and that is incredibly difficult, they tend to be more flexible, or in your case since you haven’t had consistent accommodation and were in and out of the country regularly. But, all of this needs to be explained to an advocate at the International House who specialize in the different visas and can better explain it to you. Given you’re an EU citizen it is also likely all different.

      Reply

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