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I am a British citizen, have a British passport.

I don't know if I have overstayed in Denmark, very confused as I thought originally as a UK citizen I could stay there for as long as wanted unless I am working/studying/wanting citizenship/benefits... None of which I have asked for nor claimed. I have been staying with Danish family and travelling. It has now come to my attention that there is all this stuff about the Schengen zone and that someone with a non-EU passport can only stay for certain period of time and there seems to be conflicting information on an EU passport holders position if they aren't working or claiming anything.

So my question is: What happens if you have stayed longer than 3 months but are, as said, NOT working/studying/claiming any benefits and intend to go back to home country at a certain point... But have not registered with any authorities in this time? Is there punishments for this and what to do about it if in that situation? I am really worried that I have done something stupid without intention

Did I need some kind of permit or agreement? Because the only reason I did not seek out this was as I thought it was for someone intending to stay in a country andor get work there, which I didn't intend at this time

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You cannot really “overstay” in the way third-country citizens can. As a British citizen, the most that can happen if you stay longer than 3 months without doing anything in another EU country is the following:

  • You might be asked to leave.
  • You might have to pay a fine if you failed to complete some formalities.

The rest of the answer will explain how all this works but the most important thing is that you cannot be banned, detained or removed merely because you failed to complete some formalities in time or disregarded this three-month threshold.


The distinction is subtle but the three-month threshold does not quite work like a short-stay visa for non-EU citizens and this has important consequences for you. After three months, you need to qualify in one of four ways (more on that below) to have a right to stay under EU freedom of movement rules (that's completely unrelated to Schengen and also applies to other EU citizens in the UK, incidentally). But even if you don't, you are not accruing illegal presence or risking removal by staying in the country.

It's only if the authorities ask you to justify your right to stay than the rules become relevant. In countries like France and the UK, you can therefore basically stay indefinitely and fully legally as long as you don't attract attention to yourself or somehow make yourself undesirable. One way this could happen is if you apply for welfare benefits or free healthcare coverage. If you do not qualify for residence under freedom of movement rules, you are not entitled to welfare benefits so the authorities will usually ask you to show that you do when you apply for them and could even ask you to leave the country if you don't. But as long as you don't do that, nobody will check whether you qualify and you can stay for as long as you wish without trouble.

Denmark is a little different because, unlike France or the UK, they require EU citizens to register their presence and get a “certificate of residence” within three to six months of their entry into the country so it's more difficult to ‘fly under the radar’ and remain in the country without worrying about all this. At this point, since you have stayed more than three months, you are theoretically liable for a fine (I don't know about Denmark but in other countries I have heard about ~€500 fines so not completely insignificant).

The problem is that applying for this certificate of residence requires showing that you qualify for residence under EU freedom of movement rules so that might not be possible for you. And you would probably have to pay the fine anyway. But if you don't and are somehow found out, you could be asked to leave and would certainly be fined. And if you find a job, applying for the certificate and paying the fine will probably be necessary as well.

Whatever happens, you cannot be banned from Denmark merely for having stayed too long without registering properly. Even if you are asked/forced to leave the country, you could always come back for a short stay or, if you qualify, for a long stay. But escaping the fine could be difficult.

Now, I have used the phrase “qualify for EU freedom of movement” several times without clearly explaining what it means. You mentioned working and studying in your question and those are indeed two major ways to be covered by the EU freedom of movement. But there are a few others like being self-employed, living together with another EU citizen who qualifies or simply having sufficient financial resources to stay without becoming “a burden on the social assistance system” of the host state. So besides working or studying, you might still qualify if you show you have some savings or live with your British (or other EU citizen but not Danish) girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse. The page from the Statsforvaltningen I linked to above also details how you can qualify.

Note that – perhaps counterintuitively if you compare your situation to that of third-country nationals – working would help you, not hurt you. It's not a crime for you to work in Denmark and you don't need any permit or special qualification (in practice you probably need to register – and possibly pay a fine since you are now too late – to get a tax/social insurance number that your employer will require but those are just formalities). And once you work, you are covered by freedom of movement so you cannot be asked to leave unless there is a very serious reason (basically national security and the like).

In practice, if you now intend to work and settle in Denmark but you are concerned about the fine and not in a hurry, one thing you could do is leave for another EU country or go back to the UK for a few months and then return to Denmark later, ideally with a job lined up or perhaps to search for one intensively. You could then complete all formalities by the book starting from your new entry. Whether you would be fined for your previous stay/unregistered residence would depend on how much of a paper trail you have left and how diligently they check but my guess is that nobody will care about it.

  • Hello, thanks so much for your information. I am worried about the fine but as long as it isn't jail I realise I am lucky. Will this be a huge fine as I have stayed past the 6 month mark by at least 8 months (I think)? I am just so shocked at all of this because the family I am staying with is Danish, but none of them mentioned any of this to me either. They also seemed to think registering was only for if you are wanting to work in Denmark. I intend to go home, I hoped in December and come back after holidays maybe, but not sure what is going to happen now – Snitzel Nov 17 '15 at 13:03
  • My boyfriend is also Danish, does this make a difference? - "So besides working or studying, you might still qualify if you show you have some savings or live with your British (or other EU citizen but not Danish) girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse." – Snitzel Nov 17 '15 at 13:04
  • @Snitzel Yes it makes a difference. It means you can't use your relationship with your boyfriend to gain the right to reside in Denmark under EU law. You could get a regular Danish spousal visa but that's complicated and expensive. You can still use the other three ways to qualify: work, study or show you have enough income/wealth. – Gala Nov 17 '15 at 16:24
  • If I understand correctly, you have stayed with a family in Denmark, with no lease under your name or anything like that? I would just go to the UK for Christmas and register when I come back. You might be asked when you entered and you can truthfully give a date in January. Technically you would still be liable for a fine but realistically, the Danish authorities have no way to know whether and how long you have stayed before. If you are paranoid, you could travel through another Schengen country on the way out to make sure that you don't see any immigration official in Denmark. – Gala Nov 17 '15 at 16:27
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According to Statsforvaltningen:

As an EU citizen you may freely enter Denmark and remain in this country for up to 3 months without an EU residence document (registration certificate).

It goes on to say:

If you expect that your stay in Denmark will last more than 3 months, you have to apply for an EU residence document before the expiry of the three months.

It's not clear what kind of penalties there might be for not having completed registration after staying for three months. But, if you apply now that you are aware of the requirement, there may either be no actual penalty or maybe a small one. If you did something (such as got arrested) where the police would expect you to have registered, you might have bigger problems.

  • I guess I need to work out what to do now, I would have overstayed by many months now I think. I have not committed any crimes here or worked, if that's what you mean about the police? I guess the issue is that I was planning to go home to my family at Christmas, but fear I will be better off if I stay longer and apply for a residence permit now? I don't want to be banned from Denmark – Snitzel Nov 16 '15 at 21:37
  • Thanks for your replies, I will try to contact some of the official institutes and see what they have to say. I must admit I was not aware of the current terms as my stay has been a bit of just a travel around and about, hopefully I can figure something out. I appreciate the help. – Snitzel Nov 16 '15 at 22:12
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    @Snitzel you cannot be banned from Denmark unless you are dangerous. Do be careful about losing your health coverage, though. If you get a residence permit in Denmark, you'll lose your NHS coverage. See nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/movingabroad/Pages/…. – phoog Nov 17 '15 at 21:52

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