Starter kit for International students in Denmark

13/09/2020 Graduateships Min.

Coming to a new country includes many new experiences and plenty of choices to make. Usually, people look back at their trip, exchange, expat life or something else, and see many things they would have done differently.

 

Due to COVID-19 coming to a new country might be even more hectic, with guidelines changing by the day.

 

All things pile up and it becomes difficult to stay up to date and make all the right choices at the right time. That’s why we at Graduateships try and help you out with some useful information.

 

Coming to Denmark as an international student

In our article about going abroad on exchange, there are already listed some of the opportunities and challenges you face, that cover the more overarching themes of coming to a new country.

 

For example:

  1. Expanding your network
  2. Strengthen your CV
  3. Experiencing a foreign language
  4. The chance of a culture shock

 

You can read the whole article about pros and cons of going abroad as part of your graduate programme.

 

However, there are also many “small” things, which you would like to get right to not get a hassle out of it later.

 

Therefore, we will in the following go through larger and minor topics. In this first edition of our series on settling into Denmark, we cover applying for a job, taxes and SU (the public ‘support money’ you can receive).

 

Finding a job in Denmark

It is not a secret that Denmark is a quite expensive country to live in and if you plan on having a bit of fun and seeing some of the country, you either need a well-stocked savings account, or, more rewarding, find a job. In Denmark it is common to have some sort of student position that you attend simultaneously with your studies. For instance, Graduateships has right now two paid intern positions for our content and social media departments.

 

It is global practice, that recruiters find job experience very important. That is also the case when you apply for jobs while studying. This of course leads to the chicken-and-egg problem – how can you get experience, if it takes a job to get that experience, but you need experience to get a job.

 

There is no easy way around it, unless you can utilize your still young network, which might even have to work cross-borders. If you are not gifted with friends or family that can land you a student position, another option is to show good grades, fiery spirits and personality, for instance how you engaged as your high school’s news editor.

 

The job might seem like a time-consuming activity in your already hectic studies, but it is an investment for the future.

 

This is because experience only becomes more important when you will apply for your first real job after your studies.

 

Don’t just take our word for it, but all the recruiters Graduateships have recently interviewed.

Recruiter Title Company Interview year (click the year for link)
Ditte Mi Petræus Recruitment Specialist Demant 2020
Caroline Sehested Former People & Organisation Director Novo Nordisk 2020
Ashlee Shaun Meyer Talent Development Consultant TDC 2020
Emily Nowicki Talent Attraction Advisor PwC 2020
Mette Bruun Hesselvig Graduate Programme Manager GN Store Nord 2020

Go the extra mile to get a job 

As even the student positions are in heavy competition among students, you often need to make the extra effort to obtain them. One trick to achieve your application being remembered, is to call the contact person in the job post. It is a ‘public secret’ among Danes, that many foreigners unfortunately are not told about.

Although it can seem like overkill, you will guaranteed stand out since many (foreign) applicants only send their CV and cover letter and doesn’t walk the extra mile. Take the time to ask challenging questions for the recruiters that might not be covered in the job post or that you would like to get emphasized.

It shows a deeper commitment to the application and saves you from the recruiters’ idea that you did not change much more than the name of the company for your application.

 

The first job might be tricky

Obviously, it is everyone’s dream to get the job in the field that they are studying in, however it might be tricky. Many companies require fluency in Danish when they are recruiting new employees.

It was mentioned before that in order to get a job it is important to have some experience but there are many open vacancies where it is not a necessity. Start out with a simpler job, even though it is not relevant for your studies. Now, you might think “What kind of job should I look for at the beginning?”. The answer for this question is pretty easy and probably the same as in your home country. If you do not have a lot of experience you should start from the positions such as cleaner, worker at the warehouse or delivery man. As a newcomer, the easiest way for you to find your first job is to create a network and ask people around you about any possibilities. For these kinds of jobs, the employers do not require fluent Danish, therefore your chances to get a job are higher. It can be in the restaurant and bar business or piccolo at a hotel. You will still learn many useful things to apply in your future job position. You might also get in touch with people who can lead you to a study relevant job.

Limit your time with irrelevant student jobs

However, it is important to not get stuck in this job. You need to think about how much time left you have in your studies, since companies usually prefer student workers to have at least 1,5-2 years left of their studies. If you start on your master’s, it is therefore not a good idea to spent 9 months – a year working at a restaurant, and then start looking for a student position. So, start looking for a student position from the time you start your studies, and intensify as time pass.

If you do not know anyone in the city, it is important to not give up too fast in your searching.

Another idea that you might find useful is to seek for jobs online. The most popular way to find a job online is to look for it at LinkedIn. Most of them require Danish language but you might find some companies that doesn’t look for native speakers.

Except LinkedIn, there are few more websites that might help you to find a job.

TheHub.io (website where the start-ups post open job positions)

JobIndex.dk

Or… Facebook! It might seem obvious, but students are rotating all the time. Therefore, many employers find it very efficient to share a post with a job offer on the Facebook group for international students in Denmark. They are usually easy to find by typing words such as international, jobs and the city that you are looking for a job in.

The popular Facebook groups from the big cities are: ”Aarhus Internationals”, “Internationals in Odense”, “Jobs in Copenhagen” etc.

The other important thing to remember is to have a contract with your employer. This way, you will avoid any scams and you can be entitled to receive SU which will be explained in the next chapters. You can also read about SU on the official website https://www.su.dk/english/su-as-a-foreign-citizen/.

What is more, regarding to Danish law there is no minimal wage per hour, although you find many to be approximately 100 DKK before taxes.

At Graudateships we also wrote a piece about how to get a job after graduation, which you might find interesting. 

Company owners cheating on the salary

Furthermore, look out for employees offering a job, with a salary they say is the SU. In the past, and to some degree still today, some company owners tell foreign student workers, that since the job they offer enables the student for SU, the company will not pay salary, since the SU is the salary. This is illegal and should be avoided.

Apply twice for the same position

Another thing to remember in the job search, is that you should not feel shy of applying for a position more than one time. This might sound crazy at first, but we are of course not talking about applying twice within the same period the position is being offered.

Instead, keep an eye for jobs you might applied for years earlier. For instance, if you are doing both your bachelor and master’s degree here, you will spend at least 5 years. Therefore, the position might become available again. And nothing says “I really want this job” more, than applying for it twice.

In the meantime, you can have obtained more experienced and are further in your studies, which will also increase your chances of getting hired.

 

How to get SU as a foreign student

First of all, it is important to make clear, that exchange students are not eligible for SU. You need to be studying a full degree in Denmark. While working and studying in Denmark you can receive public support such as SU. The minimum amount of the hours per month that you need to work for is 44. In other words, in addition to your salary, you can get additional support from the Danish government. Usually, the amount varies from time to time but usually it is approximately 6 000 DKK, before taxes.

 

There are few conditions that you must to fulfill in order to receive SU as an international student.

The most important thing is to apply for an “equal status” which means that you will be consider as a Danish student and you have the rights to receive the same benefits. Depends on your citizenship different rules applies. For example, EU/EEA citizens are usually able to receive SU under the EU law, however for the citizens outside the EU/EEA it is possible to receive an SU only under Danish law. Read more here: https://www.su.dk/english/su-as-a-foreign-citizen/.

 

When you are applying for SU for the first time, remember to bring with you

  1. Copy of your employment contract and one month’s payslip (not sure?)
  2. Filled up application for SU
  3. CPR registration (yellow card)
  4. NemID which can be both digital or on the paper

 

How to get a-kasse

When you start your studies in Denmark it is highly recommended to sign-up for A-Kasse. It is unemployment insurance fund that you can received after you are graduated and having troubles with finding a job.

 

There are few leading A-Kasse companies, however in each of them the system works very similar. The main difference might be the monthly fees for a membership. While you are a student, you may get a student membership which is completely free. Although, if you stop your education, you are automatically getting a normal membership which costs around 450 DKK per month depends on the A-Kasse company.

 

Being registered in A-Kasse, not only support you financially but they are really helpful with boosting your CV. They organize different job fairs, courses and meetings with future benefits that you can attend free of charge. First you need to fill up few forms and register yourself as unemployed. Then A-Kasse consultant needs to approve your CV and make sure that it meets all of the legal requirements. After the whole process you can start receiving the money until you find a job.

 

Bank account and taxes for international students in Denmark

When you pick up your CPR number you can finally set up a bank account (NemKonto). Most Danish citizens and companies occasionally receive payments from the public sector; therefore it is very important to create NemKonto. From now on, all of the payments such as TAX refunds, SU grants, unemployment benefits, housing support or pension are directly transferred to this account.

 

If you want to start working, it is essential to create your tax card. In order to create one, you need to contact the SKAT office here.

 

Every year in May you need to fill out the information about your income and taxes. However, the employers usually filling it for you, so you do not really need to worry about it but it is smart to check it by yourself to be sure. Also make sure to change your preliminary income on Skat.dk, if something changes in your life. For example, you start earning more or less, as you should adjust it in your preliminary income statement, so you only pay the right amount of tax.

 

The information in this article is accurate as of august 2020. However, there are ongoing changes in for example legislation regarding SU for foreigners. Check Skat.dk for tax and SU, and see Graduateships.com for updated information on job tips.

P.S.: Stay tuned for our yearly graduate programme guide coming in the fall of 2020!