Benjamin fought for a residence permit for 18 months
Legal assistance, support from the workplace and perseverance resulted in a permanent residence permit for Nordea talent Benjamin Schenkel. “It is generally too difficult for in-demand finance talent to obtain a residence permit”, says President of Finansforbundet Kent Petersen.
After an 18-month-long process, 32-year-old Benjamin Schenkel succeeded in obtaining a permanent residence permit. The road there was paved with numerous challenges and an uncertainty that he found difficult to endure.
“Did Denmark not want me at all? It was really hard to be in the situation because I had made the decision that this is where I would like to put my energy and my life”, says the American. Has top grades from Yale, speaks fluent Danish and is a Senior Risk Expert at Nordea, where he has worked for seven years.
He went to his union representative, Peter Klinke, to seek help during the process. And he really wanted to help:
“I spoke to Ben about what he should do to best advance his case. We set up a kind of friendly steering group, with HR and great colleagues who could support him. He himself is a very resourceful young man who has fought to get his residence permit through for a long time”.
Benjamin Schenkel is a volunteer in several associations, including being chair of the LGBT+ network in Nordea, where he is seen as an important role model for diversity in the workplace. The workplace decided to support him and pay for legal assistance. That help was clearly instrumental in the Danish Immigration Service reversing their decision, he believes.
He himself has also raised awareness of the case. He has written debate articles and told several media outlets the story of how he was not assessed to be an ‘active citizen’, which is one of the conditions that must be met to obtain a permanent residence permit after at least four years of residence.
This was supposedly because he was not engaged enough in Danish society. This is despite the fact that he is the chair of the association WEF Global Shapers Copenhagen, because the immigration service found that the network communicates in English on its website.
Support from Finansforbundet
Benjamin Schenkel got support from several politicians who criticised the rejection and pointed out that Denmark has a shortage of skilled labour. Vice-President of Finansforbundet, Steen Lund Olsen, said the same:
“We are trying to persuade talented people to come to this country – so it can’t be that this is how they are treated. We don’t have to open the borders to just anyone, but here we are talking about a person who has come to Denmark to contribute something that we strongly need. Someone who also pays taxes just like the rest of us”.
Kent Petersen, President of Finansforbundet, adds:
“There is no doubt that we have a shortage of skilled labour and some of it must be sourced from abroad. At the same time, there is a growing realisation that labour is less defined by national borders – but we need to open up in the right way. We would like to support that and work for it politically”.
Benjamin Schenkel, who has started the initiative ‘Fair and Reasonable’ for equal opportunities, wants the same:
“We will continue to question the overly strict immigration policy. It will cost Denmark dearly if we do not change course”.
He hopes to be able to contribute to ensuring that other do not experience the same thing he has been through. And he is not alone, not even in Nordea, says Peter Klinke:
“I have received an inquiry from a colleague who actually wants to stay in Denmark with his wife. But he does not want to appear in public the same way as Ben. You have to be kind of robust to go through a process like that”.