Many foreigners were not eligible for unemployment benefits if laid off or furloughed.
Skilled workers who have come from outside the EEA to work in Norway are currently not entitled to unemployment benefits if they are laid off, something which has put as many as 13,000 skilled workers under enormous pressure during the pandemic.
Many of these workers have paid taxes for years, but risked seeing no benefit if suddenly laid off.
“I fear I will lose everything I have and end up in financial chaos,” Maria Florencia Becherini, a cruise industry executive from Argentina, told NRK in April. It will be tough to find the same type of job in this market as well. I can't to anything but pray to the higher powers now!”.
Norway's parliament last Friday, however, agreed to temporarily change the rules, making foreign skilled workers eligible retroactively for time unemployed between May 4th and October 31st.
Because these specialist skilled workers have been granted their visa in connection with a specific job, under section 6-1 of Norway's immigration regulations, if they are laid off, they have not been considered jobseekers by Nav, and have no right to unemployment benefit.
Not eligible for NAV because earnings too low
Silvana (not her real name) arrived in April 2019, and got a job in a bar. But the bar owner fell behind on paying her salary and then went bankrupt when the coronavirus lockdown was imposed.
Even though, she would have met the income threshold to be eligible for unemployment benefit if she had received her full salary, without the missing element, she fell short.
She is married to a Norwegian, who also got laid off, but is being paid unemployment benefits. She is not eligible for free Norwegian classes, and without speaking Norwegian it is hard to get a job. She now has four months to get one, or she could be forced to leave the country.
Deon, from Australia, had had a difficult arrival in Norway before coronavirus. He went through the three month training to be cabin crew for Norwegian Air Shuttle only to be told at the end by the company's security clearance consultant that he would need a Norwegian passport, because he had not been living in Norway for five years (he'd been here four years and five months).
Since October, he had been working at SATS, doing fitness classes, and when all the gym chain's staff were permitert [laid off] at the end of March, NAV told him he had not earned enough to receive payments.
“I got nothing. Zero. Thank God for my husband I’d be on the street otherwise,” he complains.
NAV and UD are overwhelmed it cannot handle tricky cases, and foreigners are not prioritised.
Risk of losing right to visa or residency permit
For Holly Rose Bennett, like many other foreigners living in Norway, the coronavirus pandemic has from the start raised a question mark over whether she'll be able to stay living with her Norwegian partner in Oslo.
“My partner came really close to being permitert [furloughed]: 80 percent of people in his department were laid off,” she said. “We had a rather stressful morning waiting for that axe to fall.”
Thankfully, however, both of them have so far kept their jobs.
But now she still has the problem of the enormous nine-month backlog in processing permanent residency applications at UDI, where she expects her file to go.