Immigration For Members

IN NUMBERS: How many foreign residents does Norway have and who are they?

Agnes Erickson
Agnes Erickson - [email protected]
IN NUMBERS: How many foreign residents does Norway have and who are they?

Norway's total population is currently 5,374,807, according to the national statistics database, Statistics Norway.


According the agency’s most recent data on immigration, 790,497 people classed as immigrants live in Norway in 2020.

The 2020 figure for people born abroad living in Norway -- 790,497 -- is a 3.3 percent increase compared to 2019. The net migration into the country last year was 25,327 people.

Meanwhile, 188,757 people born in Norway (many of which are Norwegian nationals) are children of immigrants.

In total, there are therefore 979,254 people with one of these two types of foreign heritage living in Norway. This represents 18.2 percent of the population, with 14.7 percent being immigrants and 3.5 percent Norwegian-born.

But what else can statistics tell us about Norway’s foreign population?


Statistics Norway has reported a positive change in residents' opinions on foreigners living in Norway over the past ten years. Between 2010 and 2019 there was 4 percent increase, from 34 percent to 38 percent, in people who ‘strongly agree’ that most immigrants enrich cultural life in Norway.


Meanwhile, 8 percent said in 2019 that they ‘strongly believe’ immigrants cause insecurity in society, compared to 11 percent in 2010. The number of people who either agree or strongly agree with the statement also fell, from 36 percent to 24 percent.

Other attitudes show little change. On the question of whether Norwegians believe immigrants ‘make an important contribution to working life’, 31 percent strongly agreed in both 2010 and 2019, while only 3 percent strongly disagreed in either year.

On refugees and asylum seekers, there seems to be a fairly even split on the surface: 56 percent think that the opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers to obtain a residence permit in Norway should remain the same as today.

READ ALSO: Norwegians split over immigration in 2018: report

Where do most foreigners come from?

The top 5 immigrant nationalities living in Norway at the most recent count came from Poland, Lithuania, Sweden, Syria and Somalia. 

Meanwhile, 48 percent of all people of foreign heritage – immigrants and Norwegian-born alike -- are from Europe. 33.5 percent are from Asia, 14 percent from Africa, 2.9 percent from Latin America and 1.3 percent from North America.

Where immigrants live

The city in Norway with the most immigrant residents is Oslo. The capital city currently has 25 percent of non-Norwegians as inhabitants. World Population Review reports, based on Statistics Norway and City of Oslo figures, that nearly 30 percent, or 190,000 residents in Oslo were born to immigrants or are immigrants themselves.


In Oslo suburbs Sondre Nordstrand, Stovner and Alna, 50 percent of all residents are immigrants, the highest density of foreigners in all of Oslo, the report states.

Oslo’s immigrant population is currently growing faster than the native Norwegian population, according to World Population Review, which interestingly also found the Norwegian capital to be the fastest-growing major city in Europe.

The city's largest ethnic minority nationality is Pakistani. Sweden, Somalia and Poland have the next-highest numbers of citizens. 

READ ALSO: Foreigners say they struggle to settle in Denmark and Norway but there is an upside

The western part of the country is home to fewer than 5 percent of immigrants. Norway’s second largest city, Bergen, accommodates only 1.5 percent of inhabitants with a migrant background, according to the Council of Europe. The largest minority group in Bergen is Polish with Swedish citizens coming in second, making up for less than 1 percent of the city's population.

In the north, Hammerfest is Norway’s most northern town with a population of 11,448 people. City Population reports, based on figures from Hammerfest Municipality, that 13,5 percent of the inhabitants are non-Norwegian and 886 residents were born in a country outside of Europe.

A 2019 study by researchers at the University of Oslo and Stockholm University and reported by Science of Norway compared housing patterns and segregation in five northern European countries: Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The researchers found that immigrant groups are more evenly distributed geographically in Norway (and Denmark) than in the other countries.

In Norway, there is less micro-segregation, meaning that that non-European immigrants were more evenly distributed among the general population. Oslo was found to be an exception.

The researchers pointed out that living outside of a city in Norway may be attractive to some immigrants, as it is easier to find a job in rural areas than the other countries examined. 

How many foreigners have become Norwegian over the years?

According to Statistics Norway, 13,200 people became naturalised Norwegian citizens in 2019, adding to a total of 138,479 naturalised citizens within the last ten years. Most of these new citizens came from Asia (including Turkey and Cyprus) and Africa, with over 1,500 also coming from Europe. There were 700 new citizens who were previously stateless or of unknown nationality.

Why immigrate to Norway?

Work, family, asylum and education are primary reasons listed by Statistics Norway for immigration. Of these, the most common reason in 2019 was work.

99,000 Polish citizens and 39,000 Lithuanians are the highest number of immigrant groups currently in the labour market. 


The labour market is followed by family in second place, seeking refuge in third, and education in fourth as the main reasons to move.

According to Statistics Norway’s figures, the employment level amongst immigrants in Norway in 2019 was 66.9 percent, compared to 69.5 percent nationally. Unemployment was 3.7 percent nationally and 7.7 percent amongst immigrants. The latter figure had fallen significantly over the preceding 5 years, from 11.2 percent in 2015. A smaller fall in unemployment since 2015 (from 4.5 percent) can be seen for the overall population. It should be noted that these figures predate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.


The influx of refugees peaked in 2016 following the European refugee crisis of 2015. This can be related to a change in Norway’s policies and laws resultant from the conservative government’s reaction to the refugee crisis, as well as the gradual reduction in refugees arriving from Syria after 2015 and 2016.


In 2020, 238,281 people (or 4.4 percent of Norway's population) have a refugee background, according toStatistics Norway. Most refugees are shown to have come from Asia, with the next-largest group coming from Africa.



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