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The pros and cons of becoming a resident in Norway

The pros and cons of becoming a resident in Norway
Bergen at night. Photo: lb design on Unsplash
Becoming a resident in Norway has both positives, negatives, and a good amount of paperwork.

As a foreigner, applying for residency can be a stressful, time consuming process. Knowing what to expect can be helpful and provide confidence in a time when your future may be out of your hands.

Here are a few key points to know about the process in Norway.

How popular is it to move to Norway?

The United Nations’ 2019 Human Development Report gave Norway the highest score out of 189 countries worldwide on its Human Development Index, which takes into account factors including life expectancy, expected years of schooling and average income.

This top-scoring UN index rating reflects the high international standing of development issues, trends and policies in Norway and perhaps goes some way to demonstrating why it is an attractive destination for migration.

According to national agency Statistics Norway, 44,570 foreign nationals moved to Norway in 2019. Work, family, asylum and education are the primary reasons listed by Statistics Norway for immigration. Of these, the most common reason in 2019 was work.

What are the positives?

After becoming a legal resident of Norway you will be able to freely travel outside of the country without the worry of not being allowed back in.

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You will be entitled to free language training. Norway’s Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi) states that foreign nationals between the ages of 16 to 67 with legal residence “can have the right and obligation to participate in Norwegian language and social studies training.” A minimum of 600 hours of both classes are given free of charge during the first three years of residency.  

When you become a legal resident in Norway you are automatically entered into the National Norwegian Health Care Scheme and receive health insurance. 

As a resident permit holder, you are entitled to the same working conditions and pay as a citizen of Norway. A list of what a resident can expect from their company and how they are protected can be found here

What are some of the negatives?

Finding work can be difficult. With such a highly educated and skilled population, the competition for many jobs is high, even once you have the sense of stability provided by residence.

A lot of companies have a ‘hire for life’ policy and terminating an employee’s contract can be exceptionally hard to do. Many companies want to make absolutely sure you plan on staying an extended period of time before hiring you. 

Norway is also a country where networking plays a huge factor in securing a job. This can be difficult if you have few contacts and are new in the country.

Getting a driving license in Norway is expensive and places a huge demand on your free time. If you are coming from outside the EEA, then you have up to one year to take a driving test and trade in your license from your homeland.

If you fail the test or have waited over a year from the date you first entered the country then you have to start the process from the beginning. For more information on what this process looks like and requires check here.

Being a resident means you will live here, and the Norwegian winters come with some hardships. If you are not used to a colder, darker climate than Norwegian winters can become difficult to get used to. The snow and ice make for tougher driving conditions and the below zero temperatures tend to put a dent on the amount of social gatherings.

READ ALSO: 'Try to embrace it': How to survive Norway's long winter nights

Locals like to 'hibernate' in the colder months, but it can be hard to follow their example.

Taxpaying duties 

If you stay in Norway for more than 183 days during a twelve-month period, you become a tax resident in Norway. 

You are allowed to be in Norway up to 90 days per calendar year without having to pay tax. 

Various other criteria relating to length of stay can also be applied in calculating tax. More detail can be found on the Norwegian Tax Administration website.

Norway's general income tax (skatt på alminnelig intekt) has a flat rate of 22 percent. This covers not only income from employment, but also from business and capital. Tax allowances, expenses, and certain losses are deductible.

In addition to the flat rate general income tax, bracket tax (trinnskatt) is added for personal income of higher earners.

READ ALSO: How does income tax in Norway compare to the rest of the Nordics?

If you’re resident for tax purposes in both Norway under Norwegian domestic law and in your home country, the issue of residence must be determined in accordance with the provisions of the tax treaty between Norway and your other country of residence. More specific examples can be found here

The application process

If you are a citizen of the EU and EEA, then you are entitled to work, live and study in Norway, but you must register within the first three months of arrival.

It is free of charge to apply for residency as a family member of an EU or EEA citizen. It is also free to apply for permanent residency if you have been in Norway for at least five years. 

For non-EU or EEA nationals, the process can be trickier. Two of the main categories used to obtain residency in Norway are Work Immigration and Study Permits. To see if you are eligible and to find the list of requirements for a work permit you can check the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) guidelines here.

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The waiting times after you have sent in an application for residency depend on what type of application you sent in and when you did so. To find a waiting time for your case check here (make sure to fill out the accurate information relating to your case).

It should be noted that the police immigration offices and Service Center for Foreign Workers are currently operating with limited service due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, longer waiting times are possible.

Residence cards

Once you have been granted a residence permit in Norway, you will be rewarded with a residence card as proof of your residency status.

The card is plastic and is the shape of a credit card. Make sure to bring it with you if you are traveling outside the country as well as your passport.


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