European authority deems Norwegian Covid-19 entry restrictions too severe

A European monitoring authority said Thursday that Norway had gone too far in its movement restrictions to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.

European authority deems Norwegian Covid-19 entry restrictions too severe
Norway's borders have essentially been closed since January .Photo by Ken Yam on Unsplash

While the Nordic country is not a member of the EU, it is part of the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes the EU and the member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) — except Switzerland — and in which the free movement of people is the general rule.

The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA), which monitors compliance among EEA members, said Thursday it believed the movement restrictions adopted by Norway in response to the pandemic had been excessive.

“EEA States are permitted to restrict the movement of EEA nationals in their efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic,” the ESA said in a statement.

“But such restrictions must not go beyond what is necessary, must be consistent, and must not be discriminatory,” it added.

On January 29, Norway closed its borders to most travellers, with rare exceptions. 

The rules have since been relaxed, but up until last week foreigners who were legal residents in the country were blocked from entry unless they were on a national registry.

“ESA has in recent months taken note of a substantial number of people negatively affected by the Norwegian entry restrictions,” the authority said.

“These include people being restricted from accessing their homes, blocked from taking up new jobs or returning to their existing work, or prevented from seeing their partners and family members,” it added.


The authority has sent a letter of formal notice to Norway, the first step in an infringement procedure against EEA members.

The Norwegian government now has six weeks to state its case, before the authority makes its final ruling.

“Our strict entry rules are a major reason why, throughout the pandemic, we have had a lower level of infection than most other countries in the world,”

Justice Minister Monica Maeland told newspaper Dagbladet.

“But the rules must of course be in line with our legal obligations under the EEA,” Maeland added.

Since the start of the pandemic, the country of 5.4 million people has recorded fewer than 124,000 cases of Covid-19, and 783 associated deaths.

Member comments

  1. I received a job offer in Norway around December 2020 with a start date of March 1st, 2021. The last day at my previous job was on January 29th, 2021, the day that Norway closed its borders. With a re-opening date set (at that time) for later in February I proceeded with my plans to move to Norway, which included securing plane tickets and a rental apartment in Norway, which included a hefty deposit. My residence permit completed processing and all I needed to do to start my job was go to a police station (in Norway) to finish the process of applying for my work permit.

    Now, nearly 4 months later, I’ve been paying double-rent every month with no work income, which has equated to $3600 USD (around 30.000 NOK), I’ve rebooked flights on a nearly twice-a-month basis, usually paying a fee every time, and I’ve had my hopes about finally entering Norway raised and knocked down time after time after time. I’m now also paying for health insurance since I no longer have a job at home which is very expensive, but being without it in the US especially during a pandemic is a roll of the dice on either your health or a lifetime of repaying medical bills if something should happen.

    My new job in Norway was able to secure me a temporary job in Denmark so that I can fly in there and earn money while I wait to enter Norway (Denmark allows entry to foreigners with jobs in Denmark), but that process is another 6 to 10 weeks, and entailed me paying another $800 to fly to another part of my country so that I could apply for the Danish work permit. Luckily my job will be paying rent for my accommodations there, but now they will be spending extra money because Norway will not let in foreign workers with a job. Then, with talks of allowing vaccinated people in “soon”, my hopes were raised yet again as I am privileged enough to have been vaccinated, only to find that it would be months before that became an option, because Norway doesn’t have a way to verify proof of vaccination.

    Every workaround and every option is costing me more money that I don’t have, and more time spent in anxiety and depression about the uncertainty of my future, and with Danish covid-19 numbers on the rise, I can’t help but fear that they too may restrict their borders before I can get there.

    Compared to where I live, Norway seems like a paradise. I have friends who immigrated there and are quite happy with their lives, but after so long of a wait I can’t help but wonder if this is a hint of the Norwegian xenophobia that some people feel, but every day I fight that feeling by reminding myself that many lives were saved because of the Norwegian border closures, while hoping that it has nothing to do with not being Norwegian. I had at least expected incrementally lifted measures for some instances, which I had hoped I would have qualified for, being a vaccinated individual whose passport will allow me into Norway, and one with a skilled-worker residence permit and a job.

    I’m constantly torn between my situation which feels more and more dire every month, and the direness of the pandemic. I’m always shifting between frustration at my situation and shame for considering myself as some kind of exception to a rule made for saving lives. I am, however, feeling more validated in my frustration thanks to the ESA’s actions, and by those who are also in my situation, so thank you to everyone who is speaking up.

    1. I’m in the exact same position (down to the start date), from Canada. Unfortunately low-infection countries like Norway have boxed themselves in politically – there’s just no tolerance among the population for taking reasonable-seeming risks that have a remote change of leading to increased outbreaks. To be fair, throughout 2020 there were instances of infections jumping from worksites with improperly quarantined foreign workers. On the bright side at least it’s not Australia we’re trying to get into. I predict that cooler heads will prevail and that we will be allowed entry in July, coinciding with phase 3 of the re-opening and the rollout of the EU/EEA vaccine pass.

  2. Interestingly, our family is also in the same situation as well. However we are a family of four and have the added challenges of removing children from schools in the USA only to be stuck and having to plan to re-enroll for the fall in case we still haven’t been able to go. Additionally I am unable to work le look for work due to the extreme uncertainty and lack of childcare. So just compounding problems.

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Everything you need to know about travel rules between Norway and the UK 

Covid entry restrictions, traffic lights and quarantines- if you’re travelling between Norway and the UK, here’s what you need to know. 

Everything you need to know about travel rules between Norway and the UK 
Boeing 737 landing at Oslo Airport. Photo: Alan Wilson/Flickr

Travel to Norway 

Entry into Norway has been restricted to a very small group of people outside of residents and citizens of Norway since January to try and limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus. 

Norway isn’t letting foreign citizens enter the country unless they are residents of Norway, bar a few exceptions, so it isn’t recommended to attempt to travel between the UK and Norway unless you are exempt from the entry restrictions or are a resident of Norway. 

You can read a list of the entry restrictions and exceptions in English here.

The UK to Norway 

All travellers to Norway must fill out a registration form before departing. 

You can take a look at the registration form here

All arrivals into Norway, including from the UK, will need to quarantine for 10 days, reduced to seven if they return a negative coronavirus test.

Since June 4th arrivals from the UK have not been required to enter a quarantine hotel, as long as the Covid-19 incidence rate is less than 150 per 100,000 and remains on the list of countries that don’t require a quarantine hotel stay. 

Travellers arriving from the UK that were vaccinated against Covid-19 in Norway can test themselves out of quarantine entirely after three days.

READ MORE: LATEST: Who has to enter quarantine hotels when travelling to Norway? 

Travellers must also provide a negative Covid-19 test on their arrival to Norway, taken within 24 hours of their arrival in the Nordic country. This can be either an antigen or PCR test. A rapid test is the more practical option of the two as PCR test’s take longer to deliver results. 

Foreign residents returning must also provide documentation, such as a rental contract, that proves they resided in the country before their departure. You can read more on the required proof here. Foreigners living in Norway will also be required to present a copy of the ticket they used to depart Norway with. 

READ ALSO: Update: Covid-19: How to avoid potential hiccups when travelling to Norway

From Norway to the UK 

The UK has a Covid-19 traffic light system that gives each country a designation- green, amber or red- based on infection numbers and vaccination rates. 

Norway has been placed on the amber list. 

To enter the UK from Norway, you will need to provide a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours. In Norway, testing is handled individually by each of Norway’s municipalities. You can use this link to find info on testing in your municipality.

Testing provided by the municipality is free. However, it can take some time to deliver results, so you may need to book privately for around 1000 kroner for faster results. You can also take a private drop in test at the airport you are travelling from.

Once you arrive in the UK, you will need to undergo a ten-day quarantine period at home or with friends or family. You will also need to fork out around £200 per person for compulsory Covid tests on days two and eight of quarantine. You can find the list of approved test providers here.  

You may be able to end quarantine early if you pay for private Covid testing through the UK’s new test to release scheme

Restrictions in Norway 

Norway is currently on step two of its four-step plan to reopen society, so coronavirus measures are still in place. 

Bars, restaurants, and gyms are open. So are shops and malls. Alcohol can be served in restaurants until midnight, and up to 10 people can meet indoors. 

Municipalities can implement their own rules, so it’s worth checking the local rules of the area you are travelling to. 

This also applies to facemasks. 

You can read about Norway’s current national and local Covid rules here

READ ALSO: Norway to enter next stage of lifting Covid-19 restrictions next week

Restrictions in the UK

The UK is in the process of leaving lockdown. Pubs and restaurants are open for indoor and outdoor hospitality. 

Face masks are required on public transport and indoor public spaces, there are exemptions for those with certain medical conditions. 

You can read more info on the UK’s roadmap for lifting lockdown here