Why are British residents' passports being stamped at Norway's border?
British residents in Norway are having their passports stamped by border police, even if they present their residence cards. So, why is it happening, and what does it mean if your passport is stamped?
Due to Brexit, Brits are no longer EU citizens, meaning there are new rules in place for crossing the border between the UK and Norway, which means some people will need to have their passports stamped, while others won't.
Who needs to get their passport stamped?
British tourists and visitors in Norway will typically need to have their passports stamped by border police on entry and exit to help the authorities keep track of the length of their stay.
This is because Brits who do not have residency are limited to stays of up to 90 days every 180 within the Schengen zone, of which Norway is a member, and stamps help keep track of this.
However, an electronic system also keeps track of this, meaning you don't get to stay longer if you don't get stamped.
Who shouldn't be stamped?
British nationals who are legal residents of Norway and can prove their residency at the border are exempt from being stamped.
Residency cards are one, and probably the most common, way that residents can prove their residence.
The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) has also previously advised that the receipt for a submitted residence application can be a suitable alternative for those still waiting for residence cards.
What's the issue?
Brits in Norway are still having their passports stamped, even when presenting proof of residence. This can make it look as if they may be overstaying the limit put on Schengen visits post-Brexit.
To make matters worse, many residents feel that the rules are being applied inconsistently, and that it can be a lucky dip over whether they are stamped or not.
A number of British nationals who live in the Scandinavian country have been in touch and shared their experiences of having their passports stamped at the border—even more shared their experiences on social media.
"I have recently travelled a few times, and pretty much every time, it is a different story, and it seems to depend on the individual at the border control at the time. It would appear that they have not been given clear guidelines as some of them stamp it, and some of them do not stamp," Rebwar, who lives in Norway and has travelled from the UK into Oslo Gardermoen at least four times since last summer, told The Local.
It wasn't just an issue affecting travellers passing through Gardermoen. Douglas, who travelled through Bergen on route to Aberdeen, also had his travel document stamped.
"On a recent trip from Oslo, but this occurred in Bergen as I changed there for Aberdeen, they stamped my passport to leave Schengen despite me showing the card. A very friendly guy (at the border) said he didn't know (whether it should be stamped), so he would just do it to be sure. This is incorrect as it now looks like I left Schengen 6 months ago and haven't been back as they didn't stamp it on the way in. I went home for a weekend," he said.
Another Brit in Norway, Andrew, said that they've had their passport stamped when there was initially confusion about the impact of Brexit at European borders, but also as recently as March.
Why are residents having their passports stamped?
The Norwegian Police Directorate, responsible for police at Norway's borders, told The Local that border officers stamped passports as a precaution if they were unsure of the proper procedure.
"As Norway is a Schengen Associated Country, the common rules for border checks following the Schengen acquis are applicable for the checks carried out at Norwegian Border Crossing Points, and stamping of passports follows the rules set out by the EU Commission. This implies that passports presented by UK nationals should not be stamped if proof is shown that the UK national is beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA). However, if the border guard is in doubt, passports should be stamped," The directorate said to The Local in a statement.
The statement also added UK nationals should "bring the appropriate documentation when crossing the border".
What makes this frustrating for British residents who've been stamped is that they have presented the correct documentation and explained why they shouldn't have their travel document marked, only for it to be stamped anyway.
"I've been through passport control on many occasions - sometimes they stamp, sometimes they don't. I always show my residence card! I've tried to argue when they try to stamp - but they never listen," Nigel got in touch with The Local to say.
"On one occasion, I was travelling with my British wife - She was stamped, I was not. We used different passport desks. On another occasion, my wife argued with the passport officer - who asked her colleague. The colleague said, 'of course you don't stamp'. The training/information/routines are not consistent. I've mentioned this to the UK embassy… the last I heard, they were planning a visit to Gardermoen," Nigel added.
Is it a problem to have your passport incorrectly stamped?
Other than cluttering up the pages of your passport, is this a problem?
British embassies around Europe say no. Your right of residence proved via your card will trump a passport stamp should any questions or problems arise.
"If a passport is stamped, the stamp is considered null and void when you can show evidence of lawful residence," the governemnt have said on its website.