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What problems have Brits in Norway faced as a result of Brexit?

Richard Orange
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What problems have Brits in Norway faced as a result of Brexit?
These are the issues facing UK nationals living in Norway after Brexit. Pictured is a British passport. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

From long delays for post-Brexit residency, to confused officials at the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, and border guards who still insist on stamping passports. Here are some of the headaches Brits living in Norway are reporting as a result of Brexit.


Long delays in getting post-Brexit residency

Perhaps the biggest headache for Brits living in Norway has been how long it has taken the police or The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) to formally award post-Brexit residency, with UDI officials telling some of those applying that the 800 applications passed to UDI by the police are currently stalled as the UDI waits for the government to take decisions on key questions. 

"It would be nice to get an answer," said Alan, who made his application for post-Brexit residency in May 2021, and is still waiting for a response. 

READ ALSO: Long waiting times for Norwegian residence: Is the situation improving?

Colin, who has been living in Norway since 2009, said that his application was stuck because whereas UDI thinks he was permitted to leave Norway for over 12 months, as he did in 2016, and still retain his permanent residency, the police argue that this lost him his residency rights. His application is now stuck, as he needs to make "substantial changes" to the application for UDI to be able to resubmit it, and he cannot do that.

"It's no problem coming back in [to Norway] as I now have a lengthy file on their system that shows up," he said. "But if I come into the Schengen area from a country other than Norway, they have no access to the files, so they are within their rights to refuse my entry as I don't have the residence card." 

Chris in Stavanger has also been bounced around between UDI and the police.

"Every time I’ve contacted the police, I’ve been passed to UDI and visa versa. Last time I called I was told they had spent the budget, so I’d have to wait till this year," complained Chris.  

Scott, also in Stavanger, said that he could never find an appointment at Stavanger police station to identify himself for a Brexit residency card. In the end, he went to the police station at the airport.


Problems getting work permits, student visas, and family reunion
Those who arrived in Norway after the deadline for post-Brexit residency are, or course, treated like any other non-EU citizen, meaning they need to meet the requirements for a work permit, study visa, or for family reunion.
Liam, who is engaged to a Norwegian, has had his family immigration visa turned down because he and his Norwegian fiancée are unable to prove they lived together in the UK, partly because they were living in Dubai before they came to Norway.
"The paperwork from there isn’t worth the paper it is printed on and it's impossible to have, as it all has only one name on it," he said. "It is impossible to get any clarification on documents they would deem would prove this, and I have found UDI to be basically uncooperative when trying to clarify things."
They are still now waiting two years after Liam applied.
Nicola, who planned to study an online course at an Oslo university was told by the UDI that this would qualify her for a study visa, and when she applied, she received an approval by email. But she then received a letter saying that her case was being reviewed.
"Two appeals later, I'm still waiting. Twice I was told yes, followed by a no, and then, before Christmas, I was told to leave. They knew it was their fault, but couldn't approve it as you can study from your home country for an online course," she told The Local. 
Losing right to live and work in EU countries 
For many Brits, receiving post-Brexit residency in Norway did little to assuage the loss of the right to live and work in the EU. 
"In a sense i felt trapped in Norway, unable to move to another EU country, take up work offers or opportunities I had taken for granted," said Dan Tyler. "I was offered a job, which was later rescinded once it became clear that the UK would exit the single market and all freedom of movement would cease." 

Feeling unable to leave Norway while residency/citizenship is processed

One of the big problems with the delays at UDI is that many Brits feel unable to leave Norway while their applications are being processed. 

Isobel applied for residency in Norway in 2020, but then got a job back in the UK, so pulled out of the application process before it was complete. Her husband was supposed to follow, but ended up staying in Norway because of unexpected health issues. Isobel is now back in Norway, having applied for residency in December 2022. But her application has been passed to the UDI, and the UDI say it could take as long as eight months to process. 

"I am of course now over my 90-day Brexit visa limit, so am unable to leave or work or get a phone until I hear from them," she said. "My daughter is in her early twenties and lives in the UK and it's deeply frustrating not to be able to go there to help her with her house move. Oh for the free days!"



Forced to pay high prices for parcels from home

Brits living in Norway have frequently been sent into a rage by the cost of customs duty and processing fees applied to parcels sent from the UK, with the recipients often having to pay more than the value of the goods inside. Parcels clearly labelled as gifts are often taxed, and while you can get the tax paid back from Norwegian customs if you can prove this, it is a costly process. 


Poor understanding about Brexit residency among officials 
Joanna said that she was told at a police appointment that she would need to pass a language test and pay a fee as part of her application for permanent residency. 
"As I arrived pre-Brexit I didn't need either of these things, but the guy sounded so certain and on that day was training someone else in Brexit that day," she said. "There is a general problem as Brexit is new and even those in officialdom don't know the rules." 
Jonathan, who came to Norway in 2021 with his Norwegian wife and daughter, had the opposite problem. He applied for family reunion, paid 10,000 kroner and was told to go to the police station in Svolvær, a three-hour bus journey from their home.


In Svolvær, he was refunded the money.  
"I actually asked if she was sure about this because me and my wife had checked thoroughly what we needed to do, but the officer reassured me: 'no, you didn’t have to pay it'," he remembered. "Then, a week or two later, the same officer sends an email, saying she was wrong and we had to pay again."
"Very disappointing and inconvenient," he wrote of the process. "In my opinion, there is a lack of clarity and poor information given out by the DUI throughout the process. Makes it very frustrating for people coming here."


Passport queues, and the battle to stop your passport getting stamped 
Some Brits complain that going through Norwegian passport control has become significantly more time consuming since the UK left the European Union. 
"On a practical level, it is frustrating to travel now," said Tyler. "I have missed flights and connections due to long passport queues. I am often having my passport scrutinised and being questioned on why I am entering my country of residence – where my home is." 
James, who divides his time between Oslo and London, also reported "long delays at airports". 
More than a year after the end of the Brexit transition period, Britons continue to be faced on arrival at airports in Norway by border officials who try to stamp their passports, even when shown a valid residency card. 
This means they risk looking as if they may be overstaying the limit put on Schengen visits post-Brexit, even if British embassies insist that the right of residence proved via a card will trump a passport stamp, should any questions or problems arise. 
"I had a long argument with a police officer at the airport who refused to believe me when I said she shouldn’t stamp my passport," said Ben, who lives in Oslo. "'Are you telling me my job?'. 'No, but I am saying that I know for a fact that you mustn’t stamp my passport'. 'So you think you know more about my job than I do?'". 


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