Immigration For Members

Where are Norway's foreign residents from and where do they all live?

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Where are Norway's foreign residents from and where do they all live?
Here's the who what, where and why on immigration to Norway. Pictured is Oslo Opera House. Photo by Gunnar Ridderström on Unsplash

There are over one million immigrants or children born in Norway to two immigrant parents, but who are they, where do they come from, and which parts of the country do they live in?


There are 877,277 immigrants registered as living in Norway and 213,810 residents born to two foreign parents with four foreign grandparents, according to an analysis of the country’s immigrant population from the national data agency Statistics Norway

Norway includes the children of two foreign-born immigrants in their immigration statistics, as not all children born in Norway are eligible for citizenship. However, if one of the parents were Norwegian, the child would typically be eligible for citizenship. 

Furthermore, if one of the grandparents is Norwegian, then one of the parents may also be eligible to become a citizen of Norway. 

Immigrants in Norway make up 16 percent of the population, while the children of two immigrant parents born in Norway account for 3.9 percent. Combined, foreigners and children born to two migrant parents account for nearly a fifth of the Norwegian population. 


The share of immigrants that comprise Norway’s population has increased massively since 1970. Then, immigrants comprised just 1.5 percent of the population, with around 57,000 foreigners living in Norway. 

Polish nationals are the largest immigrant group in Norway, with 124,000 immigrants and children born in Norway to two foreign-born parents. Some 50,000 Lithuanians also call Norway home. The war in Ukraine has seen Ukrainian nationals become the third-largest immigrant group. Swedes and Syrians made up the fourth and fifth largest groups. The number of Syrians, like Ukrainians, saw a huge increase following the outbreak of war. Somalians, Germans, Eritreans Filipinos and Iraqis were the next largest groups. 

Additionally, around 16,181 UK nationals live in Norway, as do 16,890 Indians and 10,455 Americans. 

How has Norway’s immigrant population changed? 

Currently, there are immigrants from some 223 countries and self-governing regions living in Norway. 

One of the most significant factors which changed the makeup of Norway’s foreign population was the expansion of the EU in 2004. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined the EU following the expansion. Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia later joined these countries. Joining the EU gave citizens from these countries freedom of movement meaning they could live and work in EEA countries freely.

In 1970, citizens from these 13 countries made up just five percent of the immigrant population in Norway. Nowadays, nationals from these countries make up just under a quarter of the immigrant community in Norway. 


However, it is nationals from Asia who have accounted for the largest growth in terms of percentage among Norway’s foreigners. In 2023, 30 percent of immigrants came from Asia, compared to only three percent in 1970. 

Meanwhile, the share of those born in the USA and Canada among Norway’s immigrant population has shrunk from 13 percent to less than 1.5 percent between 1970 and 2023. 

Where do Norway’s immigrants live? 

Oslo is the local authority in Norway with the highest number of immigrants in pure numbers, with 184,300. The share of foreigners living in almost all of Oslo’s districts is above the national average. In the districts of Stovner, Søndre Nordstrand, Alna, and Grorud, immigrants comprise more than 37 percent of the population. 

After this, Bergen (45,900), Trondheim (30,900), Stavanger (29,400) and Bærum (25,300) have the highest numbers of foreign residents. Despite the large number of inhabitants from overseas, the number of foreigners in Trondheim as a percentage is below the national average. 

In terms of percentages, Gamvik, Båtsfjord and Træna are the areas of Norway with the most significant share of foreigners. Most municipalities with a high proportion of immigrants tend to have small populations in general, except for Oslo and Lillestrøm. 

Polish nationals comprise the largest immigrant group in 178 of Norway’s municipal areas. Immigrants from Ukraine are the biggest foreign group in 77 municipalities. Syrian asylum seekers were the previous largest group in many places where Ukrainian refugees have become the biggest immigrant group.


Why are people moving, and how long do they stay? 

Between 1990 and 2021, 927,000 people from countries outside the Nordics moved to Norway for the first time. Some 36 percent of those who moved did so to live with family in Norway. 

Labour migrants made up 35 percent of all immigrants during this period also. Statistics Norway writes, however, that many of those who move to Norway for family reasons do so after a relative has made the move for work reasons or has been granted refugee status. 

According to the figures, many who come to Norway later move away at some point. Still, of those to come to Norway between the beginning of the 90s and 2021, some 70 percent were registered as residents in Norway. 

Those who arrive in Norway as refugees tend to settle and stay longer than those who come to the country for other reasons. Conversely, those who come to Norway to study are the most likely to leave Norway. This is typically due to their study permit expiring and them needing another residence card to remain in Norway. 


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