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Immigration For Members

EXPLAINED: Ten rights Nordic citizens enjoy that EU citizens don't

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: Ten rights Nordic citizens enjoy that EU citizens don't
The flags of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden outside the Pan Nordic Building of the Nordic Embassies in Berlin. Photo: Sören Stache/AFP

From easier access to unemployment benefits to language use, and passport-free travel, citizens of the five Nordic countries have rights in one another's countries that go well beyond what they get as EU (or EFTA/EES) citizens.

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Between the 1950s and the 1970s, the Nordic region was groundbreaking in its work to erase the borders between its countries when it comes to free movement, the labour market, language, education, and social security.

And as Siv Friðleifsdóttir, chair of the Nordic Freedom of Movement Council, told our reporter Claudia Delpero in a recent interview, the work continues today, even if people's rights as Nordic citizens are often overshadowed by the rights they have as members of the EU, EFTA or ESS. 

Even so, there are still several advantages for individuals who hold a Nordic citizenship or reside in the Nordic region due to all the Nordic conventions, declarations, and agreements. 

Below are the main ones in a list drawn up for The Local by Anna Sophie Liebst, project manager for Info Norden, the Nordic Council of Minister’s information service for citizens moving within the Nordic region.

Nordic citizens may declare themselves citizens of another Nordic country

After a period of three years in Iceland, five years in Finland and Sweden, or seven years in Denmark and Norway, Nordic citizens may declare themselves citizens of the new country they are living in, provided they fulfill certain conditions. Nordic citizens then enjoy a more streamlined process for naturalization compared to citizens of non-Nordic countries.

In Sweden, Nordic citizens do not need to go through the Migration Agency, but instead can apply to their local regional authority as soon as they have lived in Sweden for five years. In Denmark, anyone who has been a Nordic citizen from birth can become citizens through sending in a 'declaration' to the foreign ministry after seven years living in the country. In Norway, Nordic citizens who have lived in the country for seven years can send in a 'notification of citizenship' to the police, rather than an application, or apply for citizenship after two years. 

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Nordic citizens possess unrestricted rights to live and work in any of the Nordic countries without the need for work and residence permits or EU residence documents.

Employees in government positions in the Nordic countries can learn more about how public administration works in other Nordic countries, gain international experience, and establish new contacts through The Nordic Civil Service Exchange. These scholarships typically last between one and two months, with the employee retaining their salary while staying in the other Nordic country. 

Nordic citizens and residents can travel across Nordic borders without a passport, unless extraordinary measures such as border control, like the temporary one Sweden has implemented on the Danish-Swedish border since 2015, are in effect.

Nordic citizens and residents can receive assistance from the embassy of another Nordic country during stays in countries that lack representation from the Nordic country of their citizenship or residence. 

Nordic citizens and residents can communicate with their local authorities in Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish, both in written and verbal interactions, except for telephone conversations, within any of the Nordic countries. While this is a right, enshrined in the Language Convention agreed in 1981, the authorities are likely to need prior warning and extra time to fulfil it. Theoretically, though, you can write an email to a Swedish municipality or the Norwegian tax authorities in Icelandic or Finnish and they should reply in the same language. 

Nordic citizens and residents acquire knowledge of the languages, cultures, and general social conditions of other Nordic countries through their educational experiences. The curriculums of all of the Nordic countries mean schools must impart a basic knowledge of other countries in the region to pupils.

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Nordic citizens and residents have the opportunity to study in any of the other Nordic countries under the same conditions as students registered in that specific Nordic country. 

  • The Reykjavik Declaration ensures general recognition of higher education degrees obtained in one Nordic country by the other Nordic countries. 
  • The Nordic Agreement on Access to Higher Education grants Nordic citizens the right to apply for admission to higher education in another Nordic country on equal terms with the country's own applicants. 
  • The Nordic Agreement on the Upper Secondary Level grants education seekers from Nordic countries access to upper secondary level education on equal terms as the host country's citizens

Nordic citizens and residents who are covered by social security in a Nordic country only need to provide an identification document and their residential address when seeking medical treatment, entitling them to receive care at the same cost as individuals insured in another Nordic country.

Nordic citizens and residents who return after a stay of less than five years in another Nordic country may be eligible for unemployment benefits based on work in the other Nordic country without first working in the country to which they have returned.

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You can find details of some of these rights in the five key Nordic agreements: 

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