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I. Introduction

Norway’s new Immigration Act[1] and Immigration Regulations[2] entered into force in January 2010.  Under the Immigration Act, in general foreign nationals must have a visa to enter the country.[3]  However, nationals of Schengen Agreement[4] countries can travel freely into Norway without applying for a visa; this also applies to citizens of other countries who have a residence permit in one of the Schengen Member States and a valid travel document. [5]  Exemption from the visa requirement also applies to nationals of countries that have a visa exemption agreement with Norway; those foreign nationals can stay in Norway for up to ninety days.[6]  For foreign nationals who are to stay in Norway in connection with the implementation of an intergovernmental cooperation agreement by which Norway is bound, the provisions on visas, residence permits, and other matters are applicable, subject to the exemptions pursuant to the agreement.[7]  Persons with resident permits or permanent residence permits (settlement permits) in Norway are also exempt from the visa requirement.  The permit must be stamped in the person’s travel document.[8]   

All permits for work under the Immigration Act and the Immigration Regulations are now called residence permits; there are no longer residence permits and work permits.[9]  Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) (comprising the 27 European Union Member States and Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) are not required to apply for residence permits.[10]  Persons granted a residence permit in Norway automatically obtain an entry permit with the right to stay for 30 days; it is not necessary to apply for a visa as well.[11]     

The Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Emergency Planning is responsible for asylum and immigration policy.  It also has the authority to decide how the Directorate of Immigration (UDI) is to interpret immigration law.  The UDI, which is organized under the Ministry, is the central body responsible for coordinating efforts in the field of immigration.  The UDI processes applications for asylum and family immigration, permits to work and study, visas, permanent residence permits, citizenship, and travel documents.  It also makes decisions on expulsion from and rejection of entry into Norway.  Parts of the asylum and immigration field are the responsibility of other ministries: the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion is responsible for the Act on Norwegian Nationality, while the Ministry of Labour is in charge of labor immigration.[12]  The Norwegian Labour and Social Services Administration (Arbeids- og velferdsforvaltningen, or NAV), the country’s public welfare agency, may also be involved in the granting of residence permits.[13]

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II.  Visa and Visa-Free Entry

In general, foreign nationals must hold a Norwegian visa to be able to enter the realm, unless an exemption from this requirement has been granted by regulations.[14]  A visa issued by a Schengen country entitles the holder to enter into and stay in Norway during the period of validity of the visa when that right is stated in the visa.  The total period of stay in the Schengen territory for a foreign national exempt from the visa requirement, or for one entitled to enter and stay pursuant to a Schengen-country-issued visa, provided they meet certain conditions, may not exceed three months in the course of a six-month period.[15]  The total period of stay in the Schengen territory may not exceed ninety days in the course of a 180-day period, both for those who need visas and those exempt from the requirement.[16]  Foreign nationals with a residence permit issued by a member country of the Schengen Agreement (a Schengen country) and who have a valid travel document are exempt from the visa requirement.[17]

Foreign nationals from a country that is a contracting party to the EEA Agreement or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Convention are exempt from the visa requirement, as are their family members, provided that the family member has a residence card in another EEA country.[18]  The exemption additionally applies to, among others, foreign nationals with a valid passport from a state with which Norway has entered into a visa-waiver agreement and foreign nationals who are nationals of a country that is exempt from the visa requirement in accordance with the relevant EU regulations.[19]  The permitted period of stay for foreign nationals who require a visa will be apparent from the visa that is granted.[20] 

Norway’s Immigration Act states that exceptions may be made to the right to obtain a Schengen visa “if the foreign policy interests, fundamental national interests or immigration control considerations argue against the visa being granted, or there are circumstances that would provide grounds to deny access to the territory or residence pursuant to other provisions of law.”[21]

A.  Residence Permits for Foreign Nationals with an Employer in Norway

Under the Immigration Act, a residence permit may be granted to a foreign national performing work for an employer in Norway when the following conditions are met:

(a) The applicant is aged 18 or older.

(b) Pay and working conditions are not inferior to those prescribed by the current collective agreement or pay scale for the industry concerned. If no such collective agreement or pay scale exists, pay and working conditions shall not be inferior to what is normal for the place and occupation concerned.

(c) The applicant is subject to a quota fixed by the Ministry or the position cannot be filled by domestic labour or labour from the EEA or EFTA area. Exemptions apply if, under international agreements by which Norway is bound, the foreign national is entitled to a residence permit in order to perform the work. Exemptions also apply to foreign seamen who work on board foreign-registered ships.

(d) There is a specific offer of employment. The employment offer shall as a general rule concern full-time employment for a single employer, but exemptions may be granted after a case-by-case assessment of the nature of the position.[22]

B.  Exemption from Permit Requirement for Persons Without an Employer 

Certain foreigners who do not have an employer in Norway are exempt from the residence permit requirement to  engage in work for a period of up to three months, e.g., business travelers; persons with technical qualifications whose labor is not needed for more than three months to install, disassemble, maintain, etc., machinery or technical equipment; persons providing private services to persons visiting Norway for a period of up to three months; professional athletes; journalists; tourist guides for foreign travel companies; and personnel on foreign trains and other means of transport for international traffic.[23]  Exemption from the residence permit requirement is also applicable to, among others, researchers, lecturers, and religious workers for employment relationships of a duration of up to three months;[24] foreign nationals employed in an international company who are to undergo in-house training for a period of up to three months;[25] musicians, performers, or artists for assignments that do not exceed fourteen days in total in a calendar year;[26] seamen working aboard a foreign-registered cruise ship or an EEA-registered foreign ship;[27] and Russian nationals from the Barents region who have been granted a municipal sales permit to sell wares for stays of up to one day per month.[28]

The Ministry of Justice and Emergency Planning may take a decision to make exceptions from the permit requirement for foreign nationals who are to carry out work related to a crisis situation in Norway.[29]  Foreign national ship-security and maintenance crew members and Russian nationals from the Barents region granted a sales permit must report to the police in the district where they are staying.[30]  Foreign nationals who are exempt from the residence permit requirement by virtue of being either technicians under part II. B. above or performers are required, before entering Norway, to give written notification to the police in the districts concerned; the notification may also be given by the employer or other responsible person.[31]

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C.  Skilled Workers

Foreign nationals not subject to a visa requirement who have the qualifications of a skilled worker may stay in Norway without a residence permit for a period of six months in order to seek employment as a skilled worker.[32]  Under the Immigration Regulations, skilled workers, i.e., employees who have special training that at a minimum corresponds to upper-secondary-school level, a craft certificate, a college or university education, or special qualifications, are entitled to a residence permit.  Conditions that must be satisfied are: (a) the expertise is deemed relevant to the position, (b) the specialist authority concerned has given its approval or authorization for occupations/professions subject to statutory or regulatory qualification requirements, and (c) the employee falls within the quota for skilled workers and specialists.[33]  The residence permit for such skilled labor is valid for a specific type of work,[34] and “may be granted even if a specific offer of full-time employment is not for continuous employment.”[35]  The residence permit for skilled workers forms the basis for the granting of a permanent-residence permit.[36]  If no quota has been established for the skilled work or if the quota has been filled, a residence permit may be granted to a skilled foreign national worker when the position cannot be filled by domestic labor or labor from the EEA or EFTA area.[37]

There are also provisions entitling employees deemed to be specialists to hold residence permits on the basis of the salary offered to them.  Among the conditions to qualify as a specialist is that the salary offered to the foreign national is at least NOK500,000 (about US$89,000) per year, not including benefits in kind.[38]

D.  Unskilled (Seasonal) Workers

The Regulations have a special section on residence permits for “unskilled Russian employees, etc.”  Employees in enterprises requiring unskilled labor may be granted a residence permit for a total period of residence of up to two-years[39] (but only for up to six months at a time; see below).  Such a permit may be granted to Russian nationals from the Barents region for work in enterprises in Nordland, Troms, or Finnmark.[40]  The Ministry of Labour has the authority to establish guidelines on the industries and geographical areas for which a permit may be granted under this provision to unskilled employees, including guidelines to the effect that the provision apply to groups other than the Barents Russians.[41]  A condition that must be satisfied, however, is that the position cannot be filled by domestic labor or labor from the EEA or EFTA area; the labor market assessment for this condition applies to the entire two-year period of the permit.[42]  Employees will be entitled to a new permit within the two-year period if they receive a specific offer of the same work on the same conditions of employment, if advance assurance to that effect is given in the relevant administrative decision.[43]  Unskilled employees who have had a permit with a total period of residence of two years may be granted a new permit after one year’s absence from Norway.[44]  The permit applies to specific work for a specific employer, and it does not form the basis for a permanent-residence permit.[45]

Seasonal work is described as “work that can only be carried out during limited parts of the year due to climate variations, fluctuations in the availability of raw materials or other circumstances. Forestry, agriculture, the fish processing industry, plant nurseries and the restaurant and tourism industries are typical seasonal industries.”  This type of work does not include “odd jobs such as carpentry, painting and other maintenance and restoration work.”[46]  Some seasonal workers replace regular employees in connection with holidays; in such cases, a statement to that effect must be clearly set forth in the application for seasonal work.[47]  

For a seasonal work permit, there are no formal qualification requirements, but the applicant must be at least eighteen years old and have a concrete offer of employment (these are standard requirements for a residence permit under the Immigration Act).  In addition, the employment offer “must contain a job description and state the number of working hours per week, [the] hourly wage and the duration of the offer of employment.”[48]  In order for seasonal workers who have held a permit for six months to be granted a new permit as a seasonal worker, they must have stayed outside Norway for six months.  For those who have been granted several permits as a seasonal worker in Norway with a duration of under six months, the total period of stay in the country cannot exceed six months during a twelve-month period.[49]  While the work must in general be continuous full-time employment, “it can be divided between several employment offers from the same or different employers,” but if a worker wants to change employers after the permit has been granted, he or she must reapply for a permit.[50]  Where there is a collective agreement or pay scale for the given industry, the worker’s pay and working conditions must comply with it; if there is none, the pay and working conditions must be no worse than normal for the occupation and place concerned, and the worker must be guaranteed a minimum hourly wage.[51]  Seasonal residence permits are not renewable, and holders must apply for an extension before the expiration of their current permit.  This may be done by using the same application form as for the first-time application and submitting it to the local police district.  Such applications are subject to an application fee.[52]

In conformity with section 6-12 of the Immigration Regulations, the consent of the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) is required for a residence permit to be granted to a seasonal worker.  The NAV assessment is obtained at the county level, and it considers, among other matters, whether the position can be filled by domestic labor or EEA labor.[53]  However, NAV consent is no longer required for applications for permits for seasonal work in the agriculture and forestry industries because the agency has established a yearly quota of 2,500 permits for such seasonal work.[54]  For other types of seasonal work, NAV consent to a permit is required, and the consent must be included with an application at the time of submission to reduce processing time.[55]  There are special simplified rules for persons who apply for short-term seasonal work in agriculture or gardening, but they do not apply to persons residing abroad who need a visa to enter Norway.[56]  Rejection of an application may be appealed.[57]

A prospective employer can apply for a permit on the seasonal worker’s behalf if the worker authorizes him or her in writing to do so by completing the authorization section of the application form or submitting an authorization form.  Employers submit the application to the police in the locality of their registered business address.[58]

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III.  Recruitment and Sponsorship

According to the UDI, the foreign employee, as a general rule, must have a concrete offer of employment in Norway in order to apply for a residence permit there.  A set form, the offer of employment (Arbeidstilbud), must be used to make the offer and be signed by both the employer and the employee.[59]  Written authorization is needed by the employer to submit the application for a residence permit on behalf of the foreign employee; it is given through the set offer of employment form or through a separate authorization form.  Under an early employment scheme, which can be used in connection with skilled workers, seconded employees, and trainees of international companies, a Norwegian employer can apply for the permit on the employee’s behalf without the written authorization, but to be covered by the scheme, the employer must submit a certificate for certain taxes, including value-added tax, as well as a self-declaration of his or her company’s compliance with statutory Norwegian health, safety, and environmental requirements.[60]  

The application must be submitted to the police district in the locality of the employer’s registered business address or to a foreign worker service center.  In general, the employee must remain in the home country or in the country where he or she has held a residence permit for the past six months and not enter Norway until the residence permit has been granted, but this does not apply to skilled workers, provided that the person has legal residence in Norway and is not an asylum seeker and that his or her whereabouts is indicated in the application.[61]

The Directorate of Immigration may grant a group permitted employers to employ, for specific work of limited duration, a specific number of employees.[62]  The employer must provide a precise description of the nature of the work, the work must occupy at least six persons, and the group must consist of a specific number of persons;[63] the group permit granted to an employer will be tied to specific work and apply to a specific number of employees.[64]  As a condition for the permit, the employer must seek to take on employees that meet the conditions for a permit for skilled workers, although a permit may be granted even if some of the employees do not have those qualifications, provided the employer substantiates that such employees’ participation is a necessary prerequisite for the group’s ability to function.[65]  Employees covered by a group permit are granted individual residence permits after their arrival for work.  An employee’s permit is registered as part of the quota for skilled workers and specialists (see section 6-12 of the Regulations), even if he or she does not possess those qualifications.  The individual permit is tied to specific work for a specific employer and does not form the basis for a permanent residence permit.[66]

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IV.  Admission Status of Family Members

Family members of Swiss and EEA citizens are exempt from the visa requirement when the family member has a residence card in an EEA-country outside of Norway.[67]  The family members of EEA nationals who are not EEA nationals themselves must apply for residence permits pursuant to the current regulations.[68]  As was noted above, a residence permit for a seasonal worker does not form the basis for a permanent residence permit, nor may it serve as the basis for family immigration.

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V.  Quotas 

The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration must consent to carrying out a labor market assessment, in accordance with guidelines issued by the Norwegian Directorate of Labour and Welfare, as a perquisite for the granting of a permit when such an assessment is required to determine in an individual case whether the position can be filled by domestic or EEA or EFTA labor.[69]  The Ministry of Labour, in consultation with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Finance, establishes an annual quota for skilled workers and specialists, while the Norwegian Directorate of Labour and Welfare establishes the quota for seasonal workers in agriculture and forestry.[70]  As was noted above, NAV has established a yearly quota of 2,500 permits for the agricultural and forestry industries.  The Directorate of Immigration may establish further guidelines on the quota arrangements in consultation with the Directorate of Labour and Welfare.[71]

The Immigration Act also stipulates that “[w]hen foreign policy considerations or fundamental national interests make it necessary, entry may be refused, and applications for a temporary or permanent residence permit may be rejected, or limitations or conditions may be set.  Administrative decisions shall be made by the Directorate of Immigration.”[72]

The number of new permits issued to labor migrants to Norway from countries outside the EEA increased to 7,700 in 2011 from 6,500 in 2010.  This figure includes all categories of workers—skilled, seasonal, and others.  The period January to September 2012 saw a 15 percent increase in the number of new permits issued compared to the corresponding period of 2011.  The five main countries of origin of the workers, outside the EEA, were India, the Philippines, the United States, Vietnam, and Russia.[73]

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Prepared by Wendy Zeldin
Senior Legal Research Analyst
February 2013



* This report was prepared chiefly on the basis of materials available in English.  The Law Library does not at present have research staff versed in Norwegian.

[1] Lov om utlendingers adgang til riket og deres opphold her (utlendingsloven) [Act on the Entry of Foreign Nationals into the Kingdom of Norway and Their Stay in the Realm (Immigration Act)] (May 15, 2008, as last amended June 22, 2012), Lovdata, http://www.lovdata.no/all/nl-20080515-035.html.  For an English translation, see Act of 15 May 2008 on the Entry of Foreign Nationals into the Kingdom of Norway and Their Stay in the Realm (Immigration Act), Government.no (Nov. 2010), http://www.regjeringen.no/upload/ JD/Vedlegg/ Forskrifter/Immigration_Act.pdf.

[2] FOR 2009-10-15 nr 1286: Forskrift om Utlendingers Adgang til Riket og Deres Opphold her (Utlendingsforskriften) [Regulations on Entry of Foreign Nationals to the Kingdom and Their Stay (Immigration Regulations), Regulation No. 1286, Oct. 15, 2009] (as last amended Dec. 20, 2012, effective Feb. 1, 2013, & Jan. 4, 2013, effective Jan. 15, 2013), Lovdata, http://www.lovdata.no/for/sf/jd/xd-20091015-1286.html.  For an English translation, see Regulations of 15 October 2009 on the Entry of Foreign Nationals into the Kingdom of Norway and Their Stay in the Realm (Immigration Regulations), Government.no (Nov. 2010), http://www.regjeringen. no/upload/JD/Vedlegg/Forskrifter/Immigration_Regulation.pdf.

[3] Immigration Act § 9 ¶ 1.

[4] The Shengen area comprises twenty-six European countries.  Schengen Fact Sheet, Travel.State.Gov, http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_4361.html (last visited Feb. 21, 2013).

[5] Immigration Act § 9 ¶ 2; Do You Need a Visa in Order to Visit Norway?, UDI, http://www.udi.no/Norwegian-Directorate-of-Immigration/Central-topics/Visa/Who-needs-a-visa-/#the.

[6] Do You Need a Visa in Order to Visit Norway?, supra note 5.

[7] Immigration Act § 5 ¶ 4.

[8] Id.

[9] The Immigration Act and Immigration Regulations, UDI (last updated Dec. 1, 2010), http://www.udi.no/newact.  In principle, a residence permit entitles the holder to work in Norway, but in some cases it will be specified that the permit does not entitle the holder to work, or that certain restrictions apply to the work.  A permanent residence permit, which is granted to persons who have had permits for at least three consecutive years and forms the basis for permanent stay, entitles the holder to permanently reside and work in Norway.  Id.

[10] EEA Nationals Do Not Need to Apply for Residence Permits, UDI (Oct. 14, 2009) http://www.udi.no/Norwegian-Directorate-of-Immigration/News/2008/EEA-nationals-do-not-need-to-apply-for-residence-permits-/; Norway Ends Labour Market Restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians, The Sofia Globe (June 19, 2012), http://sofiaglobe.com/2012/06/19/norway-ends-labour-market-restrictions-on-bulgarians-and-romanians/.

[12] Who Does What in the Immigration Administration?, UDI, http://www.udi.no/Norwegian-Directorate-of-Immigration/Annual-Report-2011/Organisation-and-priorities/Who-does-what-in-the-Immigration-Administration/.  The authority of the UDI to decide on applications for visas is provided under the Immigration Act § 13 ¶ 1.

[13] About NAV, NAV (as last modified June 24, 2010), http://www.nav.no/English/The+Norwegian+Labour+and+ Welfare+Administration.

[14] Immigration Act § 9 ¶ 1.

[15] Id. § 9 ¶¶ 3 & 4; Immigration Regulations, § 3-3 ¶ 3.  In addition, the application must be in accordance with the criteria for visa issuance pursuant to the Schengen Agreement.  Immigration Act § 10 ¶ 2.

[16] Immigration Regulations § 3-3 ¶ 1.

[17] Immigration Act § 9 ¶ 2; Immigration Regulations § 3-1 ¶ 1(d).

[18] Immigration Regulations § 3-1 ¶ 1(b)–(c).  The EFTA comprises Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.  The EFTA States, EFTA, http://www.efta.int/about-efta/the-efta-states.aspx (last visited Feb. 22, 2013).

[19] Immigration Regulations § 3-1 ¶ 1(e)–(f).  If the foreign national has a residence permit in another Nordic country and is a national of a country with which Norway has a visa waiver agreement, the period of stay begins on the date a Norwegian border was crossed.  In such cases, only stays in Norway in the last six months are to be included when calculating the period of stay.  Id. § 3-3 ¶ 2.

[20] Id. § 3-3 ¶ 3.

[21] Immigration Act § 10 ¶ 3.

[22] Id. § 23.

[23] Immigration Regulations § 1-1 ¶ 1.

[24] Id. § 1-1 ¶ 2.  Religious workers are subject to a requirement that the need for their labor does not extend beyond three months.  Id.

[25] Id. § 1-1 ¶ 3.  The UDI may establish guidelines on what is deemed to be an international company and on the right to stay in Norway for the purpose of in-house training on more than one occasion.  Id.

[26] Id. § 1-1 ¶ 4.

[27] Id. § 1-1 ¶ 5. 

[28] Id. § 1-1 ¶ 6.

[29] Id. § 1-1 ¶ 7.

[30] Id. § 1-1 ¶ 8.

[31] Id.

[33] Immigration Regulations, § 6-1 ¶ 1.  Quotas are covered under section 6-12 of the Regulations.

[34] Id. § 6-1 ¶ 6.

[35] Id. § 6-1 ¶ 3.

[36] Id.

[37] Id. § 6-1 ¶ 4.

[38] Id. § 6-2 ¶ 1.

[39] Id. § 6-4 ¶ 1.

[40] Id. § 6-4 ¶ 2.

[41] Id. § 6-4 ¶ 3.

[42] Id. § 6-4 ¶¶ 4 & 5.

[43] Id. § 6-4 ¶ 5.

[44] Id. § 6-4 ¶ 6.

[45] Id. § 6-4 ¶ 7.

[47] Id.

[48] Id.

[49] Id.

[50] Id.

[51] Id.

[52] Id.

[53] Id.

[54] Id.

[55] Id.

[56] Id.

[57] Id.

[58] Id.

[59] How to Hire Foreign Workers, UDI, http://www.udi.no/Norwegian-Directorate-of-Immigration/Central-topics/Work-and-residence/How-to-employ-foreign-workers/How-do-I-employ-foreign-workers/ (last visited Feb. 25, 2013).  For the offer of employment form for seasonal workers, see Særskilt skjema for arbeidstilbud og søknad om sesongtillatelse—jordbruks- og skogsnæringen, RS 2010-131V2, UDI, http://www.udiregelverk.no/ PageFiles/3458/RS%202010-131V2.docxSee also, in general, Forms for residence permits for work, UDI, http://www.udi.no/Norwegian-Directorate-of-Immigration/Oversiktsider/Application-forms/Application-forms-for-work-and-residence/.

[60] How to Hire Foreign Workers, supra note 59.

[61] Id.  The information on sponsored employment set forth in this paragraph and the immediately preceding one is based principally on sections 10-3 and 10-4 of the Immigration Regulations.

[62] Immigration Regulations § 6-7 ¶ 1.

[63] Id. § 6-7 ¶ 2.

[64] Id. § 6-7 ¶ 4.

[65] Id. § 6-7 ¶ 3.

[66] Id. § 6-7 ¶ 5.

[67] Do You Need a Visa in Order to Visit Norway?, supra note 5.

[68] EEA Nationals Do Not Need to Apply for Residence Permits, supra note 10.

[69] Id. § 6-12 ¶ 1.

[70] Id. § 6-12 ¶ 2.

[71] Id. § 6-12 ¶ 3.

[72] Immigration Act § 7 ¶ 1.

[73] International Migration 2011–2012: IMO Report for Norway, http://www.regjeringen.no/upload/ AD/publikasjoner/rapporter/2013/IMO_report_2011_2012_final.pdf (last visited Feb. 22, 2013).

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