General framework

Legislation

What primary and secondary legislation governs immigration in your jurisdiction?

The primary legislation is the Immigration Act of 2008. The secondary legislation is the Immigration Regulations of 2009.

International agreements

Has your jurisdiction concluded any international agreements affecting immigration (eg, free trade agreements or free movement accords)?

Norway is part of the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA), the Schengen Agreement and the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as numerous agreements as a member of the World Trade Organization.

Regulatory authorities

Which government authorities regulate immigration and what is the extent of their enforcement powers? Can the decisions of these authorities be appealed?

The immigration area is divided between two ministries - the Ministry of Justice has the responsibility over general immigration, while the Ministry of Labour has the responsibility for EU, EEA and work-related immigration. The ministries can issue circulars on how the law should be interpreted.

The police are responsible for handling EU and EEA registrations and certain other immigration applications in the first instance. The Directorate of Immigration (UDI) is responsible for handling all other immigration applications in the first instance.

Applications that are rejected by the police can be appealed to the UDI, while applications that are rejected by the UDI can be appealed to the Immigration Appeals Board.

Government policy

In broad terms what is your government’s policy towards business immigration?

For many years, there has been a lack of highly skilled workers in specific sectors in Norway and therefore the intention of the Norwegian immigration authorities is to make business immigration a smooth process. In some main cities, there are specific service centres for foreign workers where the immigration authorities, the tax authorities and the labour inspection authority are located to provide a holistic service to foreign employees on arrival in Norway. Residence permit applications for skilled workers and their families are priorities and processing times are shorter than for other applicants.

Even though Norway is not a part of the EU, immigration law has special rules for citizens of EU and EEA countries. EU and EEA citizens (as well as those of Switzerland) have the right to live, work, study and start a private business in Norway for up to three months. Within three months of arrival, the person must register with the immigration authorities to receive an EU registration certificate. Normally it will only be necessary to do this once as long as the grounds for the registration are still present.

Short-term transfers

Visas

In what circumstances is a visa necessary for short-term travellers? How are short-term visas obtained?

As a general rule, all non-EU citizens require a visa when visiting Norway. However, some countries have a visa exemption agreement with Norway and citizens of these countries do not require a visa to travel to Norway. This also applies if the person holds a residence permit in an EU or EEA country. Special regulations apply for diplomats.

For citizens not mentioned above, a visa will be required when travelling to Norway. The most relevant basis to apply for a visa for these short-term travellers is using the following categories: business traveller, technical expert and inter-company training.

In order to be included in one of the three categories, the traveller cannot have a Norwegian employer and the traveller must stay in Norway no more than 90 days during any 180-day period. The stay of 90 days can be used as 90 consecutive days or divided into several shorter stays, but the stay cannot exceed 90 days during any 180-day period.

In addition to these two general conditions, each category has additional requirements and in specific cases there are strict limitations to activities that can be performed. An evaluation must be made in each specific case.

Citizens who do not need a visa to travel to Norway can stay in the country and the Schengen area for 90 days in total during any 180-day period. However, an evaluation should be made to what kind of activities the traveller can undertake in Norway. A residence permit (which includes the right to work) might be necessary.

A short-term visa is obtained at the local Norwegian embassy where the traveller is residing. The requirements when applying for a visa may vary from location to location and we advise consulting with the local embassy before submitting an application. Processing times also vary, from two weeks to two months.

Restrictions

What are the main restrictions on a business visitor?

The main restrictions for a business visitor are related to the length of stay and the type of activities the visitor can perform.

The maximum number of days the employee can stay will be limited to 90 days in any 180-day period. However, for persons who must apply for a visa before entering Norway, the visa will be granted based on the information provided in the application. For example, if the employee needs to be in Norway for two weeks, the visa will be granted for this period only.

There are restrictions as to what type of activities a business visitor can perform without having to apply for a residence permit. The business visitor category is intended for persons travelling to Norway typically to participate in meetings, conferences, contractual negotiations and similar activities.

Project management or performance of work on an ongoing project is not included in the business visitor category.

Short-term training

Is work authorisation or immigration permission needed to give or receive short-term training?

To give training to others in a business setting is regarded as work by the immigration authorities and a residence permit will be required. This requirement will apply from day one in Norway. There is an exemption from this requirement if the person giving the training is considered a lecturer.

When receiving short-term training, the traveller might be exempted from applying for a residence permit if he or she qualifies under the ‘inter-company training’ category. He or she can then stay in Norway as visa-exempted or based on a C-visa. There are some criteria that must be met in order to qualify under this category. First of all, the exemption applies only to employees of international companies and the person concerned must be employed by the company’s foreign branch and sent to Norway to the Norwegian branch to undergo training. The purpose of the stay in Norway should be to post the person in the Norwegian business to undergo an established training programme. The training should be done first and foremost via work; however, theoretical education can also be included in the training.

A stay under the inter-company training category can be used for two times 90 days or several times for a period shorter than 90 days, but limited to 180 days in total. In addition to this limit, the periods of stay are limited according to the Schengen visa regulations, meaning that the stay within the Schengen area cannot exceed 90 days within any 180-day period.

Each situation must be individually evaluated. If the traveller does not fulfil the requirements a residence permit will be required.

Transit

Are transit visas required to travel through your country? How are these obtained? Are they only required for certain nationals?

All nationals who require a visa to enter Norway will, as a general rule, also require a visa for transit, unless an exemption exists according to an agreement between Norway and the relevant country. In general, an application should be submitted to the authorities representing the country that is the final destination. However, an application can be submitted to the Norwegian embassy or consulate in the country where the applicant resides if the final destination is uncertain. In some countries where Norway does not have a diplomatic presence, the authority to process visa applications might have been delegated to another country’s embassy or consulate.

Visa waivers and fast-track entry

Are any visa waiver or fast-track entry programmes available?

Norway has concluded a large number of visa waiver agreements with other countries. Nationals of those countries are exempted from the requirement of obtaining a visa for short-term stays of a maximum of 90 days during any 180-day period.

There are no fast track programmes available.

Long-term transfers

Categories

What are the main work and business permit categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff?

In Norway, the legal term ‘work permit’ does not exist. There is only a residence permit, but the residence permit includes the right to work. The two main categories are:

  • seconded employment/service providers; and
  • local employment.

Both categories require a residence permit from the first day of work. Non-EU visa-free nationals can stay in Norway for up to 90 days without a residence permit, but they cannot work. Stays in other Schengen countries might affect the 90-day period.

Procedures

What are the procedures for obtaining these permissions? At what stage can work begin?

The process starts by completing an online application to the UDI. This is required for both categories. An application fee to the UDI is required at the time of online submission.

Thereafter the applicant needs to book an appointment with the UDI in order to submit all required application documents in person or by the employer or other representative with power of attorney. Skilled workers on seconded agreements need to complete an offer of assignment form and skilled workers on local agreements need to complete an offer of employment form. In addition, diplomas, certificates and other personal documents are required.

If all educational, salary, work and personal requirements are met, the applicant will receive a granted permit letter.

The applicant now needs to book a new appointment with the UDI in Norway to identify him or herself in person with his or her passport and to complete a biometric print for a residence card.

Applicants from countries that require an entry visa (D-visa) to travel to Norway must visit their closest embassy or consulate in order to obtain their entry visa before travelling to Norway. When they arrive in Norway, they must complete the ID check and order their residence card with the UDI within seven days.

It is crucial for all non-EU nationals to book an appointment with the UDI as soon as possible after arriving in Norway, in order to be able to work as soon as possible after arrival. Work cannot legally be performed before this ID check is done.

The residence permit cards - allowing the applicant to stay and work - will arrive in the post within 10 working days of meeting the UDI.

Period of stay

What are the general maximum (and minimum) periods of stay granted under the main categories for company transfers?

Seconded employees may be granted a permit for up to two years at a time (or a shorter period if the assignment contract indicates so), with a maximum of six years. This implies that they may apply for a renewal of their permit after the first period until they reach the six-year limit. After that, they must stay outside Norway for a period of two years, before they can commence a new six-year period.

Locally hired employees are, in essence, on permanent contracts. However, the UDI regulates their stay by granting them temporary permits to stay and work for up to maximum of three years at a time. After three years, applicants may apply for a renewal of permit for another three years, or they may apply for a permanent residence permit.

Processing time

How long does it typically take to process the main categories?

The processing time for both categories, seconded and local employment, is estimated to be two to three weeks from the time a complete application is submitted if the application is submitted to a service centre for foreign workers in Norway, and four to five weeks if the application is submitted to the Norwegian embassy or consulate in the country where the applicant resides. Applications that are incomplete, or require additional research or a request for documentation from the UDI, may take longer than the standard estimated processing times.

Staff benefits

Is it necessary to obtain any benefits or facilities for staff to secure a work permit?

The applicant needs to have a work contract that meets the salary, educational and other terms of employment set by Norwegian collective agreements and industry standards for that specific occupation. The employee also needs to document that he or she has accommodation in Norway or that the employer will arrange accommodation.

Assessment criteria

Do the immigration authorities follow objective criteria, or do they exercise discretion according to subjective criteria?

The UDI follows objective criteria stipulated in immigration law. Certain applications that are not of a standard format may require additional research and documentation in order for the UDI to reach a decision. In such cases, subjective criteria may need to be considered in order to reach a decision.

High net worth individuals and investors

Is there a special route for high net worth individuals or investors?

There is no special route for high net worth individuals or investors as such. They may apply for a permit as a self-employed individual, or as a researcher with own funds if they qualify in either of the two categories.

Is there a special route (including fast track) for high net worth individuals for a residence permission route into your jurisdiction?

There is no special route for high net worth individuals for a residence permission into Norway (see question 16).

Highly skilled individuals

Is there a special route for highly skilled individuals?

There is no special route for highly skilled individuals. They must apply as a skilled worker either in the seconded or local category. Skilled workers with a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree will respectively have different salary requirements.

Ancestry and descent

Is there a special route for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

No.

Minimum salary

Is there a minimum salary requirement for the main categories for company transfers?

In Norway, there is no general rule regarding minimum salary in the labour or immigration laws. Minimum salary requirements are generally regulated in collective agreements between employer organisations and employee organisations. For this reason, the minimum salary requirement will vary from industry to industry.

The UDI guidelines operate with three levels of salary requirements. The main rule is that the salary must be in accordance with the relevant collective agreement. If no collective agreement is applicable the salary must be in line with the ‘normal’ salary for the industry and place of work. If no normal salary can be documented and the person concerned has a bachelor’s or master’s degree, the salary must be at least level 42 (397,100 kroner for persons holding a bachelor’s degree, at 1 May 2019) and level 47 (428,200 kroner for persons holding a master’s degree, at 1 May 2019) of the government main pay scale. These levels are adjusted every year on 1 May.

Not all kinds of remuneration are accepted as part of the minimum salary. As a rule, the UDI considers only the base cash salary. Benefits in kind are not accepted. Also, cash benefits in the form of allowances, per diems, bonuses and overtime payment are not accepted when the UDI evaluates whether the minimum salary requirement has been met.

Resident labour market test

Is there a quota system or resident labour market test?

For local hires, there is both a quota system and a resident labour market test. For secondments and service providers, there is only the resident labour market test. To our knowledge, the quota system has, up to now, never been a hindrance. Neither has the resident labour market test. For foreign workers covered by international agreements and for seamen working on foreign-registered ships, there is no resident labour market test.

Shortage occupations

Is there a special route for shortage occupations?

No.

Other eligibility requirements

Are there any other main eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in your jurisdiction?

For most types of work permits, one needs to be considered a ‘skilled worker’. Skilled workers are typically persons with an academic degree or a specific profession. Persons without an education or profession can qualify for a work permit if they have ‘special qualifications’. A special qualification case is quite difficult to argue.

An applicant must be over the age of 18 and be able to document that he or she has a concrete job or assignment offer. The job offered must be in accordance with rules stipulated in the Labour Act (working hours, working environment, etc).

For local hires, the main rule is that it should be a full-time job. As a main rule, it is also a requirement for both local hires and secondments that the employee spends at least 50 per cent of his or her time in Norway during the permit period. Exemptions can be made, mainly for secondments.

Third-party contractors

What is the process for third-party contractors to obtain work permission?

The UDI does not accept chain contracts. The employee concerned must be hired either directly by the Norwegian company or by a foreign employer who has a contract with a Norwegian client.

A self-employed person can get a residence (work permit) if he or she can document an economic basis for the business.

Recognition of foreign qualifications

Is an equivalency assessment or recognition of skills and qualifications required to obtain immigration permission?

It is sufficient for a person to document an academic degree.

A person who does not have an academic degree must apply under the ‘special qualifications’ category. The immigration authorities will evaluate if the experience that the person has is equivalent to a similar kind of education in Norway. In addition, in some professions, it will be necessary to obtain authorisation from the competent Norwegian authority.

Extensions and variations

Short-term to long-term status

Can a short-term visa be converted in-country into longer-term authorisations? If so, what is the process?

There is no arrangement in immigration law for converting a short-term visa into a longer-term authorisation. One would need to apply for a residence permit and the main rule is that an application for a residence permit should be submitted from the applicant’s home country. A person staying in Norway on a business visa (valid for months) can, in principle, submit an application for a residence permit (with a right to work) in Norway since he or she is legally staying here. However, such a method is not recommended. A family member staying in Norway on a visitor’s visa cannot submit an application from Norway for a residence permit based on a family reunion.

Long-term extension

Can long-term immigration permission be extended?

A residence permit can be extended by applying for a renewal of the permit. A permit based on secondment will normally be granted in accordance with the time frame of the assignment contract or a maximum of two years at a time. In total, a permit based on secondment can be granted for a maximum of six years. After six years, the person must reside outside Norway for two years before he or she can re-enter on the same kind of permit. A permit based on local hire has no maximum limit. It will normally be granted for two or three years at a time or for a shorter period if the employment contract is time-limited.

A condition for extension is that the conditions of the permit have been fulfilled during the initial period and that they are proven to continue to be fulfilled. Payslips must be enclosed so that the immigration authorities can check that the salary requirement has been fulfilled. Also, travel outside Norway must be stated.

If the application for renewal is submitted at least one month before the current permit expires, the person has the right to stay and work in Norway while the application is processed. If the renewal application is submitted later than one month before expiry, it is up to the immigration authorities to decide if the person can work during the processing time.

Exit and re-entry

What are the rules on and implications of exit and re-entry for work permits?

A residence permit in Norway includes a Schengen visa and gives the person the right to travel freely up to 90 days in the Schengen area. There are no limits on the number of exits and entries to Norway. However, the person should not stay outside Norway for more than 50 per cent of the time that the permit is valid for.

Permanent residency and citizenship

How can immigrants qualify for permanent residency or citizenship?

Several conditions must be met in order to qualify for permanent residency and Norwegian citizenship.

The main condition for getting a permanent residence permit in Norway is that the person has had the type of residence permit that qualifies for a permanent residence permit for the previous three years. A permit based on secondment in Norway does not form the basis for permanent residency. The permit should be based on local hire (and family reunion with a local hire). Furthermore, the person must not have stayed outside Norway for more than seven months in the three-year period. If the person has a permit based on local hire, he or she is allowed to stay outside Norway for 15 months in the three-year period. The person must also fulfil a language training and social studies requirement, not have committed a criminal offence and have been financially self-supported for the previous 12 months.

The main conditions for getting Norwegian citizenship by application is that the applicant has stayed in Norway for seven out of the past 10 years with a valid residence permit, fulfils the requirements for permanent residency and resides in Norway at the time the application is processed and plans to reside there in the future. The applicant must also be over the age of 12, have proved his or her identity, not be charged with a criminal offence, fulfilled a Norwegian language training requirement and, as a general rule, abandon current citizenship.

Special rules can be applicable for spouses of Norwegian citizens and EU or EEA citizens.

End of employment

Must immigration permission be cancelled at the end of employment in your jurisdiction?

There is no formal cancellation requirement in immigration law. However, there is a general obligation to inform the authorities if the conditions of the permit are no longer met. It is advisable to inform the authorities if a person leaves Norway long before the permit expires and he or she does not intend to return during the permit period. Upon notification, the immigration authorities can decide to cancel the permit. In addition, the residence card should be returned to the immigration authorities.

Employee restrictions

Are there any specific restrictions on a holder of employment permission?

A permit based on secondment or assignment will be limited to the actual assignment (ie, the person can only perform the job as described in the application and only for that employer or client). A permit based on local hire will be limited to a specific employer or job title, or both. For all permits there is a general rule that the person holding the permit should stay in Norway at least 50 per cent of the time.

Dependants

Eligibility

Who qualifies as a dependant?

According to the Immigration Act, dependants can be the following groups of family members:

  • spouses, cohabitees who can document that they have been living together for the past two years and registered partners;
  • children under the age of 18;
  • children over the age of 18 provided that certain conditions are met (financially dependent, no close family member in home country, not married); and
  • other groups of close family members provided that special circumstances are present.
Conditions and restrictions

Are dependants automatically allowed to work or attend school?

A residence permit based on family reunion will give the person the right to attend school and work.

Access to social benefits

What social benefits are dependants entitled to?

Normally all persons who are either resident or working as employees in Norway are compulsorily insured under the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme (provided legally in Norway and not exempted under a social security agreement). In order to be considered as resident in Norway, the person has to stay there for at least 12 months.

Compulsory contributors to the Norwegian social security scheme might be entitled to old age, survivors’ and disability pensions, basic benefit and attendance benefit in cases of disablement, work assessment allowance, occupational injury benefits, benefits to single parents, cash benefits in cases of sickness, maternity, adoption and unemployment, medical benefits in cases of sickness and maternity, and funeral grants. Some benefits are residence-based and some are employment-based.

Persons covered by the Norwegian social security system receive free healthcare (ie, free accommodation and treatment, including medicine in hospital). The personal doctor system gives all residents of Norway the right to have their personal doctor. However, patients under this system need to be registered at a Norwegian address with the national register.

If a permit is granted for less than 12 months, the person is not eligible for Norwegian social security benefits. It is therefore important that he or she has sufficient insurance cover.

Other requirements, restrictions and penalties

Criminal convictions

Are prior criminal convictions a barrier to obtaining immigration permission?

A prior criminal conviction can be a barrier to obtaining a residence permit. The applicant will be asked if he or she has any convictions when applying for the permit and the immigration authorities may reject the application based on this.

Penalties for non-compliance

What are the penalties for companies and individuals for non-compliance with immigration law? How are these applied in practice?

If the employee has been working in Norway without a permit, he or she can be expelled from the country and denied re-entry for a certain number of years. The expulsion option is used quite often and, according to guidelines, an illegal stay of 30 days or more should result in expulsion.

If an employer has been using the services of an employee who has not had a valid permit the employer may be fined and sent to prison. If the employer has not paid the employee according to the minimum requirement or been in breach of other labour regulations, the immigration authorities may decide that the employer will not be allowed to use foreign labour for a period of two years.

In our experience, there is an increased focus on social dumping in Norway, and the option of refusing employers who are in breach of immigration regulations permission to use foreign labour is very likely to happen on a more frequent basis.

Language requirements

Are there any minimum language requirements for migrants?

There is no minimum language requirement for persons applying for an ordinary residence (work) permit. However, if applying for a permanent residence permit or citizenship, there are language requirements.

Medical screening

Is medical screening required to obtain immigration permission?

No medical screening is required prior to obtaining a permit. However, persons from certain countries are required to undergo a tuberculosis test after the permit has been granted and he or she arrives in Norway,

Secondment

Is there a specific procedure for employees on secondment to a client site in your jurisdiction?

Normal rules regarding obtaining a permit apply unless the activities can be covered by the exemption for business travellers.

Update and trends

Key developments of the past year

Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in corporate immigration regulation in your jurisdiction?

Key developments of the past year40 Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in corporate immigration regulation in your jurisdiction?Brexit

The Brexit scenario has been a hot topic during the past year and the Norwegian government has been working on getting agreements and bills in place for all variations of Brexit. As at the time of writing, it appears that UK citizens who have exercised their rights to free movement before the United Kingdom exits the European Union will keep their rights to stay and work in Norway. They may have to perform some kind of registration, but they will not be regarded as a non-EU citizen according to Norwegian immigration regulations. UK citizens who have not exercised their rights to free movement will be regarded as non-EU/third-country citizens and will have to apply for a residence permit to live and work in Norway.

Double citizenship

On 6 December 2018, the parliament approved the government’s bill on allowing double citizenship. The new regulation will most likely take effect from January 2020.

50 per cent stay in Norway during the permit period

A requirement to stay in Norway at least 50 per cent of the permit period has ‘always’ been applied, but the requirement has been based on an interpretation of an unclear article. As of 29 March 2019, the requirement has been included in the Immigration Act, under article 60. The new regulation states that the foreigner must stay in Norway for at least six months during a permit period of one year. If the permit period is shorter than one year, the foreigner must stay in Norway at least 50 per cent of that period. If the permit is given for several years, the total stay outside Norway cannot exceed 182 days during any 365-day period.

The 50 per cent requirement does not apply to specific groups of foreigners, including seconded employees for whom the offer of assignment is not consecutive.

Exemption from the 50 per cent requirement can be made if the purpose of the permit or other circumstances suggests that the foreigner is not supposed to stay in Norway more than 50 per cent of the time.

Increased cooperation between different authorities

Cooperation between different authorities, tax and immigration authorities in particular, is on the rise in Norway. A goal for the authorities is that foreigners coming to Norway to work should experience a smooth process. Some groups of foreigners can now perform both immigration and tax procedures when showing up at the immigration office to effectuate their permits, unlike previously, when they had to meet with both immigration and tax authorities.