What Now for Brits in Norway?

Brexit Norway

24 hours on and I've just about recovered from the shock Brexit result of Thursday's referendum. For those not familiar with this blog, I'm a British citizen and I've been living in Norway under the terms of the EEA agreement since 2011.

I've had so many messages from people all over the world, half asking what the hell we've just done (no, I can't quite believe it either) and the other half asking how it will affect me and/or other Brits living abroad. The simple truth is nobody knows right now.

The great unknown for Brits in Norway

One of the biggest issues with the referendum was the lack of clarity on the choices. Will the UK remain a member of the EEA (the European Economic Area: the trade agreement that facilities the freedom of movement of people across its member states) or not?

The much-discussed ‘Norway option' means remaining a member of the EEA, which of course wouldn't do anything to stem the flow of EU/EEA citizens coming to live and work in Britain, which was one of the Leave campaign's major “policy” points. This was never properly addressed, and indeed a preference wasn't even given by most Leave campaigners.

British voters were essentially given a choice between the status quo and what's in the box. They chose the box, a decision which leaves all Brits living in Europe with potentially years of uncertainty.

However, both David Cameron and Erna Solberg have said that nothing will change for anyone in the short-term. Right now, British citizens living in Norway have exactly the same rights as they did before the vote, as do Norwegians living in Britain. What we cannot predict is if that situation will stay the same, and if not, when and how things will change.

More than 10,000 Brits live and work in Norway, many in the country's vital energy industries. If the UK were to withdraw from the EEA it seems unlikely that Norway will take a hard-line approach to this important group of people, but a lengthy bureaucratic work permit process is a definite possibility.

But right now, British citizens living in Norway do have options to firm up their right to residence, at least under the current rules. Of course these rules do vary based on your personal circumstances and for your family members and they could be changed at any time, but here is a brief summary based on current information from UDI:

Norwegian citizenship

If you have lived in Norway for seven of the last ten years, the last three of which you've been here under the registration scheme for EU/EEA citizens, or you've held a residence permit for each of the past seven years, then you might qualify to apply for citizenship. You must also present documented proof of fluency in Norwegian if you are between 18 and 55.

The biggest downside to citizenship is the requirement to renounce the citizenship of your country of birth. Although discussions are taking place about changing this law, dual-citizenship is currently not allowed in Norway.

Marriage or partnership with a Norwegian citizen

The rules get a little complex here, but basically there is a residence permit available for British citizens with a Norwegian partner, or a partner of a different nationality who has permanent residence in Norway. The partnership cannot be one of convenience, and the qualifying Norwegian person must have an income of at least 305,200 kr per year. The same rules apply for cohabitants who are expecting a child together.

Permanent residence

If you have stayed in Norway as an EU/EEA national for at least five years, you can apply for permanent right of residence. This entitles you to stay and work in Norway indefinitely. Permanent residence can take up to a year to apply for and there is no guarantee that Norway will not withdraw this as an option for UK citizens in the near future.

Permanent residence seems a logical step for those Brits who have lived in Norway for more than five years, are settled here with a family, speak the language and see their futures here. Citizenship is going to be an option for those who never intend on moving back to the UK.

However, for Brits who have been in Norway for just a couple of years or less, the future remains much more uncertain.

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

19 Comments

  1. I was wondering about the impact on dual citizenship (which I am) I live in the US born in England. I have lived in the US for most of my life but am proud to have a British citizenship as well.

    Just a note. My Dad’s family is all from Norway that is why I am on this page. Trying to make a better connection with my family heritage.

    Nancy

  2. Thanks David, useful information. I have lived in London for the past 18 years and my wife is Brazilian. Brexit has indeed been a big shock for many of us. Feel free to get in touch.

    Best, Magnus Berge

  3. I am a Norwegian citizen living in UK with my daughter who is also Norwegian. I have lived/worked in UK for a decade. Since Norway does not allow dual citizenship we do not want to apply for British citizenship. I have looked into applying for the permanent residency , you have to fill a form which is 80+ pages long or I am guessing get a lawyer to help you? It makes things very uncertain especially for my daughter who wants to go to University in a year or two in UK and always assumed the application process would be the same for her as all other British residents.

  4. I know this is probably not the place to post this but I am just desperately trying to find information and help.

    3 years ago I decided to move to Norway and work (Because of love + child expected). We followed all the rules and signed all the paper work etc and sent it off! The lady working said go enjoy life and enjoy being a parent too.

    Gone through huge ups and downs with my own company trying to make it work and applying for jobs via Nav etc but to no success. Maybe I am not doing it right?

    Well we went into the bank to get an account because I always ended up using my partners who is Norwegian. To find I need proof of my residence. We went to the police station to find out they have lost the paper work and we have to re-register with proof of income.

    But the problem is now I have no income and have to register with an income. I feel I am about to lose my family and be kicked out of Norway because of a mistake the police woman made 3 years ago.

    Any advice or help would be appreciated (Or a job!)

    Many thanks and sorry for posting it here. But I have done it everywhere I could.

    1. Hi Ben, you should have been given a certificate with your fødselnummer on when you registered – that is your proof that you registered. I guard mine in a very safe place and have multiple copies. If you’ve lost yours, you can apply for a certified transcript of your entry in the national register via Altinn.no. It takes about a week to arrive in the post. I needed that specific document when I applied for a mortgage last year. Hope this helps!

  5. Thanks for this. The whole situation is making me very nervous.

    I’ve had permanent residence for maybe 8-9 years now, own my apartment here and have my life here (lived here since 2012) but I have no certificates that prove fluency in Norwegian. That’s a problem that can maybe be dealt with.

    How does employment status effect applying for citizenship though. I’m nearing the end of a contract and starting to look for new work.

    1. Hi Steff, no idea I’m afraid, only UDI can answer questions like these. But I can’t see people with permanent residence being shown the door – just my opinion though.

      1. You must take your Norskprøve 3 and then you show them your documents. Other than that NAV Will not help. Our government has not made any attempt to negotiate our welfare.

        We have to seek our own means. My advice if you cannot afford your lessons is to contact the Red Cross. They are a fantastic team of people, great to work with and supportive. In terms of authorization, which is a new rule – we have to pay for everyone of our documents from the UK, through a verification service.

        I would like to continue living, working and studying here. It’s a wonderful language and people have been lovely. Yes – think positive because these Samfunnet classes are rather tedious . They can absorb you and make you feel as though you are hitting a ball under water. But take on the challenge.

    2. I am British and have lived in Norway 12 years. I have a permanent residence under the EEA with indefinite status to live and work. There are new rules in Norway now which came in around a year ago, for when applying for work. Unless you have a B1 fluency certificate in Norwegian language you will find it very difficult to get work in any decent job. Even shop work and factory work now, even behind the scenes they want only Norwegian speaking people. It has become very descriminatory against non Norwegian speakers. I had a great job in healthcare for 7 years but as soon as the new rules came in a year ago, I was ousted out. They all say “well you have lived in Norway many years so you must speak it”, but if one has been in job without the need to speak it, apparently it does not matter. Its shocking now and NAV are little help and basically tell you to go home. It’s very hard to get a job here now without a B1 certificate and they all want Norwegian speaking only. Even in a dingy factory where you dont see or talk to anyone at any time. Its madness and very discriminatory.

    3. You will not get permanent residence without being able to speak fluent Norwegian, Bokmal and Ny Norsk. And NAV will not help you get a job. You will be forced onto social benefits which you have to apply for every 3 months giving them rent contract, electricity bill and your last 3 months bank statements. They will pay your rent up to 7000kr, electricity 1500kr and them give you 6050kr per month to live on. Other than that, you will be forced to leave as you wont get a job without a B1 certificate let alone residency.

  6. Just to add that the rules against dual citizenship are not as inflexible as you may seem to think – I have family members with dual British/norwegian citizenship – and that had had this for the last 30 years.

  7. I am a UK citizen. I have lived and worked in Norway since 1978 with a permission to stay and work “på ubestemt tid” since about 1981. Have been resident for tax-purposes all that time. I have now just retired (67). Even though it may seem ridiculous I am concerned about my status after march 2019. Any thoughts?

    1. This isn’t really a reply but I’m in exactly the same situation as David Grace, coming to Norway in 1978 and with permission to stay “på ubestemt tid”. I too am now a pensioner here in Norway, after working here for over 30 years, and having paid taxes here all the time. In addition, I own my own house. I too am concerned about my status. I suppose the logical thing to do would be to apply for Norwegian citizenship as I don’t really want to return to Britain. Ideally, I should prefer dual nationality and this has been discussed, and rejected, a number of times by the various political parties. Last year Denmark decided that dual nationality would be allowed and that perhaps Norway should consider it again. Has anyone any information about this? Or any suggestions about remaining? It may be that after the election, there will be a “soft Brexit” which might make life easier for expats to remain in their adopted countries, but after a year of waiting and uncertainty it would be good to have some idea of what is possible,

    2. I have no more information than anyone else unfortunately. We are in unchartered territory so there is no precedence for us to look at. Dual nationality is definitely an option, IF and when it gets approved by the Norwegian parliament. Let’s all just hope for a soft Brexit…

  8. My son is 18 and british we applied norwegian citizenship a year ago., he have to surrender his british pass not allowed to have dual citizenship. They do not do it anymore. My concern now is my son and my husband because they are both british and i am a norwegian citizen by registration .

  9. Hi I lived & worked in Norway for 8yrs full time, paid into union ,tax office ,nav,pension etc,etc unfortunately my partner passed away after long term illness tragically ,and unexpectedly , 2013 ,we had planed to marry but unfortunately she passed shortly before we could , please don’t take this negative or wrong I loved and love Norway and the pepole , But !! My experience was the doors ,Slamed in my face after I suffered a heart attack ,whilst visiting a relative back in uk, my doctor took position of to slap me on the back whilst shuffling me out his door ,and don’t worrie ,you should just go back to uk !! Then he contacted nav office and notified he will just go home , Don’t pay him anything ,I don’t believe hospital medical report bla ,bla bla . So needless to say nav office also slamed door in my face, As we had just bought a new house ,And were in process of selling our flat to pay for ,, I staid on to forefill the commitments of renovation of 100 yr old country house ,for my wife as promised then unfortunately due to my bad language lack of skills , and living on my savings and being rural I decided I could not continue with , financial situation ,& I suffered another heart attack the night of my wife’s funeral and was rushed to hospital , after signing my self out of hospital that evening in order to not upset any of the grieving relatives whom I had a great relationship with until the untimely death of my partner ,, & all these doors slammed shut in my face the days leading upto funeral , I put this down to grief at the time , and as I said tried to stay on , for another year ,, I left after being forced to sell our dream house , and have been traveling since trying to come to terms with losing the most wonderful human being I have met in my life ,, My partner was a government employee in an office ,, so she dealt with my residence papers , I am not shure what type this is I think it might be the 5 yr period type ,, but that period has been up for atleast 5yrs so I don’t know whare I stand , I would love to return full time but very apprehensive after all that has happened , and don’t know if it would be to difficult having no friends ,or help from anyone , it is sadly my experience that there is an attitude of go find out for yourself ,, but often there’s no advice at the office or place your dealing with , And that there is an attitude of it’s our country,our monie your only here to do the jobs we don’t want too , and that’s fair enough , I suppose ? It’s by no means easy to get correct information ,or guidance if you don’t have a norwiegen whom is willing to help you in some ways , I am very very sorry if I sound negative but to be honest you have to take the good with the bad in order to change things and systems for the better of all , personely ive never thought of constructive criticism as negative the facts are the facts it’s others ,whom choose to say that opinions are negative it it suits there means to an end ,, , I was good enough too look after my partner for years of hospital treat ment etc etc the minuette she died , I was as grey as the rocks and invisible as the air ,, with all the government offices ,, I still have my rights to my little pension for all it will be , my union dues have lapsed , And I haven’t got a clue as to whare I stand should I return …

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