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A Norwegian fjord retirement

How to retire to Norway: The rules and regulations you need to know.

I get many emails from people all over the world asking if they can spend their last years in Norway. I completely understand! The image many people have of Norway is as above, of relaxing fjords on sunny days.

The reality is of course quite different and I would urge anyone considering moving here late in life to research the realities of daily life.

In this article we'll outline the rules and regulations for retiring to Norway (it's not as easy as you think) along with some considerations as to whether life in Norway is what you expect. Ready? Let's go!

How to Retire to Norway: The who and the how of retiring to Scandinavia.

For example, did you know that many Norwegian pensioners relocate to Spain, Portugal or other Mediterranean countries where their money goes a lot further and they can enjoy a far better and more stable climate.

Start with this post which will help you answer the question: are you sure you want to move to Norway?

Can I retire to Norway?

The answer is actually relatively simple. The question should be split broadly into two sub-questions. Firstly, do you already have or can you earn the right of residence? Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, can you afford to live here?

Lofoten tourism

The right to live in Norway

Unlike some European countries, there is no specific retirement permit available. To live in Norway without working, you must either already have permanent residence, or have enough money to sustain yourself.

Anyone with Norwegian citizenship or permanent residence has earned a permanent right to live in Norway. This generally requires you to have been born in Norway, or lived here for a minimum period of time, generally five years for EEA citizens and seven years for everyone else.

At this point, if you meet the requirements (which include language ability and income), you can apply for permanent residence, which would give you the right to live in Norway during your retirement.

Without a permanent residence permit, European citizens would need to register under the EEA registration scheme, and be able to prove an income of at least NOK 191,422 per year. This amount can come from private funds and/or a pension.

White houses in Flekkefjord, Southern Norway
Flekkefjord, Norway

You must also hold an EU Health Insurance card, or take out private health insurance. You can read more about immigration to Norway in our complete immigration guide.

There is no equivalent registration system for non-EEA citizens. To learn more about your options, you can use the English language translation of the Immigration Service website, which takes you step by step through the process relevant to your own personal circumstances.

The cost to live as a retiree

This is the most important factor, because many Norwegians actually retire abroad to make their Norwegian pension income go further.

Spain is a hugely popular choice, but some choose to retire in Sweden or Denmark for a similar lifestyle at a slightly more affordable price.

No matter which country you're planning to move from, a life in Norway will almost certainly require increased spending on the basics such as energy bills, food, and so on.

Norwegian krone coins

However, if you have money to invest, property in more rural areas of the country can be snapped up at a surprisingly affordable price.

As tempting as this sounds, understand that life in rural Norway is unlikely to be the picture postcard existence you expect.

Access to basic services can be difficult, a car is absolutely essential, and learning Norwegian is a must if you are to make friends and feel at home.

To cut a long story short, unless you have substantial savings and/or an ongoing source of income, retiring to Norway on a state pension or relatively small savings is unlikely to be feasible.

About 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 professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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30 thoughts on “Retire to Norway”

  1. Thanks for a very interesting article.
    I was born in Bergen Norway and came to the states in 1959 with my parents when I was 10. Having served in the US Navy in the late 60s, I became a US citizen.
    I have been back home at least a dozen times over the years, and am now retired, and living in Northern California.
    I still speak and read fluent Norwegian, but do not write as well in Norwegian. I am very stable financially and in very good health, and considering moving back to Bergen for at least six months per year. I would more than likely rent or lease a Bergen residence each year.
    Can this be done, and to whom should I address my questions of how I would qualify to do this.

  2. After President Trump referenced Norway…. I checked it out, found your article and wow…what a nice country. I will have to plan a vacation there now… when is the best time of the year for hiking.

  3. Thanks so much for the timely and valuable reality check especially for us Americans. Photographs are beautiful, the culture is lovely -idyllic from my Sunny porch in California. Visiting as a tourist does not really approximate the experience one would have as a resident.
    Until you’ve spent a good bit of time in a country, you certainly cannot remotely know what it would be like to actually live there.

  4. My father was born in Bergen as well as my grandparents. I have a lot of family there — seems to me I heard I lost my “automatic” ability to become a citizen once I turned 21 years of age. True? Dang. I’m 72 now and would LOVE it……….

    • Hi Margo, to apply for citizenship you generally have to have been living here on a valid residence permit for at least seven years, and have documented proof of fluency in norwegian. You can read more about Norwegian citizenship here.

  5. As an American of independent means who just wants to enjoy your beautiful country in retirement, and not a refugee who will abuse your generosity and become a permanent ward of the state, am I right in thinking you have no visa for me?

    • That’s like me. I’m 5 years away from retirement and I’m thinking about choosing Norway to settle down in. I’ll have sufficient financial means to do so. I wonder if they’ll let me bring my new Dodge Challenger to? I’m thinking of living in a town like Lillehammer.

  6. Joel,

    If you have enough income to provide for yourself I am sure Norway would at least accept an application from you. You should come over and visit Norway. I have been here for 6 years. We have 5 hours of sunlight during the winter and its really dismal then but we do get a lot of sun in the summer with no A/C needed. So lots of swimming in the fjords, hiking, picking berries etc… . You should really try a vacation here first and see if you like it. It is very hard to make Norwegian friends unless you are really outgoing though but if you can get by without a lot of friends you will be just fine.

    • I have had a different experience. I am an an american (Texan) that worked in Stavanger in the late 80s. We became close friends with Norwegian couples and had many good times going to party’s, hiking, fishing, cabins, skiing. Some best moment of my life!

  7. My family moved from Norway to the Americasin 1635. We hailed from an island bearing our name. How would the government recognize meifi applied for citizenship?

  8. I would be interested in living in Norway. I am a retired teacher since june 2018. I have a good friend who lives in Oslo Norway. Would it be possible for a retired Canadian to retire in Norway ?

    • No. You would need to have a family member, who is a Norwegian citizen (or Nordic citizen), living in Norway. And by family member, Norway doesn’t mean a cousin, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, etc. They mean close family members, like a spouse, partner/cohabitant, parent, or child. A “good friend” who lives in Norway is not a suitable grounds for immigration to Norway…UNLESS you are cohabitants (from the UDI website: “You must have lived together for at least two years and neither of you can be married to someone else.”)


      Also from the UDI website:

      “It is very difficult for other types of family members to be granted family immigration. You can only be granted family immigration if the UDI believes that strong humanitarian considerations apply in your case. We make a concrete assessment of this in every individual case, so we cannot say anything in general about what is required for other family members to be granted family immigration.”

  9. I am a Brit and have children and Grandchildren living in Oslo. I would like to retire to Norway. Regards the cost of living, I would manage. I have paid into the British and German health care for most of my life. Can I assume the big problem is the health care system in Norway, which I assume is out of bounds for me?

  10. I am a retired since march 2017. I have a nephew and nieces who lives in Norway. Would it be possible for a retired EU country citizen to retire in Norway ?

  11. I lived in Norway as a student and had a part time job as well between 1992 – 2000. Currently, I live and work in UK, and will be 60 years and retire in July 2020. Do you have an idea if I qualify for Norwegian pension scheme for the period I worked in Norway?

  12. Hello, My wife and I would like to spend three to four months a year in Norway when we retire. We would like to pay into the health system if we get injured or hurt there. We are looking to buy a property in Bergen or Stavanger and potentially rent it out short term or 9 months at a time, I am not sure if that is possible. Oddly enough, we would like to spend the winters there, we live in a desert here and need a break from the sun. Do you know if we can we get a resident permit and then potentially a permanent resident card if we don’t spend the whole year there?

    Thanks for this website, it is exactly what we have been looking for!

  13. Hi David,

    Thank you for the article. Can I relocate to Norway buy purchasing a house there? I have been thinking about this for a while and would like to start the process of looking for a nice house but I’m not sure how the immigration process will work. Can I live full-time? I run an online tech company so I can work from anywhere, also not looking for a job in Norway, just wanna buy a property and shift there.

    • I’m thinking about this as well! Maybe we can compare research, notes, thoughts. It sounds like set employment income which I also would have would qualify for “employment” to get a work permit.
      I can also work from anywhere for tech companies as I have been doing and even transfer to a role locally in Norway (Microsoft). I would like to get a property there to start the process. ~ Carina

  14. I am an American and I am retiring in a year and have sufficient income for the rest of my life w/ out having to work. In great health also. Can I retire in Norway?

  15. Hei, I am 29 years old and have an IT degree, I am hoping to move to Norway in a few years once things become stable but I want to bring my mom she has no one left and I absolutely cant to leave her behind. I’m trying to find a way that she can come as well, shed have enough money to buy a house and receives money to live on. Would she be able to fall under family immigration?

      • USA and I have looked, and reread it all many times even.”Other types of family members who may apply are parents who have children in Norway”. In my past experiences children has been used to specify “a child who is underage”. So thats not clear to me if it can apply to adults. I may be over thinking this due to an experience bias. But it would be nice to know a solid answer before I contact UDI.

  16. My spouse was born in northern Norway, Bodo, moved to the US 35 years ago, and am now thinking about moving back to Norway and bringing me as his second spouse. He speaks Norsk and Svenska fluently plus German and English. He
    gets a pension from Sweden for working there half of his life and SS from the US. Would we have any problems with our plan?


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