Why live and work in Norway? If you dig under the surface a bit, you’ll find that there are plenty of good reasons to seek employment here. First and foremost, the UN has judged Norway to have the highest quality of life in the world for six years running. Key factors in their evaluation were the nation’s clean environment, relatively safe communities and unparalleled natural beauty. In fact, the Norwegian fjords recently topped a poll in a prestigious National Geographic survey of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
People have preconceptions about Norway’s accessibility and weather. The country is, in fact, not as remote or as hard to reach as some may think. In fact, all major European cities are between one and three hours by plane from Oslo. As for the weather, while it is true that the winters are long, they are milder than one would imagine, and it’s also the case that Oslo ranks as the sunniest Scandinavian capital city.
Time for Family
But perhaps what foreigners find most appealing about working in Norway is the life-work balance that is struck by most Norwegian firms. Free time is considered very important, which is reflected in a national standard of five weeks of paid holiday and a work week of 37.5 hours. More intangibly, there is a cultural bias in the Norwegian business world that is very sympathetic towards the demands of family life.
In terms of public policy, family-friendly social regulations have long been a point of pride in Norway. There is a long paid maternity and paternity leave regulation, as well as extensive public childcare options, and a well-regarded public school system, which is supplemented by numerous English-speaking private schools.
Moving to and working in Norway is not as complicated as some think. There are useful websites and agencies ready to help with all the major questions new workers have. Here is a brief look at the basic issues involved in relocating to Norway:
It might be wise to start with information available from the EURES (European Employment Services) database. Contact your local job centre to access these listings and visit http://ec.europa.eu/eures. More information on job vacancies in Norway is available from the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organisation (NAV) at www.eures.no. While a good amount of this information is in Norwegian, there is an English-language section as well.For youth interested in working under a Summer Guest program, try contacting Atlantis Youth Exchange at www.atlantis-u.no.Many job counsellors recommend contacting a company of interest directly. Norway has many companies whose official language is English, visit www.norwayexports.no for an overwiew of the biggest companies.Work & Residence Permits
If you are a citizen of an EU / EEA / EFTA country, you no longer need to apply for a residence permit, but you must make a registration. You can make a registration online and then visit a police station. If you live in a district with a service centre for foreign workers you need to meet in person here. For full details, visit the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration website at
Citizens of EU/EEA/EFTA countries are from now referred to as EEA nationals.
If you are an EEA national and have a valid identity card or passport, you have a right of residence for three months in Norway and the right to work. The same applies to members of your family who are also EEA nationals. Family members who are not EEA nationals must have a valid passport and be able to document that they are a member of your household or that they are supported by you.
If you are an employee from Bulgaria or Romania and have not had a residence permit in Norway in the last 12 months, special transitional rules apply. You then need to apply for a residence permit.
The main laws governing working conditions in Norway are the Worker Environment and Protection Act, Annual Holidays Act and the Gender Equality Act. Find out the details about these rules at www.arbeidstilsynet.no.All employees in Norway have the right to join a trade union. For information about the union covering your type of work, contact the appropriate union in your native country. The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO-Norway) is Norway’s largest and most influential workers’ organization, with about 835,000 affiliated workers in 23 national unions. About 50 percent of LO’s members are women. They have an English site at www.lo.no.
Governmental expenditure in Norway runs at about 40% of GDP. Prime funding areas are education, health and social services. In addition to the direct taxation to fund these programs, Norway sets a value-added tax (VAT) on most goods and services. The VAT is currently at a range of 12 to 24 percent of net price, depending on the good or service.All workers will require a tax card, which can be obtained by applying at the local tax office. There are tax treaties in effect between Norway and other states to safeguard against double taxation, and to fight against fiscal evasion attempts.
To find out more, go to www.skatteetaten.no/international.
Duty & Tariffs
Norwegian Customs and Excise can supply information on imports, including importation of automobiles and boats. Check www.toll.no/default.aspx?id=94 for details.
Health & Social Insurance
Members of European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEC) countries are entitled to the same health and social insurance benefits as Norwegian citizens. Everyone who is, or will be, a legal resident in Norway for more than one year is enrolled in the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme. This grants health care, financial and pension benefits and begins accruing from one’s first day of legal residence in the country.
The insurance scheme covers hospitalization, but does not cover ordinary doctor or dentist check-ups, routine appointments or vaccinations. In these cases, a moderate user fee is charged by the health care provider. Children under twelve years of age are exempt from paying these user fees and other costs. More information is available at www.nav.no.
Norway has built up an extensive public transit system, with train, bus and air links to all parts of the country. In addition, bike paths abound for use in the summer months. Private cars can be relatively expensive to run and maintain, as the price of gas is among Europe’s highest.If you wish to drive a motor vehicle in Norway, you must have a valid driver’s license. If your license is from another country, you need to contact the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Vegvesenet) to find out what must be done to make your driving license valid in Norway. Generally speaking, licenses from other EEA countries are valid in Norway. More information about driving licenses and being a motorist in Norway is available at www.vegvesen.no.
As a relative indicator, housing costs in Norway are less than those of the United Kingdom. Properties for sale or rent can be found on the web and in the local papers, such as the Oslo-based national daily Aftenposten. The website www.finn.no has the most comprehensive property listings, while www.aviskatalogen.no has a listing of all local papers in the country.
In most cases, the government-sponsored language scheme is available for no cost to those with a residence permit valid for more than three months and who are employed by a Norwegian company.If you intend to stay for an extended period in Norway, the authorities require that you complete 300 hours of Norwegian language classes in order to get permanent residence and, eventually, Norwegian citizenship.You are not obliged to participate in language classes if you have a work permit in accordance with the EEA rules or your work permit does not qualify you for the right to permanent residence, as in the case of au pairs, for example.
There are a number of English-speaking international schools in Norway. While most are private, the first publicly funded school with English as the primary language has been launched in Arendal. Go to the “Education and Research” section of the Norwegian Embassy’s United Kingdom
site (www.norway.org.uk/education/education/englishschools.htm) for more information on English-language schools.
A good introduction to Norway and its customs can be found at www.norway.info. This site has a great deal of useful information in many languages available for download. Among the options are Events, Culture, Travel, Business and, perhaps most useful to prospective immigrants, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Here one can find valuable pointers for concerns about visas, embassies and trade.Perhaps the best website for prospective working immigrants to Norway is the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration’s (UDI) site dedicated to new arrivals www.nyinorge.no. These pages contain a great deal of useful and practical information on arrival and stay, Norwegian lessons, work, health care, family and children, and laws.
For researchers, one can find the link to the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research’s English-language website under the “Ministries” heading at the top of www.government.no. The Research Council of Norway’s English-language website is also essential, and can be found
The following books may be useful, providing both practical information and a good dose of advice for adapting to Norwegian culture:
Michael Brady and Belinda Drabble –
Living in Norway: A Practical Guide (Palamedes Press)
Elizabeth Su-Dale – Culture Shock! Norway: A Guide to Customs and Etiquette (Kuperard).