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How Long Does It Take To Get Settled In Norway? Part One

by Andrea on April 27, 2012

Some of the first questions people ask when moving to a new country have to deal with time. How long is this or that going to take? How should I prepare myself for the delays and adjustments I will face when moving abroad? No international move is easy, even if you’re helped along by a company relocation budget or, ideally, family.

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A few things in Norway take getting used to. Photo by gruntzooki from Flickr.

One of the most confronting things about moving to Norway is the system here. It seems that there are procedures for everything, from the ticket you’ll take for almost every queue to the ubiquitous fødselsnummer – an identity number given to every person who is resident in Norway for more than six months. Yes, this orderly system keeps everyone in line but it can also prove frustrating for the newcomer. Let me illustrate.

Leaving the hotel where we spent our first couple of nights in Stavanger, a staff member called a taxi for us. We waited about 25 minutes before one finally arrived. But he wasn’t ‘our taxi’ apparently, he just saw us standing there and thought he’d collect us. The cab assigned to us was nowhere to be found, yet the second driver refused to take us. So we stood there with our many bags cluttering the sidewalk while he decided to have his coffee break in front of us and in another five minutes our taxi showed up and the first driver took off.

In another instance, I wasn’t home to receive a registered letter from Australia so I took the notice card to the post office, along with my passport, Australian drivers licence and a copy of our lease. Those three pieces of identification were not enough, said the woman behind the counter. She needed something Norwegian and I wouldn’t have any Norwegian identification for at least another couple of months. I mentioned that if I had been home when the postman came by, I would have my letter. She smiled and said, yes, with a ‘go figure’ look on her face. Eventually I pleaded with her to accept the lease as something Norwegian and, though she seemed very conflicted about it, she finally gave me my letter. We then proceeded to joke about the system and had a laugh about how backward it is that a person can rent a house before having a personal number or local bank account. There is no rule against that, but the rules on the back of the mail hold card specifically state that your piece of ID must have a Norwegian identification number on it. That’s that.

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Photo by Nicolas-Frédéric from Flickr.

Note that the criticisms of Norway’s system were coming more from the woman. I was mostly explaining to her about how John has been working without a tax number and bank account for the last couple of weeks and how frustrating it is and that I was sorry for causing problems for her. I’m hesitant to criticise the system. Every country has its funny things and I’m pretty worn down by my experiences on the long road to becoming an Australian citizen to even put up a fight anymore. In these situations you have to laugh or cry (and I always choose the former – the latter got me nowhere in the past). Many of the system items are completely understandable, but if you come from countries where companies often bend the rules or make exceptions where common sense acts as a lubricant, this can be frustrating.

So I’ve prepared this guide so that you can be ready for your adventure in Norway. Many things do happen quickly (maybe nothing is ever fast enough for us these days) and a positive thing to note is that Norway is very up to scratch when it comes to information technology. You can do many things online or even via SMS. Migration to Norway will, however, go much more smoothly if you prepare yourself for these waiting times. Please note that we relocated to Stavanger so timings may vary elsewhere in the country. John migrated as a skilled worker and I can’t speak to the timing or any other elements for those migrating under different conditions. Also please note that things change frequently here and this post may only be accurate for the last several weeks. We are not migration agents and this is not legal advice.

How long does it take to get x in Norway, when x equals…

… a job

This depends on many factors and, while people with skilled qualifications are able to come to Norway and look for a job for six months, how long the process would actually take is up to you, your industry and the job market. Speaking with a Norwegian woman last night, we learned that most people do not find a job in six months and don’t think about how much it costs to live here in temporary accommodation while they are searching. Norway has a low unemployment rate but remember that if a company is not going to hire a foreigner if they can find a local of the same calibre to do the work. Check out our guide to finding work abroad for some helpful tips.

… a work permit

This is a residence permit that will give you the right to work and live in Norway. You must have a job offer from a company to apply and the company can usually apply on your behalf. The company will not be able to apply for your family members to migrate with you but they can do this once your permit is granted. John’s work permit took about two and a half weeks to be processed once they had all of the correct documents and signatures. Visit the UDI website for more information.

… an appointment to get the visa label in your passport

In Stavanger, John’s paperwork was handled at the Rogaland Service Centre for Foreign Workers, which meant that he could only get his sticker put in the passport there. You don’t need this label to begin work but you do need it in order to travel outside the country and to open a bank account (at least at our bank – see below). It took two weeks for him to get an appointment to receive the label. If you have applied online (or can get the login details from your employer who applied for you), you should be able to make an appointment there.

… a fødselsnummer

This is the big one: an 11-digit number consisting of your date of birth, followed by your Social Security number (not the same as the US social security number, however). Almost everything in Norway revolves around this number, from the tax office to your credit rating to healthcare. Even if you are waiting for the stamp to go into your passport, you can take your permit approval letter to the Skatteetaten (tax office) and they can begin the process of applying for both your fødselsnummer and tax card. You will go onto the folkeregister (the national population register) and receive your fødselsnummer in the mail in about one week. I have heard of this taking longer over a holiday period or when the office is very busy. If you will work in Norway for less than six months, you should enquire about getting a D-number instead.

… a tax card

This is the second most important thing that you need to get started in Norway. The tax card tells your employer how much tax to withhold from your earnings and if you do not provide this, they will take 50 per cent. This should arrive in about one week also by mail, separate to your fødselsnummer (though in our case the person doing data entry input our house number incorrectly so this one got lost in the post). If you do not receive it in a reasonable amount of time, be sure to contact the office again and check on it.

…a bank account

Setting up a bank account will only take about 15 minutes, BUT you must have your fødselsnummer (or D number if you can get one – only some banks will accept this), work contract AND your visa label in your passport. Our bank told us that it would take a week or two for online banking to be set up and to receive the debit card that comes with the account but you can take money out at the branch in the meantime.

Should you find yourself with a bill prior to getting your bank account set up, you’ll have to pay it with cash. If the bill says GIRO on the payslip, take it to the post office or any bank branch and they can send your money through the system (for a lovely little fee of 75 or 100 krone respectively). The recipient will have it the next business day.

… a place to live

Luckily you do not need your fødselsnummer to rent a house or apartment. This was one of the first things that we were able to do while we were waiting for John’s permit to be approved. But be prepared to provide your work contract to the owner, otherwise he is not likely to consider you. A guarantee from your employer also makes you a little more attractive as a first-time renter in Norway. Mortgages aren’t generally given to newcomers so you should plan to have three months worth of rent on hand when you arrive and prepare to rent for at least a year before buying a property. Security deposits are usually two months rent and you’ll need to pay for the first month of rent in advance. Most properties in Norway are listed on Finn.

In part two, I will continue discuss the the timings for healthcare registration, visas for your accompanying family, drivers licences, cable television, internet, telephones and credit cards. I will also share some handy tips for migrating to Norway and how to survive as an expat during your first few months here.

Tip: If you’re having trouble reading the content of the resource websites provided, try installing a translation toolbar in your browser. I couldn’t survive without mine in Norway.

Have you moved to Norway for the first time from somewhere else in the past? Have any tips to share?

 

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Edna April 27, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I thought I’d encountered some frustrating bureaucracies in other countries but that post office story ranks right up there. Good on you for choosing to laugh about it and thanks for the informative post!

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inspiringtravellers April 28, 2012 at 9:59 am

Cheers, Edna! =) At least I was able to reason with the person and get my letter. She was very nice and I understood where she was coming from, but the system doesn’t always have loopholes for foreigners who aren’t set up yet.

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Megan April 28, 2012 at 9:17 am

i have been lucky enough not to encounter any situations with the post office (minus the fact that they have misplaced about 70% of the packages i have received from the US and other countries) here in norway! but the process is a grueling one, no doubt!

my biggest obstacle here has been the fact that people are treated as numbers and not people. everything is mandated by the government, therefore making the process soooo slow. i still am having UDI issues haha…and i have been here 10 months! and the country has a tendacy to willingly take in immigrants from non-working or societal contributing backgrounds, but shun the skilled workers with a lot of education, like myself. that is probably the biggest complaint amongst expats in norway that have education and experience. (unless you’re in oil industry, that is a whole ‘nother ball game). the aftenposten in oslo just recently wrote a HUGE article about how norway should make laws slightly easier for skilled/educated workers coming in to contribute to norwegian businesses and wealth and make it a bit tougher for people coming in and not having any education, any work experience, and have no desire to work. the people were making a statement that it should be more modeled after US/Canada/Australia and should take people in who want to provide and work their tails off. we’ll see how that goes ;) i also dont care for the fact that visas often go through local police departments. the police department in the first kommune i lived in was the most INCOMPETENT group of human beings on earth. they didnt even know the visa i was applying for existed so they told me i couldnt apply for it. so i had a lot of run around with them and just told them to send it off anyway…which after two weeks, they agreed to. and dont ever move here in summer. the officials claim to be only off for one month, but they are not mentally there all summer long. it really put a damper in my visa process the first time.

one thing i do like here for the most part, the 279 offices you must visit in order to stay here are quite realistic when they tell you the process. like if they say the tax card will take 3 weeks, generally, it will take 3 weeks. ive never been left hangin or disappointed on things because i had a real ‘view’ on how they would work.

i have learned that once you overcome all of these challenges, life is great here. i adjusted here quite quick and really only missed my homeland and the good foods there (i struggle with norwegian food…not gonna lie!) for about a few weeks. :) adjusting to the simplicity of life here came quick and i enjoy it a lot!!!!

great post for people moving to norway! im redoing my blog in the next few months and will add some of yall’s post as resources for my readers (who are typically people looking or in the process of moving to norway!) :)

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inspiringtravellers April 28, 2012 at 9:58 am

Hi Megan! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience here. I agree that often it seems you get one answer from one person with regards to the rules and visas, and another answer from someone else. I got all of my information from other expats on a Facebook forum and then used that information to look at the UDI site and figure it all out.

I think many countries are guilty of these things though. I don’t know how it is in Canada, but Australia lets heaps of people in who have no business being there. They migrate under the refugee rules when they are not truly refugees (I’ve always thought of a refugee as someone who suffers real persecution in their own country, not just someone who is poor there and wants a better life, often at everyone else’s expense). But everyone has bleeding hearts for the ‘boat people’ and it’s constantly a topic of discussion in government and the news, meanwhile they are cutting back benefits for the tax-paying Australians who work to support the system. It’s one of the reasons we left – we got tired of paying high taxes and getting NOTHING back. We had to pay for our own private health cover on top of the public system or face a levy. That’s just wrong. Especially when you see pregnant teenagers having two or three babies and just living off the system, or people getting the dole (welfare) forever instead of simply changing to a job that they feel is beneath them.

I think it’s best for people to have all the information before migrating and to have realistic expectations. We love it here too so far and I haven’t found things to be to challenging, just a few annoyances with timing. Hoping my visa gets processed before everyone hits the summer brain-fuzz…that used to happen all the time in Australia too. People check out around mid-November and don’t get going again until March!

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Megan April 28, 2012 at 10:13 am

yikes! i didnt realize australia was like that! i know where im from in the US and of course in Canada, they pick and choose who can come to the country and you MUST bring a skill and work-ethic. the immigrants in the US are not the problem, it is the people born there that feel like they are entitled ;)

yea i think the process is definitely different depending on how you come to norway. i think if one comes w/ the oil industry it is a whole different set of rules more or less. if one comes looking for work or because their boyfriend’s norwegian (like me), it is a very grueling process with immigration. i havefreelanced with statoil since moving here, so i know a lot of the procedures that goes on for those working in oil and i know it is a completely different world than what goes on with immigration in the remainder of norway…which sucks (well, for me…since i am not really affiliated with oil). i wish i had it as easy as those in the bergen area who worked for the oil companies!!!!!

one thing i have found difficult here is proving to UDI that one’s education is relevant to the job they are applying for a work visa for. i have had SO many issues with that. i have a bachelors degree and an MBA and can work almost with free reign in the business world…but norway only wants me working in marketing. my history and experience is more a sales marketing, not strictly marketing-marketing, and norway is more confused than ever when trying to realize that haha :) i think the one trait i needed to bring to norway was patience, but unfortunately i have none ;)

i have had friends here come with jobs (few and far between though) and friends that have had to wait for 6 years to find a suitable job for them…so it certainly varies person to person. it is good to have insight like yall listed above indicating what is required, etc. :)

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inspiringtravellers April 29, 2012 at 8:35 am

That’s understandable – again, coming from Australia I’m used to this system. Everything there is on the points system and I had to go back to school and change careers because things were so difficult for me. My issue wasn’t the points system but people thinking that I wouldn’t “get” the culture (I worked on the creative side of advertising). Once I changed to online media, things got a bit easier, especially having a masters from an Australian University, but by then we were already planning to read. It forced me to be more entrepreneurial and I’m actually thankful a bit that things didn’t work out. I never had to deal with the points system for skills, thankfully, but I know other migrants who had similar frustrations.

Can’t you get a family visa based on your relationship – assuming you are living together? Then you would have work rights independent of the system, no?

John is here with the oil industry so, yes, I think there is a skills shortage and that makes it easier for those workers. He’s working on a project for Statoil now, actually =)

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Megan April 28, 2012 at 9:18 am

holy smokes i wrote a lot! just thought id state the obvious there really quick!

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Andi April 28, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Sooo basically you need lots and lots and lots of patience?

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inspiringtravellers April 29, 2012 at 8:30 am

Most definitely =)

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Emily in Chile April 29, 2012 at 6:10 am

I had a laugh at the orderly system being frustrating. Chile can be frustrating due to the seeming lack of any system (or at least any efficient system) sometimes, but the bright side is that if you know someone, or if you just keep talking and get the bureaucrats on your side, there is almost always a way to get around any rule. I guess the grass really is always green on the other side!

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inspiringtravellers April 29, 2012 at 8:29 am

I think once you’re in the system here things are actually easier – though some might frown on it because it seems like a lack of privacy. Everything is pretty much in a central database – medical records, tax, credit score, address, etc. So with your fodselnummer anyone can find you. I can see a variety of situations where this would be very handy. But, as I said, only great for those of us with nothing to hide ;)

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Raymond April 29, 2012 at 9:16 am

Hi (or hei :) )

Interesting article. I am norwegian, and also a travelminded person. I liked your story, and can understand your troubles. I also happend to work in a gouvernment agency so if you have some kind of practical issues I drop me an email ,and might be able to point you in the right direction. Take care, enjoy our country. And if I should reconmend something. Visit the northern parts of norway in the summer months.

Kind regards
Raymond Hagen

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inspiringtravellers April 29, 2012 at 9:24 am

Hei Raymond

Tusen takk for your comment =) We love Norway so far – despite any things that are confusing or take a long time, we are always greeted and helped with a smile by the locals and everyone is very patient with our language deficiencies. That always makes the experience of adjusting to a new place so much easier.

We can’t wait to get out and explore and hope to head north this summer at some point – so much to see here. Will definitely get in touch should we have any questions =)

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Ali May 5, 2012 at 1:04 am

It’s amazing how even within a country things can be so different or against the “rules” you thought were so standard. When I got to Germany, I had to register with the city, mostly so they knew how to charge for my portion of the trash (see Andy’s comment about trash on your garbage post…craziness). Then we had to go to the health insurance office, who told us I needed a visa to get health insurance. So we had to tell them I needed health insurance in order to get a visa. We argued with her for quite awhile before finally convincing her to write me a letter stating that they would give me health insurance as soon as I had a visa, and that I was technically covered in the meantime. You would think the order of things would be standard, especially in a place like Germany which loves its rules. I now have to take a specific German integration and language course, which as best as we can tell is simply because I’m here on a spousal resident visa and I’m unemployed. It’s a course run by the office of migrants and refugees. Makes for a good laugh I guess :-)

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inspiringtravellers May 5, 2012 at 11:56 am

I think they have something like that course here in Norway, haha. It’s not funny actually. I wish someone would make me take a language course because they are really expensive and it’s hard to get a place otherwise.

Those are some interesting hoops you’ve had to jump through. What I find most difficult here is that the work is very divided, so each person only really knows about their one specialty and you have to go to a different person for each question about the system. And you have to know who to ask about what or you’ll get the completely wrong answer. I always turn to the expats who have gone through it before heading out on my own =)

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Lisa May 14, 2012 at 4:42 am

Reading this brings back so many memories of my move to Germany. The order and the very detailed requirements to each task can be daunting, but once you understand the procedures it becomes easier to handle. I wish you guys the best with this adventure.

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inspiringtravellers May 14, 2012 at 8:16 am

Thanks, Lisa – the good thing is that once you’re in the system, everything runs really smoothly =)

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Connor Freeman October 1, 2012 at 6:16 am

Hey, my name is Connor and I am from the U.S. I have dreams about moving to Norway because my girlfriend lives there but I just dont know where to begin? I have read on the immigration site..but they cant seem to answer my questions. If there is anyone who is willing to help, it would be greatly appreciated!!

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inspiringtravellers October 1, 2012 at 9:43 am

Hi Connor – I don’t know what questions you have specifically nor are we migration agents, but you can come over as a student, a skilled worker or as a family member (if you are married)…

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Connor Freeman October 1, 2012 at 6:48 pm

But, I have to idea what to do first? Whether i will try to be a student, or try to find a job fast, because i think her dad can hook me up with a job, should i try to get a residence permit now? or wait?

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Kristi March 14, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Maybe my answer comes too late now, but if you’re able to get a job up-front I think that’s the easiest way to come to Norway. Unless you wanna do some studying (which might make it easier to get a job in your field later on). The issue with studying in Norway is that although tuition is free, you still need some way of covering living expenses, but on the other hand, if you work in Norway and pay your taxes for two years, the state loan fund (Lånekassen) will provide you with loans and bursaries for studying, just the same way as if you were a Norwegian citizen. I believe you have to have lived in Norway for 3 years on either a work or study permit before you can apply to be a permanent resident, unless you are married to someone who’s a citizen or permanent resident. I did lots of research on this while looking into how to bring my Canadian boyfriend to Norway. Good luck :-)

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kais October 18, 2012 at 2:29 am

can you teach me how to start migrating to Norway, please?
I have a ph.d in Translation.

Best
kais

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Shermin Ali January 19, 2013 at 11:50 pm

Hello All! Happy to hear that there are many skilled workers in Norway! I have applied for a skilled workers permit about one month ago and have not recieved a grant latter by UDI. I am not in any similiar bussiness as you, but I am a cosmetologist and I have been so lucky to recieve a job offer at my dream job as an assistnant manager at for a cosmetic line, What do you think are my chances or having it granted since you state that norwegains want skilled workers within oil industry. Im crossing my fingers for the lucky letter!
Thanks a lot!

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inspiringtravellers January 20, 2013 at 11:37 am

I really have no idea, Shermin, but with the Christmas holidays you will probably find that there are slight delays in processing. The letters take awhile to get posted out once it’s been granted as well. So I’m sure no news is good news at this point. Good luck! =)

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Sirjana May 18, 2013 at 11:44 pm

hi ! :)
I have completed my PCL nursing (3 yrs ) and now I am planning to migrate Norway for Norwegian language course for skilled workers. Would that be helpful for me to find work and get settled over there??? Please answer me I am so confused.

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inspiringtravellers May 19, 2013 at 9:01 am

Hi Sirjana – we’re really just a content site and cannot advise on migration matters, especially as neither of us works in the nursing industry. I suggest starting with the UDI website to explore the types of visas available for students and skilled workers. You can also try some of the many expat groups and forums online and on Facebook (search for Oslo and Stavanger expats on the latter). There will be many people there who can probably advise you better. Good luck!

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Sirjana May 19, 2013 at 11:49 pm

Thank you so much,,, it would help me :)

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Terry October 3, 2013 at 2:58 pm

I’ve was offered a job in Norway and was warned away from it. I got an ebook from amazon called “Working in Norway”. Got a picture of a lake and mountains on the front. It sounds horrendous and chaotic as if the Norwegians think foreigners are going to wreck their society rather than be good for it. I’m a white, English “professional” and, having thought more about it, bearing in mind the whole bureaucracy thing and, if you value your time, how much of it you’ll spend administering a life there, i think going for a holiday every second year if you really love the place should suffice. I put together a spreadsheet and pretty quickly worked out what seemed like a good wage wouldn’t get me much of a standard of living there and there’s all the easy to find stuff about Norway moving in a right wing, anti-foreigner direction like most other places.

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Taylor April 12, 2014 at 4:26 am

Interesting article and very informative! Thanks for sharing.. Im from Minnesota and am 100% ethnic Norwegian and am highly considering moving to Norway, but honestly am having a difficult time getting the right information such as Immigration info etc.. Are ethnic Norwegians granted automatic Citizenship by chance?

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inspiringtravellers April 12, 2014 at 9:00 am

Hi Taylor – not sure re the citizenship but I’m sure you could just call the immigration people over there and ask. You might check their website as well because sometimes we found not everyone knew the answers to all questions there. I think you might have to give up any other citizenship though to get your Norwegian citizenship as they don’t allow dual citizens. Don’t quote me on that but you might want to check… Good luck!

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