In part one of this post I discussed the timing for finding a job, getting a work permit, finding a place to live and setting up a bank account in Norway. Now we'll look at some other settlement items and the procedure and time it takes to cross them off your 'to-do' list.
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.
So how long does it take to get x in Norway, when x equals...
... registered for the healthcare system
The National Insurance Scheme provides coverage for health service benefits as well as lump sum grants for births and adoptions. Other benefits include sickness benefits and parental benefit entitlements. It is possible to also obtain private health care in Norway but if you're interested in the public healthcare that you pay for when your employer deducts tax from your wages, this is the scheme that coverage falls under.
When you receive your fødselsnummer, a letter from HELFO will arrive in the mail shortly after. In some cases it may advise that you've been assigned a fastlege, which is known as a general practitioner (GP) in other countries. Your fastlege is your first port of call for any medical issues and he or she will then refer you to a specialist should one be required. You can change your GP up to two times per year by calling HELFO or making the selection on their website. You will need to register using MinID if you choose to do this online, which involves receiving PIN numbers for your fødselsnummer in the mail or via SMS (told you Norwegians were tech-savvy). The system is pretty straightforward but you'll want to have the Google translation toolbar installed on your web browser because it's in Norwegian.
The fastlege you choose must have availability so you may need to search around for one closest to your home or work. If you can't find a suitable doctor, try again at the very beginning of the month when the registry is updated. More places may be available then with your preferred fastlege.
... a mobile phone
It is possible to get a pre-paid mobile SIM card on the spot with only your passport (we got ours at Telenor) but if you want an abonnement (plan/subscription) it will take up to a week for new arrivals. Netcom seems to be the most aware of newcomer difficulties and will set up an account for you if you bring your work contract, fødselsnummer (or D-number) and passport, but that still has to be sent off to the credit department. Once John received his fødselsnummer we ordered a SIM card from One Call, which seems to have the best value plans for smartphones. This took some time, however, as we were informed that he had to first register his fødselsnummer with Soliditet, which is a credit-rating agency. Soliditet can only pull your information from the Population Register, so make sure your address and other details are correct there before calling.
... cable television and internet
This will depend on what providers are currently hooked up to your rental property and whether you want to choose a different one. The previous tenants at our house had Get and they were able to set ours up in two days. We didn't need a fødselsnummer or credit check. We simply emailed a copy of John's work contract to the customer service representative and an hour later they called us back to say that the credit department had approved our subscription request. Then the modems and cables were sent via courier and we installed it ourselves in one evening. Cable and internet were probably the easiest things to obtain during the settlement process.
...a credit card
While most retailers accept credit cards, Norway is not what I would call a credit card using society. We can't charge our cable bill to a credit card, for example, and I've placed orders for items online where they sent me the goods first and then an invoice later on. I then had to pay this at the bank, post office or using internet banking. You can also have some bills deducted from your bank account automatically. So don't be too upset when I tell you that you will usually have to wait one year before a bank will consider giving you a credit card. Best to keep one from home for emergencies.
... a drivers licence
This is quite an involved process and the procedure will depend on which licence you currently hold. Allow at least ten months for the entire transfer to be completed and make sure you exchange your licence within one year of your arrival in Norway. Otherwise you'll get to enjoy the experience of being 16 years old again as I've outlined in my post about exchanging your drivers licence in Norway.
... a residence permit for your spouse and/or family who are migrating with you
I applied for my visa today so this is the final hurdle for my personal settlement process. I turned in all my paperwork and was told it can take up to a month to process. Check back with me in a few weeks to see how that's going!
Other tips for your first few weeks in Norway:
- If you're moving to Norway make sure you have at least three months of cash saved for living - more if you possibly can. If you're deliberating over numbers in your budget, go with the higher one. Problems can crop up. For example, John's company originally said they would act as guarantor for our house security deposit. What they didn't tell us is that they would only do this for the length of the contract. The standard lease here in Norway is three times that long, though you can easily get out of it with three months notice after 9 months (huh?) We had to provide our own deposit, which was a large, unexpected cost.
- Watch Lilyhammer. Imagine if Sil from The Sopranos had awoken from his coma, gone into witness protection and relocated to Norway. This is a great show that really does get into some quality aspects of Norwegian culture and really well-made.
- Be patient. As I said in part one, I'm significantly worn down from my experience migrating to Australia. I have patience in abundance. Try to find some for the process and also for those systems and customs that you aren't used to.
Do you have any other tips or groups that expats moving to Norway should know about? Please share them in the comments below.
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