Moving to Norway
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A comprehensive guide to moving to Norway
Moving to Norway is the ideal thing to do for expats who like fjords, reindeer, and harsh winters — among other things. However, the captivating scenery is not all that Norway has to offer. In our InterNations GO! Guide you will learn all about moving to Norway: the visa requirements, public transportation system, and more.
Relocating to Norway
At a Glance:
- Due to its fjords, mountains, and glaciers Norway is considered one of the most beautiful European countries.
- Norway has a thriving economy and is a major player on the European and global economic stages.
- Non-EU nationals need a “skilled worker”’s visa to live and work in Norway, requiring documentation on employment, residence, and nationality.
- A well-developed public transportation network allows travel around the great landscapes of Norway. Good options include buses, trains, and airplanes.
Expats who feel right at home in Scandinavia and don’t mind the cold, dark winters will not regret moving to Norway. This country has a breathtaking wilderness in store for you as well as a vibrant urban scene. In addition to this, the impressive social welfare system makes for a high quality of life — something expats moving to Norway will no doubt benefit from.
Arctic Tundra and Fjords
Norway is part of Northern Europe, more specifically Scandinavia, between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, sharing borders with Sweden on the eastern side and Finland and Russia in the north. Once you have moved to Norway, you will see the wide, treeless plains of the Arctic tundra in the northern regions and a coastline which is indented by deep fjords. The country’s natural landscape is also distinguished by its high plateaus and rugged mountains, as well as scattered plains and fertile valleys.
Warm Summers, Cold Winters, and Natural Spectacles
If you prefer temperatures which allow you to wear shorts and flip-flops all year round, then moving to Norway may not be your best choice. Norwegian winters can be bitterly cold, particularly in the inland areas, and Finnmark, a county in the extreme northeast, is the coldest part. Here, the lowest temperature ever recorded was -51.4⁰C in Karasjok. The coast enjoys comparatively mild winters with frequent snow or rain.
However, moving to Norway will still bring you those beautiful, long summer days you have always dreamed of. In contrast to the icy winters, even Norway’s most northern reaches can be very warm, with a record high temperature of 34°C in Siccajavri, Finnmark, during the summer months.
Aside from the stunning Norwegian landscape, you can witness natural spectacles upon your move to Norway. The midnight sun is one of the perks of experiencing a Norwegian summer at the Arctic Circle. You can enjoy 24 hours of daylight there, making for endless summer days.
Another phenomenon, which is best observed between autumn and spring, are the northern lights. Alta, Finnmark’s largest town, has been nicknamed “The Town of the Northern Lights”. It is home to the world’s first northern lights observatory. These green bands of light are the source of many Sami legends and a popular spectacle attracting both tourists and expats in Norway.
Norway’s Economy: Prosperity and Stability
Norway’s competitive economy stems from open global cooperation and entrepreneurial ventures. It benefits from the country’s abundance of natural resources, such as hydropower, crude oil, fish, forests, and minerals. Assets from hydrocarbon production and a large part of petroleum revenues are collected in the National Wealth Fund. According to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, Norway has the world’s largest fund, with oil-and-gas-based funds comprising more than half of the total asset value.
Moreover, Norway is a country contributing significantly to the EU budget, despite voting twice against becoming a member state. As a country within the European Economic Area, Norway plays a significant role in Europe’s economy while having most rights of the EU single market. As the Norwegian economy is strong, the government is able to finance many welfare benefits, such as healthcare, for legal residents.
Norway: A Welfare State
It is widely recognized that Norway is an extremely expensive country, with high rents and mortgages, transportation costs, and expenses for everyday essentials. This is, however, offset by a combination of high salaries, excellent public services, and an overall superb quality of life.
In the Expat Insider 2017 survey conducted by InterNations, the Quality of Life Index found Norway ranked an impressive 2nd out of 65 countries regarding safety and security. Ranking criteria included peacefulness, political stability, and personal safety.
Expats who move to Norway will experience firsthand a developed welfare state and enjoy the advantages of a fair and safe society. Thanks to the comparatively high taxes, Norway provides free or heavily subsidized healthcare, which is of great quality and accessible to all residents, as well as pension and further benefits. In terms of employment, the state provides services including a generous pension scheme, plenty of parental leave, and sickness pay for those working in Norway.
After moving to Norway, you will be required to contribute to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), allowing you access to these healthcare and public services, and pension rights. Further details regarding the healthcare system in Norway can be found in our handy guide to Living in Norway.
Visa Requirements for Norway
There are different types of visa for expats who wish to work in Norway. Citizens from EU or EEA member states may live and work in Norway straight away without applying for a residence permit. If you are an EU or EEA national who wishes to stay longer than three months, you must obtain a registration certificate from the Directorate of Immigration (UDI). For details, please see our ‘Registration of Residence’ section below. To find out whether your country is a member of the EU or EEA and you therefore do not require a residence permit, please view this list.
Expats from non-EU or EEA countries, for example India, need a residence permit. There are various residence permits available, depending on your type of work. These include such groups as skilled workers, seasonal workers, exchange program and organizational workers, and diplomats. You will also need a tax deduction card, ID number, and to report your residence at a tax office.
Our following section focuses on how to acquire a residence permit for a skilled worker to live and work in Norway as a non-EU or EEA national. You can also find out about tax deduction cards, an ID number, and reporting your move to Norway.
Getting a Visa as a Skilled Worker
Are you planning to apply for a residence permit as a skilled worker from outside the EU or EEA? Keep in mind that there is an application fee of 3,700 NOK for the standard residence permit. To be classed as a skilled worker in Norway, you must have vocational training, a university degree, or special qualifications gained through long work experience.
If you wish to apply on the grounds of special qualifications, you must have gained expertise through long work experience combined with other professional training. Please note that a skilled workers visa is rarely granted on the basis of special qualifications.
Before you can apply for a skilled workers visa, you need to have received a written offer of employment from one specific employer, requiring skilled worker qualifications, proof that the pay meets the official requirements in Norway, and the number of working hours per week. The duration of your work contract must be mentioned as well.
Your salary and working conditions may not be lower or worse than those which are stipulated in the collective agreement of the respective Norwegian industry. Further details on the required pay in Norway can be found through the Directorate of Immigration.
The Application Process
Once you are sure that you fulfill all the necessary requirements, you should turn to a Norwegian consulate or embassy located near you. An alternative is to apply from within Norway if you have held another type of residence permit for the last nine months. It is important that you are residing legally in Norway.
When you apply for a visa at the consulate or embassy, documentation must be submitted in either Norwegian or English. For a successful application, you need to submit the following original documents:
- signed cover letter (if you have applied online) or filled out application form
- two passport photos
- a completed UDI offer of employment form
- record of your previous education, including the level and duration
- previous documentation of employment, your tasks, and qualifications
- documentation proving the pay meets Norwegian requirements
- proof that you have somewhere to live
- signed checklist, which can be found here
In most cases, you are able to apply online for your visa. If you do so, you will automatically receive an appointment for handing in your paperwork at the embassy. If you do not apply online, you will need to get in touch with the embassy and ask for an appointment. Make sure to contact the Norwegian embassy or consulate nearest to you for more information.
Application processes for residence permits may differ in some cases depending on your country of origin. For full information regarding your specific country, please see the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration.
Registration of Residence
If you are an EU or EAA national living and working in Norway for longer than three months, you must declare your presence in Norway by registering with the police. You will receive a document called a registration certificate. This application is free, and you need only register once, regardless of how long you intend to stay in Norway.
Whether you are an EU or EEA national or not, to work in Norway for longer than six months you must have a tax deduction card, an ID number, and have reported your move to Norway. Head to the nearest tax office, which is run by the Norwegian Tax Administration. To report your move to Norway and register your address, you need to bring your passport, an employment contract for at least six months, a rental contract for at least six months, and the completed form “Notification of your move to Norway from abroad”.
To apply for a tax deduction card at the tax office, please bring your passport, employment contract, and the completed form “Application for tax deduction card for foreign citizens”. You are required to have a personal ID number (personnummer) before you can apply for a tax deduction card. Simply visit your nearest tax office with your passport to have your ID validated. You will need this ID number on various occasions, for instance, when doing your taxes or opening a bank account.
Application and registration processes for tax/ID cards may differ in certain instances — please contact the Norwegian Tax Administration for specific details.
Public Transportation in Norway
Those who decide not to explore Norway by car will be glad to hear that Norway has a comprehensive and reliable bus system for long-distance travels. Nor-Way Bussekspress runs one of the largest express bus networks in Norway. They run 18 routes, mostly across the south of Norway, and tickets can be pre-booked online via the Nor-Way Bussekspress website.
Tickets for buses operated by Lavprisekspressen can be slightly cheaper than those of Nor-Way Bussekspress However, they only run a very limited number of routes, such as from Oslo to Trondheim.
Keep in mind that most local timetables and some of the long-distance bus schedules are not as extensive on the weekends and during the winter months — the latter being the case particularly in the north. At bigger bus stations and tourist offices you can pick up a copy of the different bus routes and their timetables.
It is not necessary to make prior reservations when you book a seat on a bus. However, your chances of getting your hands on a good travel deal are higher if you get your ticket early on, particularly in buses departing from Oslo. Tickets are available at bus stations or upon boarding buses, as well as online. While fares are based on the distance you will travel, many companies offer discounts for students, children, seniors, and families.
Travel Comfortably by Train
If you prefer to travel by train, Norway offers several routes and connections with the Norwegian State Railways (NSB). The network is limited compared to that of the long-distance buses, but the service is excellent.
Norway’s fantastic scenery makes train journeys often enjoyable and a good way to travel for expats and tourists alike, as you can see much of the country while also traveling at a fast pace. The train journey from Oslo to Bergen comes highly recommended in terms of scenic landscapes.
On most of Norway’s trains, you can choose between regular seating or “NSB Komfort”, which resembles first class and offers a little bit more space. All in all, taking the train does not come cheap in Norway, so be prepared for higher costs. Through the NSB website the minipris system offers some budget train tickets every month, which can make train travel quite affordable. These tickets tend to sell out quickly due to high demand, so make sure to look regularly.
Traveling by Air: Saving Time and Money
There are 59 different airports in Norway, and flights cover various routes between the north and the south. As Norway stretches across 324,220 km² and extends about 1,750 km from north to south, traveling by air can save lots of money and time. These three airlines are examples of some which operate domestic and international flights from many destinations in Norway:
Travelers can easily get their hands on tickets which are just as expensive as the train fares. It is worth shopping around online to find deals and save money — particularly low prices can be found when booking in advance.
Traveling with a View: Ferries
Ferry lines can be a useful mode of transport, as all of Norway’s large cities (Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger, Tromsø) sit on the coast. Ferries can vary in sizes, including great tourist routes from north to south, smaller commuter ferries in the north, and shorter fjord-crossing journeys. Traveling by water is often faster than traditional land-based transportation, thanks to significantly less traffic. Journeys around Norway can be split between driving and ferries by using car ferries for fjord crossings or for longer parts of the journey.
Ferries can also be more enjoyable than airplanes or buses, allowing direct access to the natural beauty of Norwegian mountains, fjords, and its top-notch coastal air. The Hurtigruten ferry line offers a particularly good service along the entire Norwegian coastline, from Bergen in the south to Kirkenes in the far north. The Hurtigruten ferry caters for locals as well as expats and tourists, by the very efficient online ‘port to port’ booking system. Both short distances and long cruises can be booked online, with lower prices to be found when you book far in advance.
Driving in Norway
Driving a car offers more freedom than public transportation. Norway’s public transport system is efficient and developed within its bigger cities, but traveling in the more sparsely populated northern areas can make driving a better option.
Keep in mind that Norway has extremely icy conditions on the roads during its winters and frequent snow; it may be wise to invest in special winter tires or snow spikes. Moreover, the rough, mountainous terrain means that there is not an abundance of major roads connecting cities, with these often consisting of just two lanes. The roads can be difficult to navigate, and narrow passes can cause heavy traffic.
Many Norwegians will often tell you that, despite the freedom associated with driving around, it is simply not worth the hefty costs. Even though Norway is an oil-rich country, due to high taxes Norway has very high fuel prices. The costs of taxes on cars can also sometimes be expensive, with a VAT rate of 25% of the car’s value when you import a car to Norway.
However, expats may use their original driving license from their home country for up to a year before requiring a Norwegian license. Please note that EU or EEA residents are not required to exchange their home license for a Norwegian one, provided that theirs is valid.
If you do decide to acquire a Norwegian driving license, be prepared to spend in the regions of thousands of kroner — this is not uncommon. Driving lessons are thorough, as you must learn to drive on ice and during heavy snowfall, which can take many months if you are coming from a country with a different climate. Once you have learned to drive, the test itself can be very expensive. Take extra care when driving, as Norway has strict driving regulations, with fines proportionate to your individual salary.