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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Oslo

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Relocating to Oslo

At a Glance:

  • Oslo is a prime location for expats who want a great career, as well as a chance to explore forests and the Oslofjord on weekends.
  • Expats from the EU may begin working in Oslo immediately after moving; to stay longer than three months, they need to register with the police and get a residence permit
  • Traveling around Oslo is incredibly easy; choose from bus, train, metro, tram, or ferry. The city is even small enough to walk around!

Moving to Oslo does not restrict expats to a purely urban life, giving you a taste of Norway’s natural beauty, too; namely the Oslofjord and the vast wilderness surrounding the city. Certainly, outdoor enthusiasts will not regret moving to Oslo. Fjords, green hills, and endless opportunities for adventure and outdoor activities are what make Oslo a unique expat destination.

Oslo’s History: From Vikings to the 20th Century

Oslo looks back on a roughly 1000-year history. It has been Norway’s capital since 1814, the same year as the signing of the Norwegian Constitution on 17 May (a national holiday in Norway). Its name roughly translates to “the fields of the gods”, paying tribute to its rich Viking heritage. After a fire had destroyed the city in 1624, King Christian IV of Denmark-Norway rebuilt it slightly to the west, under the Akershus fortress walls, and named the city Christiana. It wasn’t until 1925 that the capital — by then more heavily populated and industrialized — was renamed “Oslo”.

A Rather Enjoyable Climate

You will be pleased to learn that, despite the city’s northern latitude of 59 degrees, the climate is comparatively mild and even hot at times, thanks to the warm stream from the Gulf of Mexico. In 2017, the most recent summer, for instance, temperatures rose up to a yearly high of 27.3°C. However, the best time for a move to Oslo is between April and May if you prefer a balanced day-and-night ratio. During these months, temperatures usually tend not to rise above 16°C.

If you plan on arriving in Oslo in the winter, prepare yourself for temperatures as low as -12⁰C (January 2017) and lots of snow. The winter season ordinarily lasts from November to March and offers lots of opportunities for winter sports and activities, such as skiing at Oslo’s Winter Park or ice skating in the centrally located “Spikersuppa” rink. Make sure not to miss out on the icy Oslofjord and snowy hills surrounding the city, which make for beautiful winter scenery.

Living on the Oslo Fjord

A move to Oslo takes you to the southeast of Norway. Located right at the northernmost end of the long Oslofjord, the city is nestled amidst forests and mountains, which provide Norway’s capital with an exceptional location. With just under 700,000 inhabitants, Oslo is a city with a relatively small population compared to its size (circa 455 km²).

About 40 islands of various size are located within and around the city limits. The largest of them is Malmøya, which lies to the east of the Oslofjord and is linked to Ormøya, its twin island. Ormøya connects to the city by a wrought-iron bridge. Both Malmøya and Ormøya are populated and have beautiful sandy beaches. Part of Malmøya is even a nature reserve.

Approximately two-thirds of Oslo (307 km2) are covered by protected forests, hills and lakes. This part of the city is called the Marka, and it is home to a diverse ecosystem —  with moose and elk easily spotted in the winter months, not to mention 343 lakes and two small rivers, Akerselva and Alna. The city is also situated in close proximity to Kirkeberget: a hill in Nordmarka and the highest point in the greater Oslo region.

Oslo’s Districts

Oslo is divided into 15 districts (bydeler). They deal with decentralized administrative issues and are run by locally elected district councils.

After your move to Oslo, you should try to figure out which district you belong to. You can then turn to your local district council or district administration for information on any of the following areas of interest:

  • care for the elderly
  • daycare facilities
  • youth clubs
  • mental healthcare
  • treatment and care of substance abusers
  • health centers
  • services for people with mental disabilities
  • integrating refugees and immigrants

Explore the City Center

Moving to Oslo’s center (sentrum) gives you the chance to explore the city’s restaurants, including Maaemo, Norway’s only restaurant with three Michelin stars, its bars, concert venues, and historical highlights. The area around Karl Johan’s gate is Oslo’s main street, and it is always crowded — even more so on Norway’s Constitution Day, 17 May. On this national holiday, people dress in national costume and meet around the city center for the street parades.

Kvadraturen is the area between Akershus Fortress, Karl Johans gate, Jernbanetorget, and Egertorget, which got its name from its rectangular street patterns. This is also where Oslo’s historic city center is located, with some of the oldest buildings in the city, as this area served as the site of the new city, Christiana, after the large 1624 fire.

In Kvadraturen, expats moving to Oslo can not only find numerous museums and art galleries, but also quite a few shopping centers, such as Byporten and Steen. The Harbour Promenade is also a great place to see Oslo’s sights, such as the busy Oslofjord, its islands and ferries, and the unusual architecture of Oslo’s Opera House.

Visa Requirements for Oslo

What Kind of Visa Do You Need?

Expats who are from an EU or EEA country need not apply for a skilled workers visa and may start working and living in Oslo without a residence permit. However, if they wish to stay for a period longer than three months, they must register with the police and acquire a residence certificate. Refer to the “Registration of Residence” section below for further details.

Expats from outside the EU or EEA who plan on moving to Oslo on a skilled workers visa need to provide proof of specialist training which at least corresponds to a Norwegian upper secondary education level. This may come in the form of a craft certificate, a university degree, or another proof of special qualifications.

However, in order to apply on the basis of special qualifications, you need professional experience in combination with further professional training obtained through long work experience. Unfortunately, a skilled workers visa is rarely granted on these grounds.

A written offer of employment is essential for a successful visa application. It needs to contain information on your position within the company, on your salary, and the number of working hours per week.

Most importantly, the employment contract must dictate that the work you will be doing requires skilled qualifications, thus validating your skilled workers visa. Your pay, as well as the working conditions, may not be worse than those agreed upon by the respective industry in Norway. The Norwegian Labor and Welfare Administration (NAV) offer specific details on the pay requirements and working conditions in Norway through their official guide.

The Application Process

If you are from a country outside of the EU or EEA, you should contact your nearest Norwegian Embassy or Consulate in order to apply for a skilled workers visa.

You are permitted to apply directly from Oslo if you have held a different type of residence permit for the preceding nine months or if you have skilled worker qualifications. To do so, however, you need to be a legal resident of Norway. Expats should note that there is a 3,700 NOK fee to apply for this residence permit.

In order to apply for a skilled workers visa, you need to provide the following original documents in either Norwegian or English:

  • passport
  • signed cover letter (if you have applied online) or completed application form
  • two passport photos
  • a completed UDI offer of employment form
  • record of your education history, including the level and duration
  • previous documentation of employment, your tasks, and professional qualifications
  • documentation proving the pay meets Norwegian requirements
  • CV
  • proof that you have somewhere to live a signed checklist

Most expats can file their visa application online. You will automatically receive an appointment to visit the embassy and hand in your paperwork.

If you would rather submit your application for a skilled workers visa in person, you should contact the embassy for an appointment. Refer to this list of Norwegian Embassies and Consulates to figure out which one is located closest to you.

Registration of Residence

Regardless of your country of origin, as soon as your move to Oslo is completed, you need to contact the National Population Register (Folkeregisteret). The Folkeregisteret is run by the Norwegian Tax Administration, and you are required to notify them of your move. Their office in Oslo is located at Schweigaards gate 17 (0191 Oslo).

There, you will receive your personal ID number (Personnummer) as soon as you have registered your place of residence and had your ID verified. This ID number is important when you get ready to do your taxes or plan to open a bank account. It is really essential for all expats who have moved to Norway from abroad.

In order to register, you need to provide the following documents:

The Service Center for Foreign Workers (SUA), also located at Schweigaards gate 17 (0191 Oslo), provides an efficient service for expats who wish to move to Norway. The SUA contains the following bodies: the police, the Directorate of Immigration (UDI), the Tax Administration (Skatteetaten), and the Labour Inspection Authority (Arbeidstilsynet).

Public Transport in Oslo

Oslo is a city small and beautiful enough that many expats may well choose to travel on foot. For those in a rush, however, Oslo has an excellent public transportation system, allowing you to explore Norway’s capital by bus, subway, tram, and even by ferry — using a car in Oslo is therefore not necessary.

The more unusual kind of transportation, the ferry, commutes between Rådhusbrygge 4 (City Hall Pier 4) and the Oslofjord islands. Island hopping is a particularly popular summer activity: most of the islands are very quickly reachable by ferry from Oslo’s piers, and services run until late at night in the summer. However, most expats may prefer the traditional modes of transportation for their commute.

Traveling Around by Bus and Tram

The public bus, tram, ferry, and metro network is operated by Ruter, spreading across the entire city of Oslo, well into its suburbs and the surrounding county of Akershus. Although there is no central bus station, Jernbanetorget station is probably the most crowded one: located next to Oslo’s main overground railway station (Sentralstasjon), it is where most lines meet.

With Oslo’s trams and buses, you can easily explore the city and travel to popular sites, such as the National Theater or Oslo Opera House. The tram, bus, and metro also service Oslo’s 15 districts, so expats living outside the city center will not struggle to get around.

Keep in mind that the public transport service is very limited at night. Fortunately for all night owls among you, there are the night bus lines which run between 01:00 and 04:00 on weekends and support the tram system. These services are commonly called Nattlinjer or Nattbusser. There is no special night fare in Oslo, and daytime fares apply. Routes 31 and 37 run 24 hours a day all year round. For more information, please refer to Ruter.

Tram, Bus, Metro, Ferry: The Same Ticket

Expats living in Oslo are free to travel however they prefer, be it via metro, tram, bus, train, or boat. Oslo’s public transportation system charges its users the same fare, regardless of which mode of transportation they choose.

Ruter’s tickets are also valid on NSB (Norwegian State Railways) in Oslo and Akershus. The only exception to this city-wide system is airport transportation, which has its own rates for the express bus to and from the airport. Public transport tickets are usually not personalized, allowing you to loan them to your family members and friends.

You can choose between tickets for single trips and period tickets or passes, such as a 30-day ticket. The cost of a single ticket for an adult traveling within one zone is 33 NOK; the ticket is valid for one hour from the time of purchase. As a rule of thumb, you pay for a maximum of four zones (or all zones) when purchasing a single ticket and a maximum of three zones when buying a period ticket, regardless of how far you travel.

If you buy a ticket on board of a train or bus, you have to pay a surcharge of 22 NOK. Children between 4 and 15 and senior citizens above the age of 67 get a significant discount of around 50%.

Oslo’s Twelve Transportation Zones

Oslo’s public transportation system includes 12 zones: eight belong to Oslo and Akershus, and the other four are a cooperation between Oslo and the neighboring counties. As mentioned above, you pay for a maximum of five zones when purchasing a single ticket, and for a maximum of three zones when buying a period ticket.

If your trip does not exceed this number of zones, you need to calculate your fare by counting the number of zones you’ll travel through, including those in which you get on and off. A single ticket does not specify in which zones you will be traveling, merely the number. The Oslo zone (zone 1) makes up the large city zone and contains the entire metro network (T-bane) within.

Safety in Oslo: Pay Attention to Property Crime

Crime rates in Oslo are relatively low compared to other major European cities. However, you should keep in mind that you are, after all, living in a big city and need to exercise a healthy amount of common sense.

Petty theft and residential burglary are as common as in any other metropolis. In fact, over 25% of all property thefts reported nationwide in 2016 happened in Oslo. However, crime is mostly centered in inner city neighborhoods and high transit areas. Oslo’s central station, for example, is a common area for pick-pocketing.

On the one hand, violent crimes are rare in Norway in general and Oslo in particular. For example, there were 25 cases of homicide in the entire country in 2016 — five of them took place in the Oslo police district; On the other hand, violent crime in Oslo (e.g. cases of bodily harm) has increased in 2016 and receives a lot of media coverage. The number of reported sexual offences has also been increasing over the past decade.

Another safety issue was raised in 2011, in the form of terrorist attacks by a Norwegian right-wing extremist, where 77 people — 32 of them teenagers — were killed. Moreover, like other countries in the Schengen Area, Norway’s (mostly) open borders may also allow terrorists and extremists from outside to enter the country. However, Norway has recently not been targeted by Islamist terrorists, unlike other European countries, such as France and the UK. While you should be alert, there is no reason to be alarmed. The government does its best to assure the safety of every resident in Oslo.

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  • David Hicks

    Thanks to my network on InterNations, I already had some contact persons to ask for support on coming to Oslo.

  • Amelie Barreau

    Enjoying the great spirit of our InterNations’ Oslo Community for the last few months, I am absolutely convinced of the vision to bring people from different nations together.

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