Policy Description

Migration Policies: Norway (2016)








At the beginning of 2015, there were approximately 805,000 immigrants and Norwegians born to immigrant parents living in Norway (hereafter called immigrants), which amounts to 15.6 % of the total population. Every fourth immigrant lives in Oslo (Statistics Norway 2015). Norway was initially not known as a destination country but instead as a population prone to migration. Nearly 850,000 Norwegians immigrated to foreign countries between 1825 and 1945 (Cooper 2005). Norway maintained a relatively homogenous population until the 1970s.

Starting in the 1960s, most immigration to Norway originated in its neighbouring Nordic countries. These flows stemmed from a common labour market, established in the 1950s (Norden.org 2015). In the late 1960s, the combination of a booming economy and a population shortage led Norway to accept many labour migrants from Morocco, Yugoslavia, Turkey, and especially Pakistan. These guest workers, although they were expected to be there only temporarily, remained in the country and were eventually followed by other migrants, including refugees and family reunification candidates. Stories of migration mismanagement from other European countries, coupled with the threat of sudden flow increases of immigrants from developing countries, motivated the government to apply a restrictive immigration policy in 1973 (Cooper 2005). This was the first legislation to formally restrict immigration to Norway. This halt, similar to other actions taken across Europe at the time, shifted migrant applications to other channels such as asylum and family reunification. There were public protests over the growing numbers of asylum seekers, whose numbers peaked during the decade at 8,600 in 1987 (Cooper 2005).

As migration flows to Norway and greater Europe increased in the 1970s, Norwegian opposition to membership in what is now the European Union (EU) took shape. This opposition coincided with the ‘immigration halt ’in 1973. Because Norway strongly emphasises both humanitarian values and equal treatment for migrants within the country's borders, the anti-EU movement believed that EU membership would weaken these principles. In 1994, after rejecting EU membership, Norway joined the European Economic Area (EEA), which allowed Norway and other countries to participate in the internal market without taking on the full responsibility of EU membership (Tvedt 2015).

After Sweden and Finland joined the EU in 1995, Norway subscribed to the Schengen Agreement to maintain the Nordic Passport Union (Knudsen 2015). Since 1 April 2002, Norway has also implemented the Dublin Convention, which helps to determine which European state is responsible for determining an asylum claim (Bahus 2015). Thus, while Norway continues its unique political position as a non-EU Member State, its immigration and asylum control policies are becoming increasingly aligned with those of the EU (Cooper 2005).

The country’s migration policy is based on the idea that the welfare state has limited resources. Hence, two basic principles have remained consistent throughout Norway's development into an immigrant-receiving country: 1) immigration must be limited, and 2) all immigrants who are admitted to Norway should have equal legal and practical opportunities in the society (Cooper 2005).

The concept of integration has changed over the past three decades. Every White Paper since the 1970s has emphasised respect for immigrants and their language and culture. However, over time the government has put increasing stress on the duty of immigrants to participate and learn the Norwegian language (Bahus 2015). This enacted duty can be labelled as assimilation –the process whereby a minority group gradually adapts to the customs and attitudes of the prevailing culture and customs (Brochmann 2014). In the White Paper presented in 1980, Norwegian integration is focused not on assimilation but on both adaptations to Norwegian culture and protecting immigrants from the forces of assimilation. Another White Paper from 1988 emphasised "respect for immigrants' language and culture."

Later, by the White Paper of 1996-1997, the concept of integration included the obligation to participate, partly to achieve a successful multicultural society, and partly to improve the success of the welfare state. In practice, this includes measures specifically aimed at immigrants, including language training, labour market integration, and initiatives to prevent racism and xenophobia (Cooper 2005). It can be discussed whether this is to claim assimilation in some areas (such as at work and in school) and not in others (such as regarding family customs, child care, and so forth) (Brochmann 2014).

The two major underpinnings of Norwegian migration policy — restrictive admissions and equal treatment — have been present throughout Norway’s development into a significant reception country for migrants and asylum seekers. The result is a policy based on values that balance entry controls with generous integration and social services for immigrant populations. Further, more Norwegians than before think it should be easier for refugees and asylum seekers to obtain a residence permit in Norway. While only 7 % expressed this opinion in 2012 and 2013, the share supporting this view in 2014 increased to 18 % (Statistics Norway 2015).

Naturalisation Policies

Norwegian citizenship is difficult to obtain, requiring migrants to have had permanent residence in Norway for seven continuous years and a record of good conduct.

Any individual has the right, upon application, to Norwegian nationality if the applicant at the time the administrative decision is made:

a) has provided documentary evidence of or otherwise clearly established his or her identity, cf. fourth paragraph,
b) has reached the age of 12,
c) is and will remain a resident of the realm,
d) fulfils the conditions for a settlement permit laid down in section 12 of the Immigration Act,
e) has spent a total of seven years in the realm in the last ten years, with residence or work permits of at least one year’s duration, residence during one or more application-processing periods to be included in the seven-year period, cf. fifth paragraph,
f) satisfies the requirement regarding Norwegian language training laid down in section 8,
g) has not been sentenced to a penalty or special criminal sanction or has observed the waiting period, cf. section 9, and
h) satisfies the requirement regarding release from another nationality laid down in section 10.

Children born in Norway to two foreign parents must wait until age 18 to apply for citizenship.

Exemptions to the rules are made for former Norwegian nationals and individuals married to Norwegian nationals. Nordic-country nationals may, in some cases, be exempt from the requirement concerning the length of residence (Lovdata 2015).



Emily Moren Aanes
External Consultant

Anders Gravir Imenes
External Consultant

Data collected in the framework of the Population Europe Research Finder and Archive (PERFAR) in 2016.

Please cite as:
SPLASH-db.eu (2016): Policy: "Migration Policies: Norway" (Information provided by Emily Moren Aanes & Anders Gravir Imenes). Available at: https://splash-db.eu [Date of access].