Listhaug to tighten citizenship rules

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Norway’s controversial immigration minister, Sylvi Listhaug, is back on the job after a brief maternity leave and keen to make it even more difficult for foreigners to settle in Norway and become Norwegian citizens. Now she wants to raise residence requirements from the current seven years, to 10.

Immigration Minister Sylvi Listhaug is back at work, and out on the campaign trail, after taking only a four-month maternity leave. Now Listhaug, from the Progress Party that’s always been skeptical to immigration, wants to make it even more difficult to become a Norwegian citizen. PHOTO: Fremskrittspartiet

“Norwegian citizenship shall be difficult to attain,” Listhaug, who represents the conservative Progress Party, declared this week. “Therefore the requirement for residence in the country should be longer than seven years. People who become Norwegians should have long ties to Norway.”

She announced on Monday that the Justice Ministry, in which her office is placed, is thus proposing that the current seven-year requirement be extended to 10 years. The proposal is being sent out for hearing, with a deadline for comments set for October 16.

At the same time, the ministry is proposing that those applying for citizenship who’ve been convicted “of acts in defiance of fundamental national interests” be denied the right to become Norwegian citizens. Under current rules, earlier convictions of any type are subject to quarantine periods of varying lengths. That means foreign nationals who have committed a crime in Norway can eventually qualify for citizenship but must wait longer than the current seven years.

Listhaug also wants to extend those quarantine periods, claiming they’re too low as well. “I believe that if you’ve broken Norway laws and regulations, it should have consequences,” she said.

An effort ‘to prevent terrorism’
Listhaug linked her proposals, sure to spark debate, to efforts to prevent terrorism. “In order to prevent terror we have proposed revoking citizenship for people convicted  of acts that defy fundamental national interests,” Listhaug said. “I believe that such people must not be rewarded with Norwegian citizenship and that an application in such cases must be rejected. Terrorists shall not be given the opportunity to become Norwegians.”

Norway is obligated under international conventions to ease qualifications for citizenship for refugees, stateless applicants, people married to Norwegians and those who arrive in Norway before turning 18. The ministry stated on Monday that if the general residence requirement for citizenship is raised, it would also be “natural” to demand longer residence periods for these groups covered by international conventions. The ministry proposes raising them by two years.

Listhaug’s new proposals may not amount to anything if the current government coalition in which she serves fails to win re-election in September. The proposals come, meanwhile, after the Norwegian Parliament failed during its last session to act on proposals supported by some parties to finally allow dual citizenship in Norway. The dual citizenship issue, which affects thousands of long-term foreign residents of Norway and prohibits them from voting in national elections, is thus on ice with its fate also now up to formation of a new Parliament after the national election on September 11.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund