The government minister in charge of equality and integration, Audun Lysbakken, wants to double the number of hours of language training required of new immigrants to Norway. He agrees that 300 hours of Norwegian classes are not enough to learn Norwegian.
“We want more people to have a better Norwegian language offer,” Lysbakken told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Wednesday. His comments come after reports earlier this week that nearly 350 immigrants have been denied either citizenship or permanent residence in Norway, because they hadn’t fulfilled language requirements.
The requirements currently demand that new immigrants either undergo 300 hours of documented language classes or can otherwise prove that they understand enough Norwegian to pass a Level II or III exam. Those rejected for citizenship or permanent residence either hadn’t completed the 300 hours of classes or couldn’t pass the exam.
The language classes are offered free of charge to those granted asylum in Norway and their families, along with those qualifying for family reunification with a Norwegian citizen. Persons from outside the European Economic Area, who don’t qualify for automatic residence in Norway, and have a work permit are entitled to take part in 300 lessons of instruction but generally must pay for the lessons themselves. They will need to document language skills if they apply for permanent residence or citizenship. For more information, see the government’s website on its “Introductory programme.” (external link).
Lysbakken called Norwegian language competence “the most important” element of the integration process in Norway. “That increases chances for getting a job and getting along in Norway,” he told NRK.
Now new immigrants may be required to undergo 600 hours of language classes, instead of 300. Lysbakken intends to push such legislation through before the end of the current government’s term, which runs through late 2013.
“We see that for many new arrivals, the requirement we have today isn’t enough to learn good Norwegian,” he said.