UDI eases work immigration process

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Norway’s immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) has promised to finally make it at least a bit easier for Norwegian employers to secure needed talent from abroad. That’s welcome news for both employers and would-be immigrants who now face frustratingly long delays.

It’s not only large industrial firms like Aker Solutions, Statoil or Det Norske Veritas (DNV) that need workers with special skills from all over the world. Academic and cultural institutions like the Oslo International School in Bærum, the University of Oslo and the Norwegian Opera and Ballet also need help from abroad on a regular basis, and it’s no easy task.

Problems for workers outside Europe
Jobs can be agreed between employee and employer, but when the prospective employees come from countries outside those covered by the economic cooperation agreement that Norway has with the EU (called the EØS-avtale), the process is cumbersome indeed. While workers from most European countries have an automatic right to work across borders, also in Norway, those from all other countries have to prove special skills and undergo a completely different screening process in order to obtain and retain Norwegian working and residence permission.

Overseas workers from the US, for example, have to apply for work permission in Norway from home and often must wait in the US for months while their applications are being processed, usually through the Norwegian Embassy in Washington. That’s difficult for both the prospective work immigrant and his or her prospective employer, because of the uncertainty and time involved.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Monday, though, that employers in Norway will now be assigned their own contact person within UDI who can help streamline the process. The goal is for Norwegian employers to more quickly obtain the competence they need when the local market can’t deliver.

The new contact persons will also help the new work immigrants to apply for and receive their necessary “personal numbers” and tax documents (skattekort), essential for opening bank accounts in Norway and getting paid.

‘Positive’
Paul Chaffey of the employers’ organization Abeila called the move positive. “Our objection has been that the system for work immigration has been created to keep people out of Norway, instead of welcoming them to Norwegian business life,” Chaffey told Aftenposten. Chaffey, a former Member of Parliament, was recently among speakers at a conference on global mobility and Norway’s need to attract global talent, and has called repeatedly for measures to make hiring easier.

Ida Børresen, outgoing director of UDI, said employers will gain access to UDI staffers for help in handling “the complicated regulatory framework they face when a foreign worker shall enter Norwegian society.” She admits that it’s taken too long to handle cases involving workers from countries outside the EU and European Free Trade Association.

Now resources will be sharpened to better meet employers’ needs, she said. Companies that register with UDI will get a chance to ask the agency’s specialists about how the rules work. The assistance should result in more foreign talent not only at Norwegian companies but also on local stages.

“We are utterly dependent on international talent, not least when dancers get injured,” Espen Giljane, chief of Norway’s national ballet company, told Aftenposten. “Think about big performances like The Nutcracker, or Swan Lake. We need foreign dancers all the time. And then we need quick handling of the work permits they need by the authorities.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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