Faremo eases new immigration rules

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Justice Minister Grete Faremo has finally responded to a stream of complaints, also from the state’s own immigration agency UDI, that new income requirements for would-be immigrants can be too strict. In many cases, Norwegians married to foreigners haven’t been able to move home with their spouses and children, even when the children have Norwegian passports and at least one parent has work.

Justice Minister Grete Faremo (left) wants immigration authorities to ease their practice of income requirements for family members of Norwegian citizens. Faremo is shown here with Ingunn-Sofie Aursnes, who was appointed in May to head the immigration appeals board UNE (Utlendingsnemnda). PHOTO: Justisdepartementet

“We have had a discussion about the current regulations and come to the conclusion that the practice of them has been too rigid on some points,” Faremo told newspaper Aftenposten on Friday.

New rules imposed in 2010 have required Norwegian citizens and their foreign spouses to document not only what they will earn when they move home to Norway but what they have earned in previous years while abroad. Income requirements have been so high that they’ve threatened to split up families.

In one case, reported by Aftenposten last year, a Norwegian woman who’d been living for several years with her husband and their two children in New Zealand obtained a well-paying job at Statoil back in Norway. The family wanted to settle in Norway, but since she’d been on unpaid family leave in New Zealand during the year prior to their move, she didn’t meet income requirements to prove she could provide for the family, even though her salary at Statoil was double the income required for family reunification in Norway (currently NOK 242,400, or around USD 40,000). Her carpenter husband was, on several occasions, ordered to leave Norway and return to New Zealand, after they’d arrived and wanted to stay together.

The authorities discounted his potential earnings, seeming to generally assume that foreign spouses won’t be able to earn much themselves after their arrival in Norway, at least until they learn Norwegian, despite earlier career success. Many immigrants have a hard time finding work even after learning Norwegian, while others do well, so the situation is mixed.

Faremo admitted that the income requirements imposed two years ago have had “some unintentional effects” when case workers at UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) evaluate immigration applications from foreign family members of Norwegian citizens. Now the justice ministry is instructing UDI to allow exceptions for “established” families with Norwegian children and for those who can meet income requirements in Norway. Faremo said the UDI workers will also be allowed to use more common sense (skjønn) in cases where the rules threaten to split up long-established families.

While the ministry aims to ease the practice of the income requirements, it’s also proposing that the income required for family establishment in Norway be raised by nearly 10 percent, from NOK 242,400 to NOK 261,700.

“We believe this increase is reasonable in light of the cost level in Norway,” Faremo told Aftenposten. She said the increase also boosts the main goal of the new income rules, which was to hinder cases of forced and de facto marriages.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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