Immigrants face tougher rules

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Persons trying move to Norway for work or family reasons from countries outside Europe now face even tougher regulations. Income issues have been hindering or even halting would-be immigrants in recent months, including a young American who has a Norwegian wife and a baby born in Norway.

Only citizens of countries tied to the European Union or European Free Trade Association can freely move to Norway by merely registering with local authorities. Everyone else has to go through the immigration agency UDI, and the Justice Ministry recently raised the level of income required by the Norwegian spouse in order to prove that he or she can support the immigrant spouse. In a related issue, even foreigners with offers of well-paid jobs in Norway can no longer take a short-cut through the bureaucracy.

Recruiting tool removed
Labour Minister Anniken Huitfeldt confirmed last week that a rule introduced in 2010, which allowed would-be immigrants with a job offer that would pay more than NOK 500,000 a year (about USD 87,000) to bypass the queue of work immigrants, already had been abolished because it allegedly was abused.

“This was a rule that was supposed to make it easier for companies to recruit highly qualified labour from abroad,” Huitfeldt told newspaper Aftenposten. “But it hasn’t functioned in line with expectations and we see that it’s been abused. That’s unacceptable and we’re therefore repealing it.”

Huitfeldt’s predecessor, Hanne Bjurstrøm, had tightened the rule after Aftenposten had reported on cases where unskilled workers were being brought to Norway from Kosovo and Pakistan after their employers falsely declared they’d be paid high incomes in accordance with the rules. Instead they were poorly paid, and police said the rule was a “gift” to criminal networks. Huitfeldt claimed the rule is no longer needed, either, because processing time for immigrant work applications has been reduced.

Higher income requirements for spouses
Meanwhile, the authorities have raised the income demanded for a Norwegian to bring a foreign spouse to Norway by NOK 20,000. Norwegian spouses now must have earned at least NOK 262,000 or its equivalent in the year prior to their spouse’s arrival, in order for their foreign spouse to secure residence and work permission.

That’s caused problems for many couples, especially Norwegian students who have studied abroad, fallen in love and wanted to move home to Norway with their foreign partner. Mathilde Hallingstad Prenevost married her American husband Isaac Ashley Prenevost in Norway last summer, two months before their daughter Olivia was born. The couple met while studying in China, but Isaac Prenevost was denied work and residence permission in Norway because his Norwegian wife, as a student in China, didn’t meet the income requirement.

Isaac Prenevost, who holds a US passport, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) he was “shocked” (external link, mostly in Norwegian) that he didn’t get residence permission because he has a wife and daughter in Norway and will seek work himself. His wife said she can understand that Norwegian authorities want to be sure her husband isn’t moving to Norway to live off state welfare, but stressed that both she and her husband want to work.

They’re by no means alone. Camilla Bilstad Johannessen of the organization Grenseløs Kjærlighet, which works for family reunification, said the rules are splitting up many couples. She said it was a “paradox” that Norwegians are encouraged to study abroad, but that it can be difficult to establish a family life in Norway afterwards with non-Norwegian spouses.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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