Bankruptcy hits foreign students hard

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Lingu AS, a private language school that specializes in teaching Norwegian to foreigners, abruptly declared bankruptcy and closed its Oslo operation this month. Students who had paid more than NOK 30,000 for their language classes couldn’t complete them, and also face losing deposits.

“The school went bankrupt before I had finished the course I’d paid NOK 34,500 (USD 5,750) for,” one stranded student from Iran, who didn’t want to be identified by name, told newspaper Aftenposten.

Deposit account empty
Lingu Oslo also had collected deposits paid in by foreign students seeking a special form of residency based on their education and professions, but which require proficiency in the Norwegian language (faglært oppholdstillatelse). The deposits are meant to assure Norwegian immigration officials that the would-be foreign workers have financial means as they seek work in Norway.

Lingu, however, allegedly “used up the deposit I paid to show Norwegian authorities that I won’t become a burden on Norwegian society,” the student from Iran told Aftenposten.

Lingu confirmed on its now-stripped-down website that “for our overseas students and applicants, there will not be any possibility to get a refund for any paid course fees, deposits or any other paid fees. If you have a claim for refund, please forward (it) to the trustee of the estate.”

Apologized
The bankrupt language school claimed that the students’ applications for working permission in Norway “should not be affected” by the bankruptcy otherwise and that “the immigration authorities will still process your application.” The company apologized to its employees, customers, suppliers and shareholders on the website, citing “unforeseen difficulties with executing the original plan (to) let the customers finish their courses.” Its relatively new operation Stavanger, however, was said to be unaffected by the bankruptcy.

Odd Fritjov Bjerga, founder and leader of the bankrupt language school, told Aftenposten that the board “tried to shield the students for a long time” from the school’s financial difficulties, which he blamed on immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet). Bjerga claimed it took much too long for UDI to process the students’ work visa applications, while “income never materialized and costs kept rising.”

Bankruptcy administrators are investigating Lingu for failing to secure the students’ deposit money, though, and have received funding from Norway’s Justice Ministry to carry out the probe.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund