Asylum seekers and immigrants arriving in Norway will soon face new demands aimed at ensuring better integration and competence in the Norwegian language. Education Minister Jan Tore Sanner of the Conservative Party claimed a proposed “integration law” marks the “biggest change in integration policy in Norway since 2003.”
That’s when Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who was the minister in charge of local governments at the time, launched an “introduction program” that included obligatory participation in language classes and programs about Norwegian life and society.
‘New chapter on integration policy’
“Now we will raise ambitions higher,” Sanner said at a press conference on Friday. “We’re opening a new chapter on integration policy.”
The new “integration law,” which has been sent out for hearing, will mostly apply to those granted refugees status in Norway and family members who are later allowed to join them in Norway. Language programs will be “better suited” to the individuals’ education levels, so that refugees with higher education can complete programs more quickly than those who lack much formal education. Today’s standard two-year program will thus be replaced by new programs ranging from three months to a maximum of four years.
“The goal is to get more newcomers into the labour force as quickly as possible,” Sanner said.
Tougher citizenship requirements
The new law will also make it tougher to qualify for Norwegian citizenship, with those applying having to prove higher levels of language competency. They face being tested on their ability “to converse on a variety of topics and address unforeseen situations,” according to the proposal.
The new introduction program for immigrants may also include obligatory courses in parenting for those with children, along with programs aimed at teaching new job skills.
“Learning the Norwegian language is the key to integrating into society and getting a job,” Sanner said. “You also have to learn the language to gain freinds and a network where you live.” The deadline for commenting on the proposals through the ministry’s hearing process is November 15 (external link to the ministry’s own website).