Expats turned away at Norway’s border

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Residency rules for non-citizens in Norway have been tightened dramatically during the past few months of the Corona crisis, as a means of halting imported infection. That’s left some foreign citizens locked out upon return from abroad even though they have homes, jobs and family in Norway.

Some of the relatively few foreign passengers arriving here at OSL Gardermoen have been stopped and sent back to their home countries, because their residency status is no longer honoured during the Corona crisis. PHOTO: Avinor OSL Lufthavn/Espen Solli

The new Corona regulations have turned the legal definition of bosettning (residency) upside down, reports state broadcaster NRK. Hundreds of expatriates returning to Norway have been stopped at the border, and several have been expelled to their home countries. They include a woman from Poland who lives and works in Norway but returned to Poland for just four days this month to attend the funeral of her mother who had died suddenly. She was put on a plane back to Poland after landing in Oslo.

Immigration lawyers in Oslo contend the new Corona containment measures and the border police’s practice of them violates EU regulations to which Norway, as a member of the European Economic Area, must comply. They also contend the new rules have not been adequately communicated, and that they violate human rights and Norway’s own constitution.

A Justice Ministry lawyer confirmed that the legal definition of residency in Norway was “sharpened” in November and again in February. The more liberal definitions used by both tax authorities and state welfare agency NAV have been overridden, so that only those with a personnummer in the state Folkeregister (the equivalent of a Social Security number in the US) are currently considered legal residents. The so-called “D-nummer” held by many foreign workers is no longer enough to ensure residency.

That means that if they leave Norway for whatever reason, there’s no guarantee they’ll be allowed back into the country upon return.

“We’re aware that the tightening of the rules has had great consequences (for foreign workers in Norway) and understand this is difficult for many,” Andreas Skjøld-Lorange of the Justice Ministry told NRK. Lawyers representing deported residents are reacting strongly against how EU citizens are being treated at the border and warn of legal action.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund