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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Parliament orders passport relief

Opposition politicians in Parliament are forming an unusual majority to order the government to reduce long waiting times for new passports in Norway. They want the justice ministry to expand opening hours at the police’s passport offices, and boost staffing.

Lots of Norwegians wish their old expired passports like these could just be extended right now. Instead they have to get new ones, and now they have a different design and features. PHOTO: Utdanningsdepartementet

Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl of the Center Party will need to meet Parliament’s demands. She cautioned, though, against raising false hopes of quicker passport issuance. The French company Thales that now produces Norwegian passports continues to face serious shortages of the special paper and components that ensure their security features.

Norwegians have been caught up in passport chaos since they first started emerging from the Corona crisis. Not only had many of their passports expired during the crisis, when it was difficult to renew them because of Corona restrictions, Norway’s new passport design and the company producing the passport booklets have encountered numerous hindrances.

At the same time, thousands are keen to finally travel abroad after two years of Corona restrictions and many arranged for trips before knowing that there would be major passport delays. Panic is rising among those holding expensive airline tickets and hotel bookings abroad as to whether they’ll be able to travel.

There are also thousands of new Norwegian citizens after dual citizenship was finally allowed in 2019. Many of them need the Norwegian identity document that a passport provides, especially when they’ll also be obliged to turn in former residence permits.

Police have resorted to issuing public appeals to those holding appointments for passport applications to give them up if they don’t need to travel within the next few months. That would allow others needing passports more urgently to get in line. Those who’ve waited for appointments for months, however, already are ulikely to give them up, even though some actually have been selling their places in line until such questionably legal sales were halted on the public online ad service Finn.

It’s all led to frustration and acknowledgment that the state is suddenly unable to provide its citizens with the passports they need to prove their citizenship. “The state hasn’t managed to offer its population the document that the state demands they must have in order to travel across the border,” wrote commentator Jo Moen Bredeveien in newspaper Dagsavisen on Wednesday, just as Norway was starting the long Ascension Day holiday. “It’s simply that absurd.”

He noted how it’s “extra aggravating” after the population has been “cooped up” for two years with Corona and longing to venture abroad. While he waited with his own family in Trondheim, where lines are a bit shorter than in Oslo, police station attendants actually started passing out ice cream bars to cheer people up.

The message from passport authorities, meanwhile, is clear: No one should pay in advance for any non-refundable overseas trips unless they have a valid passport in hand. Delivery time after applications are approved is currently seven weeks and that’s expected to increase. The passport rush isn’t expected to ease, reported news bureau NTB, until October or November.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

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