Norwegians Worldwide has received many questions about the new citizenship law. We have therefore produced a podcast episode in collaboration with UDI, where we interview Kjetil Jacobsen, Head of Unit in the Area of Citizenship. This text is a summary and we recommend listening to the podcast for a thorough review.
You can find the Norwegian podcast “Dobbelt statsborgerskap: UDI svarer på spørsmål” on ITunes, Spotify or on Soundcloud.
For those who haven’t lived in Norway for a long time, what does UDI do?
The UDI is the central player in the immigration field in Norway. We also process applications for asylum / protection, family immigration, work and study permits, and consider expulsion and recall in cases where the conditions for a permit have been violated, or criminal acts have been committed.
What’s the background for the new citizenship law?
The citizenship law we have today came into force in 2006, and already there was a debate about whether dual citizenship should be allowed. In 2015, a proposal was made in the Norwegian Parliament to depart from the principle of one nationality, and the government was asked to investigate this issue. The introduction of dual citizenship then became part of the Jeløya platform of the government. The driving force is the increased globalization, with many people having relations to more than one country. This entails harmonization with the regulations in other Nordic countries; Sweden allowed dual citizenship in 2001, Finland and Iceland in 2003, and Denmark in 2015.
An important input from the UDI in this process has been that exemptions already had been granted in more than half of the cases.
Note the general conditions for obtaining Norwegian citizenship are unchanged, the new law does not mean that it has become significantly easier to become Norwegian.
It is also important to understand that when it comes to the issue of dual citizenship, the other relevant country’s rules determine whether a person can actually have dual citizenship. As mentioned, the other Nordic countries allow this, but otherwise it is important to investigate with the relevant country’s authorities what the rules are.
1 – Re-acquiring Norwegian citizenship (gjenerverv)
How can I get my Norwegian citizenship back if I’ve lost it because I took a different one?
This is done via an online application process on the UDI’s website. Here you will be guided through a checklist, and you will also be asked to meet at the nearest embassy or consulate general if you are living abroad, or police station for those living in Norway, where you must identify yourself and formally deliver the application.
What conditions must be met?
- You lost your Norwegian citizenship as a result of the acquisition of another nationality.
- You must clarify your identity. This is usually done by submitting a currently valid passport, preferably also a birth certificate, and expired Norwegian passport, if you still have it.
- Furthermore, no unconditional imprisonment, detention or criminal action may be imposed. Therefore, a Norwegian police certificate should be attached, even though you might not have been resident in Norway for many years. Such a certificate is easily applied for on the police websites. Persons who have been subjected to criminal sanctions abroad are obliged to inform about them.
- Finally; you must have stayed in Norway for a total of six months before the age of 22.
Note that re-acquisition applies only to those who lost their Norwegian citizenship because they took a different citizenship. Re-acquisition does not apply to people who had dual citizenship from birth but who lost it because they did not apply for, or fulfill the conditions for, retaining it after the age of 22.
The simplified digital application is good news. For most people this will be a simple procedure. But what about those who have old or incomplete Norwegian documents?
Include what you have that can document who you are (bring your passport from the country you currently live in) and all documents you have that can show that you have been Norwegian before. As long as you have been resident in Norway at one point, you will in most cases be registered in the national register with a Norwegian social security number. Therefore, it will not be a problem to identify that it is the same person even if you have, for example, changed your surname.
Can’t I simply renew my old passport at an embassy? Do I have to go through the process of re-acquisition?
Norwegian passports are not necessarily the same as Norwegian citizenship. A Norwegian passport is normally valid for 10 years, but if you have taken citizenship in another country, the Norwegian passport is lost even if you still have a Norwegian passport. One must thus apply for re-acquisition.
It is also quite a common misconception that you will automatically get a passport if you are granted citizenship. The citizenship case is handled by us in the UDI. After being granted citizenship, you can apply for a Norwegian passport through the police or a Norwegian embassy. In other words, having a passport is one of the rights that arises as a result of becoming Norwegian.
What will it cost to apply for re-acquisition of Norwegian citizenship?
There is a fee of NOK 2700, and you pay by card while filling out the application form.
Is it possible to apply non-digitally?
Yes, you may use a paper form, but we strongly urge you to use the new electronic form, also because it will be faster as it will be processed automatically.
2 – Children of Norwegian citizens
What are the general rules for children born with a Norwegian mother or father?
Children of Norwegian citizens are granted Norwegian citizenship, regardless of whether their father or mother is Norwegian, regardless of whether the parents were married or not, and regardless of whether they were born in Norway or abroad. They do not have to apply, they only need to apply for a Norwegian passport at the police or embassy. Many children living abroad probably also have another citizenship from another parent.
The rules for children of Norwegians have not changed. For those who are born into dual citizenship because their parents have different citizenship, or they are born in a country with the so-called territorial principle, such as the United States, even before this law change, dual citizenship were allowed.
Note that persons who have not lived in Norway for a total of two years must still apply to retain citizenship after the age of 22, and it is important that this application for retention be submitted before the 22nd birthday. In the application, they must document their own independent connection to Norway, ie a total of six months’ stay in Norway. If they only have Norwegian citizenship, they do not need to apply for retention, as losses under this provision do not occur if the person becomes stateless.
The six months requirement can be composed of multiple visits added, ex one month’s stay in Norway for a total of 6 years. These stays must be stated, but one will not require documentation as we understand that in many cases it will be difficult.
What if the Norwegian mother or father had taken another citizenship at the time of birth?
Then the children have never been Norwegian, and therefore can not get it back. So those who chose or had to take another citizenship then also lost the right to have their children registered as Norwegian if the parents were not Norwegian at the time of birth.
Many forgot or did not know they had to apply to keep their Norwegian citizenship after the age of 22?
Those who have a Norwegian passport can take a look at the last page of the passport, where there is actually information about the fact that you must apply for retention before you turn 22. That you were not aware of the rules, is in itself not reason enough to be able to submit an application after the age of 22. However, the Act opens up for processing a late application “if the applicant is not significantly to blame for this, or it would be unreasonable for citizenship to be lost due to neglect”, as it is called. This is a narrow exception provision, but can be used if it is probable that you are directly misinformed from the Norwegian authorities, or if, for example, you were seriously ill in the time before the deadline expired.
We argued for a change also for this group, why didn’t it happen?
This is a political decision and assessment made by the government and the Ministry. The reason for this is that the government still wants to limit the principle of descent, to ensure that Norwegian citizens have an independent, personal connection to Norway.
3 – How to become a citizen of Norway or another country
Those who were Norwegian as children but lost it, can they apply for Norwegian citizenship if they have strong connections to Norway?
Then it is the usual rules that apply. First, they must apply for a residence permit in Norway. If you are a former Norwegian citizen and do not qualify for “gjenerverv”, you can apply for citizenship after two years of residence in Norway following a residence permit, while the general rule is seven years for those who have not previously been Norwegian citizens.
In addition to requirements for residence time in Norway, there is also a requirement to prove your identity, that you must intend to remain resident in Norway, transcripts from police records as well as requirements for Norwegian written and oral language skills and a general test about the country called “Statsborgerprøven” . Spouses or cohabitants with a Norwegian citizen can become Norwegian already after 3.5 years if they have been resident in Norway with a Norwegian citizen throughout that period.
Where do I take the citizenship test (statsborgerprøven) and do you allow exemptions from the test?
On the website of Competence Norway (www.kompetansenorge.no), you will find relevant information on who must take the test, when to take it, how to register for the test, and also find sample assignments for both Norwegian and national sample.
There are some exceptions, for example, if you have attended a school in Norway and have passed exams in upper secondary school or passed a higher education in Norwegian, then you will be exempted from passing the Norwegian test.
What rights do Norwegian citizens hold?
- As a Norwegian citizen you cannot be expelled from Norway
- Norwegian citizens are entitled to a Norwegian passport
- Norwegian citizens can vote in the Storting elections – and become ministers, for that matter
- The most well-known duty of citizens of Norway is military service
- Norwegian citizenship is a prerequisite for certain positions, for example in the police state and foreign officials
- It may also have an impact on the right to support from the Government Loan Fund for Education
Finally; citizenship also has an impact on the Norwegian authorities’ ability to provide consular assistance abroad. It’s vital to know that consular assistance is limited if you have dual citizenship and you get in trouble in the other country of which you are a citizen.
If I move back to Norway, how about my partner or spouse?
As a Norwegian citizen, you can move to Norway at any time, and a foreign spouse or cohabitant can then apply for a family immigration permit. Then the conditions for family immigration apply, including the requirement for income. This is a separate topic and we recommend looking at the UDI’s website where there is a lot of information and you can read about terms that apply to your case. One of the most important conditions is the maintenance requirement, which means that the Norwegian spouse must document both past, present and future income.
Basically, the foreign spouse or cohabitant must be granted permission before moving to Norway, but if he or she comes from a visa-free country, it is possible to apply from Norway and stay here while the application is pending.
The new law also opens for Norwegians to apply for other citizenships? How should they proceed?
This must be investigated with the immigration / national authorities in the country in question. What rules apply to citizenship and do you qualify to apply? You also have to check if this country also allows dual citizenship. You can consult them with the country’s embassy or the other country’s authorities.
Do I lose any of my rights in Norway if I hold a second citizenship?
No, as a Norwegian citizen, you still have all the rights of other Norwegian citizens.
Do I have to inform Norway if I have become a citizen of another country?
Yes, we recommend that you inform the Norwegian Folkeregister, the national register.
“I became a citizen of another country 10 years ago, I was unaware that Norway did not allow dual citizenship. I also renewed my Norwegian passport on holiday in Norway recently. What are the consequences for me and my children, holding two citizenship for years?”
There are probably several people who have taken another citizenship without realizing that they lost the Norwegian one. They may now apply for re-acquisition. The fact that you did not report to the Norwegian authorities has no significance. However, if the children were born after you lost Norwegian citizenship, they have never been Norwegian and unfortunately are not covered by the “gjenerverv” scheme.
4 – Practical questions
Can I have more than two citizenships?
Yes, it is possible to have triple citizenship, or more for that matter.
What about traveling, what pitfalls to avoid?
The police have passport authority and are experts on this subject, but our advice is to use the same passport going out and in the return, and otherwise check the visa rules that apply to citizens of one country or another respectively.
Where can I find more information?
There is a lot of good information on the UDI’s website, www.udi.no, we also have a facebook page where you can get answers to general questions – citizenship / citizenship UDI. If the inquiry is a specific case, we can be contacted by phone or email. Email is sent through the contact form on our website. UDI’s web pages are also available in English.
How long case processing time do you expect?
A challenge for us is long processing times in many cases, so reducing these is a priority. This year, however, something new is revolutionary in the citizen field, with easy cases will go through automated processing and thus get answers relatively quickly. However, this scheme is not in place until early summer, so a few months of waiting must be expected. But significantly shorter than we have today and there are also some funds that come with this law change.