Doctor Geir Paul Frivold calls out to the Norwegian government to change the rules.
“If we can allow dual citizenship for Norwegians abroad, it would increase the chances that they would return and contribute by sharing their acquired knowledge, skills and networking resources. This will only benefit our country” -Geir Paul Frivold
Young Aspiring Doctor
After high-school, Geir Paul Frivold spent a summer working as an assistant in a hospital, and this perked his interest in working with disease prevention. He wanted to study medicine in the US, and started his studies in California.
After three years in California Frivold and one year at an American affiliated college in Beirut, Lebanon, Frivold started his doctoral program in Public Health at Loma Linda University. He enrolled in a combined medical school and Public Health program, graduating with a degree in Medicine and Public Health (MD/MPH). After graduation, Frivold practiced medicine in California and was licensed there.
He always had in the back of his mind a plan for going back to Norway, so he returned to take additional courses to qualify for the Norwegian license. He also served his year in the Norwegian civil service, performing health work. Frivold was impressed by the American education system, and chose to complete his studies at Loma Linda University Medical Center where he completed his specialty training in internal medicine and completed a training program in cardiovascular disease. In 1990 Frivold returned to Norway.
Working in Norway
In order to get his American education approved in Norway, Frivold worked one year in Øvre Eiker Municipality, and two years at the cardiac unit at Ullevål hospital in Oslo. “In 1993 I was offered a position at a Veterans hospital affiliated with Loma Linda University. I thought this might be rewarding for my career, and I saw it as an exciting opportunity for me and my wife, a pediatric nurse at Oslo University Hospital. Veterans’ hospitals normally only hire American citizens, but I got the job because they needed qualified staff. Public hospitals pay less that private ones in the US, so it can be hard to find the right people to do the job,” he says.
“My contract was for two years, and I started to plan my return to Norway. To my surprise my application for specialty certification in Norway was rejected. To be able to work in Norway, I would have to move around a lot, and work at different hospitals to get the right experience. At this time I had already moved around a lot, and with my wife and two kids, I didn’t feel motivated to continue this. After years of trying I eventually got the certification for internal medicine and cardiology also in Norway,” Frivold says.
Frivold decided to continue his work in California. He found it meaningful to give something back to the institution where he had done his studies, and felt his efforts were much appreciated. When his working permit expired, the hospital sponsored his immigration status, with recommendations from the Hospital CEO/director and the local congressman. Every third year the hospital had to prove they didn’t find any other qualified applicants. The two years he had intended to stay have extended to more than 20. But then the situation changed. The Veterans Administration tightened the rules.The hospital gave him an ultimatum to apply for an American citizenship.
Here lies the dilemma; choose between applying for American citizenship or lose your job. Frivold is not the only one in this situation, as he says; the hospital has an international staff. “Two of my German colleagues previously applied to the German government and were allowed to keep their German passports, as well as apply for American citizenship and keep their jobs.”
Strong Ties to Norway
The Frivold family maintained a strong connection to Norway throughout the years. “We speak Norwegian at home with the kids, we often travel to Norway and our Norwegian family comes to visit regularly. Over shorter periods of time my wife and kids have also lived in Norway, while I have commuted from California. My son spent the two last years of high school in Norway, and my daughter is attending Norwegian High School.
-What does the Norwegian Citizenship mean to you personally?
“I am and will always be Norwegian ‘at heart’. Everybody knows me as Norwegian. A piece of paper will not change this. Whenever I go to Norway I always come home. It would feel wrong to not be considered Norwegian by the authorities. To no longer be welcome, but be going to have to apply for residency every time I go to Norway for a longer period of time will be painful, not only emotionally, but also practically. My children are considering settling in Norway, and my wife wants to move back. If I were able to keep my Norwegian citizenship, I could work for periods of time in Norway, when the hospitals are in need of help. Without a Norwegian citizenship this is unlikely.”
Norwegian Ambassadors; an Asset for Norway
Frivold says that it is often stated by politicians how Norwegians abroad are an important asset for Norway. “I know that the politicians are right about this, and I appreciate that the Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende recently stated this in an interview with Norwegians Worldwide. His Majesty the King of Norway mentions the Norwegians abroad in his New Year speech, and I am among the many who appreciate this gesture. But this practice of politics doesn’t make it easy for Norwegians abroad to come back and contribute.”
Education, business, science, and employment lead to Norwegians moving abroad for shorter or longer periods of time. Frivold points out that we are dependent on people with expertise at different levels in Norway. He thinks it is reasonable that people, who come here to work and settle here, can then have access to a Norwegian passport. But he also thinks it s about time the Norwegian politicians follows their Nordic neighbors and grants the same rights to Norwegians who work abroad. “If we can allow dual citizenship for Norwegians abroad, it would increase the chances that they would return and contribute by sharing their acquired knowledge, skills and networking resources. This will only benefit our country,” Frivold concludes.