Norway, a relatively new country of immigration, saw some increase in asylum seekers, then new restrictions to discourage them. The new Immigration Act, first proposed in 2004, came into force in 2010. Referring to general international obligations, the Act was seriously amended to focus on numbers of migrants. The Directorate of Immigration monitors migration trends and revises regulations when the need arises.

Since MIPEX II, many newcomers enjoy the same slightly favourable opportunities to participate in Norwegian society. Still, Norway lost 1 point and 1 place in the ranking because new family reunion conditions create conflicts of interest with integration goals. The Red-Green government, to be both ‘just’ and ‘strict’ on immigration, wants a more inclusive integration policy but reductions in numbers. The effect on residents already living in Norway is to keep them separated from their family for years. The government wants to avoid social dumping but penalises migrant workers using social assistance. Government policy and evaluations improve education quality for all, while excluding from the calculation many unaccompanied minors and ‘non-returnable’ migrants who live in Norway.

Timeline - What's Changed

0 February 2007
Revised ‘Equal education in practice!’ plan promotes Norwegian, mother tongue, multicultural education.
-3 January 2010
Labour market mobility
New Immigration Act: using social assistance now obstacle to permit renewal.
-4 January 2010
Family reunion
Same Act keeps families apart longer, imposes new job, education, housing conditions.
0 January 2010
Same Act reduces access to secondary and higher education for unaccompanied minors over 16.
0 January 2010
Revised Anti- Discrimination Act includes positive duty to promote and report on equality.

Key Findings

  • Conflict of interest: new family reunion conditions some of least favourable in Europe. 
  • Family permit and long-term residence gives favourable security, opportunities to participate. 
  • Available introduction programme sets some of most favourable learning conditions. 
  • New education policies target well pupils’ needs, new opportunities, multicultural education. 
  • Access for unaccompanied minors, ‘nonreturnables’, is a weakness for education. 
  • Social assistance obstacle to residence renewal: only half MIPEX countries, few immigration countries. 
  • Best political opportunities for foreigners. 
  • Dual nationality, birthright citizenship missing: key reforms in immigration countries.  
  • Average anti-discrimination laws, but strong commitment to equality. 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

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    Social assistance in a globalised labour market

    Immigrants do not have equal access to social security in half the MIPEX countries: mostly Central European countries, but few immigration countries (i.e. DK and UK). Since Norway’s 2010 Immigration Law, work or family migrants who need to use social assistance can have their permit withdrawn. The stated goal is ‘to discourage social dumping’. By contrast, Swedish social partners agreed in their 2008 immigration law to fight unfair competition between nationals and new migrants by offering the same employment terms and insurance protection (See also AT, FR, DE, NL).

    As in most established countries of immigration, Norway slightly encourages non-EU families, long-term residents and some migrant workers to improve their careers. They can change jobs and sectors, or use general training and study grants like Norwegians. Developing targeted measures (e.g. 2008 ‘Welcome in’ for migrant women) may be evaluated to measure their impact. Still, non-EU qualifications may be recognised for Norwegians and EU nationals, but not non-EU nationals, forcing this group into jobs below their skills. They may also have difficulties accessing public employment services (for new policies, see DK and SE). If they find work, the law guarantees them equal working conditions but now unequal access to social security (see box). 

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    Immigrants settled in Norway now have less favourable starting points for integration because of new conditions, rare in Europe. Overall, reuniting families in Norway face the 5th most restrictive conditions in Europe (with only AT, DK, FR, and CH further below). Several in Norway also go beyond the scope of law in the EU. Families can be kept apart until the sponsor has worked for 4 years and they must have secured adequate housing. For many asylum seekers, this requirement may mean 7 years (year for a decision, plus 2 years for an introduction programme). For new marriages, sponsors must have worked or studied for 2 years. These conditions, with the aim of decreasing the number of family reunions and asylum seekers, may be a conflict of interest with goals to promote integration.

    Besides these less favourable conditions, immigrants go through similar policies as in Europe. Families are largely defined the same way under Norwegian family law and family reunion policies, although non-EU families may have a harder time documenting their connections. A proposal for a 21-year age limit would have brought Norway below the European average. Only 8 in total impose them, often for objectives difficult to measure in practice (see UK).

    If families can access the procedure, they have better opportunities to integrate than on average in Europe. Like in most European countries, they are slightly secure in their status and largely the equal of their sponsor. They too can work and participate in education and training programmes. The introduction and language programme is one of the most favourable in the MIPEX countries, scoring 75. It provides them the basic knowledge and support they need to succeed in Norway. More might successfully participate if it was free for all who needed it (e.g. DK, FI, FR, SE) with more public learning materials (e.g. online, AT, DK). Norway creates better conditions for independence and gender equality within families than 26 MIPEX countries because of its policy on autonomous residence.

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    Including all pupils

    The 2010 Immigration Law reduced access to secondary and higher education for unaccompanied minors over 16. Undocumented immigrants who cannot be returned also cannot access education levels like vocational training. Though living in Norway, these groups are denied a full education during critical years for their personal development. Half the MIPEX countries allow equal access to the whole education system. Most of the other leading countries on migrant achievement and participation (e.g. CA, DK, FI, US) do not create such problems with legal access.

    Reforms to improve general education quality and outcomes slightly improved targeting needs and ‘opportunities brought by Norwegians with other cultural backgrounds.’ These goals figure in ‘Equal education in practice!’, developed since 2004 by monitoring national and international assessments (e.g. PISA). Migrants learn Norwegian at all school levels, while receiving mother tongue support, to continue developing cognitively. Multicultural education is strengthened in curricula, a national body (NAFO) and objectives for more trained and diverse teachers. Students may or may not fully see these changes without better school support and evaluation (i.e. policies based on migrant parent projects from NAFO and parents’ committee, FUG). Future policies may also address access for undocumented migrants (see box). 

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    National Contact Committee for Immigrants and the Authorities

    Immigrants are nominated regionally to become members of KIM and have experienced community leaders as chairs. Its final members represent all ages, ethnicities, genders and nationalities. Since 1984, KIM has been required by law to propose its own issues and act on requests for consultation. Likewise, the relevant public authorities are required to respond. KIM facilitates dialogue and provides advice on matters affecting immigrants not only to government, but also to researchers, parties and other stakeholders.

    With the top score, alongside other Nordic countries, Norway grants equal political opportunities and supports immigrants to organise and improve policies. All legal residents join or form parties, associations and media (as in 19 other MIPEX countries). After 3 years, all newcomers can vote in all but national elections (as in DK, FI, IE, NL, SE). National and city leaders in e.g. Oslo and Drammen consult with immigrants through robust and independent consultative bodies. Some regions and cities model theirs on the national body (KIM, see box). Others grant consultative status to immigrant umbrella NGOs, as in IE (local) and BE (regional). A few make political appointments without direct input from these communities. 

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    Norway’s permanent residence is just a slightly favourable route to full participation, which is average for European countries. Permanent residents have many equal rights, as in most, and just slightly better residence security. Norwegian-born cannot be expelled, but most can on many grounds, with judicial review but without full legal aid. Eligibility provisions and conditions are also average. Several types of immigrants in Norway for the required 3 years cannot apply. Those who can should expect 11 months for an answer, while only some have free access to favourable introduction programmes (see earlier). Still, compared to test-based systems (e.g. DK), Norway’s courses provide slightly better learning environments (see also CZ, FR, PT, UK’s ESOL route).

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    Trends in reform

    Reforming countries are removing renunciation requirements because they act as major obstacles to naturalisation and are not incentives for integration. According to the 2008 Luxembourg nationality law, foreigners who apply can contribute to society over long-term while maintaining attachments to their country of origin. Countries are also making the second and/or third generation citizens at birth (e.g. since 1999, DE, SE, FI, PT, LU, and GR). The goals here are often to promote social inclusion and equal recognition among future generations.

    The path to Norwegian citizenship for immigrants and their descendants is weak, missing key provisions in established immigration countries. Most countries that open political opportunities to foreigners have also opened a path to citizenship, unlike Norway. The increasing majority of MIPEX countries embraces dual nationality (now 18) and some birthright citizenship (15). For the first generation in Norway, the residence requirement (7 years) and security of status is around average for Europe. Slightly better conditions encourage integrating immigrants to pass e.g. introduction programme, qualifying period for minor crimes. Any future test may undermine – rather than improve on – this success. In-depth research and evaluation is beginning on the full impact of nationality law on immigrants. 

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    Norway, at the European average, would catch up on more established immigration countries by outlawing nationality discrimination and strengthening enforcement (e.g. greater sanctions and legal aid). In 15 MIPEX countries, immigrants cannot be treated unequally in most areas solely because they are not nationals. Norwegian government commitments to equality are among the strongest in Europe and North America. New 2009 positive duties (also SE, UK) build on a national action plan and international standards (ICERD, ECRI). Authorities must promote equality in their work, while companies must report on their actions. The Equality and Discrimination Ombudsman has slightly favourable powers to help victims, except representing them in court (unlike in 12 e.g. BE, HU, NL, SE).