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NORWEGIAN CITIZENSHIP

REVEALED: Do higher language requirements make Norwegian citizenship less appealing?

Norway will raise the language requirements for citizenship in October. Foreign residents in the country have told The Local whether the new rules will put them off applying in the future. 

Pictured is Ålesund.
Here's what The Local's readers had to say about Norway's new language requirements for citizenship. Pictured is Ålesund. Photo by Mike Benna on Unsplash

The language requirements for Norwegian citizenship will become stricter from October 1st. The required level will be raised from A2 to B1, in line with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

For those that register their application and submit it via the online application portal before September 24th but are unable to hand in their documents to the police before October 1st, the UDI will count their application as handed in before the new rules take effect- meaning they are required to pass the language test at A2. 

READ MORE: How long does it take to meet Norway’s new language requirements for citizenship? 

So, how have those hoping to become a Norwegian citizen in the future taken the news, and do they think the new rule is fair? 

Shortly after the change was announced, The Local ran a survey among readers and subscribers to find out whether they thought the new requirements would put them off applying. The results of the survey delivered a clear “no”. 

Just under 75 percent of readers said that the higher requirements would not put them off applying, while 26.7 percent said that the new rules would deter them from attempting to become a Norwegian citizen in the future. 

Additionally, only one-fifth said that language requirements for citizenship were a bad thing. 

When using social media as a bellwether, you should always exercise caution. Still, even there, most comments and replies to articles announcing the change were reasonably positive towards the change. 

One common thing readers undeterred by the language requirements shared in common is that they felt knowing the language to a certain degree should be expected of a citizen. 

“Knowing the language goes hand in hand with living in a foreign country and certainly with becoming a citizen. If citizenship is important to you, the language must be as well. B1 level is achievable and a reasonable level to expect a citizen to have,” Even, who originally hails from the USA but lives in Vestland County, told The Local. 

Similarly, many felt the requirement for B1 isn’t too demanding, either because by the time they are eligible for citizenship, they should be comfortable at that level or because they feel that the country gives a lot in return. 

“By the time I’ve spent enough time here to apply, the language requirement will not be an issue,” Peter, who has lived in Norway for a year, said. 

Meanwhile, Lester from South Africa wrote: “Norway gives me so much but asks so little in return. A few hundred hours of language training is well worth living in one of the best countries in the world.” 

Others also wrote that B1 was a reasonably attainable level if you put in a couple of hours a week to reach the language requirements.  

However, not everyone felt the same. A common frustration among those who think that the Norwegian language requirements would hamper their chances of becoming a Norwegian citizen was that they thought the new requirements moved the goalposts. 

A reader from Brazil said that the process led them to decide to leave Norway for good.

“This process (applying for citizenship) became so frustrating for me. It was hard for me to pass Norwegian A2 level. Then when everything was ready for me to apply for citizenship, they changed the (residence) rule from 7 to 8 years and now (new) language (requirements). I got totally discouraged and now decided that I will move out of Norway as well,” the reader wrote. 

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NORWEGIAN LANGUAGE

READERS REVEAL: Can you get by in Norway with just English? 

It's very common to hear English spoken all over Norway. The Local's readers shared their thoughts on whether you'll be able to get by without learning Norwegian. 

READERS REVEAL: Can you get by in Norway with just English? 

Norway has recently been ranked among the best countries in the world for English language skills. In addition, many international firms have Oslo offices where the official working language is English. 

Wherever you find yourself in Norway, you are unlikely to be far from a proficient English speaker, even in more rural areas. 

This may lead to some assuming that they’ll be able to get by in Norway without learning Norwegian. 

We asked our readers whether this was the case. 

‘Everybody speaks English in Oslo’ 

Most of those who responded to our survey said it would be possible to get by in the country without learning Norwegian. 

“Yes, you can get by, but speaking some Norwegian is often appreciated,” Arjen, living in Jessheim, said, responding to our survey. 

“Yes, absolutely. Everybody speaks English in Oslo, where I was an Erasmus exchange student,” Bence Szabo responded. 

In addition, they also added that it would be possible to find work with English as the primary working language. 

“If you are working for a multinational abroad and have skills and experience to create value in Norway, you can certainly make a transfer to Norway work. However, I think it is expected that you learn Norwegian at some point,” one foreign resident who didn’t leave a name wrote. 

However, you will be more limited in the type of work you are likely to be offered. 

“Yes and no, depending on skills. (It is) very easy to find IT jobs, but as an electrical engineer, I faced many rejections because I don’t speak the language,” Maz Khan in Oslo wrote. 

“No. Most of the jobs require a well-spoken Norwegian. Only hard labour workspaces don’t care about the language, but they don’t pay well,” Dora Szabolcsi in Hønefoss said. 

Meanwhile, others pointed out that getting a job in tech was feasible while working in a Norwegian organisation would be off-limits without language skills. 

 ‘You can feel like you don’t belong to society’

Many of those who said that you could get by in Norway with just English were quick to add the caveats that living in the country without learning the language was a short-term solution or that you’d feel left out of society. 

“Yes, you can, but you still feel like you don’t belong to society,” Maz Khan wrote. 

“You can get by in daily life but struggle with the ‘big’ topics. Norwegians don’t like to have serious conversations, argue or deliver bad news in English, so you are at a big disadvantage in many situations where it’s important to understand 100% of what’s going on,” one foreigner in Akser responded. 

Sazi Luke in Fjellstrand said that learning the language would be essential for making friends and progressing your career. 

“(You can get by) in the beginning only. To make friends, build  work relationships and be competitive in the job market, it is beneficial to learn the language,” they wrote. 

Veronica Jaramillo Jimenez in Tønsberg said that ten years in the country without mastering led to feeling like an outsider. 

“Yes, you can manage, I have done so for ten years. However, it is really not ideal if you want to be included in everyday life; moreover, you are always seen as an outsider if you do not master the language, which is why my goal within the next 12 months is to become fluent in Norwegian,” she wrote. 

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