Meld. St. 12 (2010–2011)

Assistance to Norwegians abroad

To table of content

6 Administrative assistance

Most consular matters involve routine administrative tasks, such as issuing passports and other travel documents, solemnising marriage, providing notarial services, providing assistance in adoption cases and in connection with deaths, etc. Most of these tasks are straightforward and are therefore only dealt with briefly in the following. The main focus of this chapter is on new developments and their consequences for consular services.

6.1 Passports and other Norwegian travel documents

In the past few years, Norwegian diplomatic and consular missions have issued between 15 000 and 20 000 passports a year, cf. Table 6.1

Tabell 6.1 


Emergency passports

Standard passports


1 567

17 156


1 617

17 423


1 559

14 396

Kilde: The Norwegian police.

Career missions have the same authority to issue passports as police districts in Norway. The statutory basis,1 application procedures and fees are the same as those in Norway. However, it generally takes longer to obtain a passport from a diplomatic or consular mission as passports are produced in Norway for security reasons and then sent abroad to be issued.2 Once a passport is ready, it may also be issued by a diplomatic or consular mission other than the one where the application was submitted.

Norwegian citizens who have lost their passport abroad and who cannot wait for a new standard passport to be issued may apply for an emergency passport. An emergency passport may be issued, for example, in cases where the person concerned is already abroad and cannot continue their journey without a valid travel document. The criteria and fees for emergency passports are the same as those for standard passports. However, the period of validity is limited to a maximum of one year. Since emergency passports are issued at missions abroad, they can be processed very quickly. It is important to note that some countries do not accept emergency passports, whereas others only accept such passports in connection with return travel to Norway.

Boks 6.1 Obtaining a passport abroad

A Norwegian citizen who spends large parts of the year in Spain applies for a new passport from the police in Bodø while visiting her family during the Christmas holiday. She asks to have the passport issued at the consulate-general in Alicante. After returning to Spain, she is contacted by the consulate-general and informed that her new passport is ready and can be fetched there. When she goes to the consulate-general to receive her new passport, she also hands in her old one.

In order for a minor to be issued with a passport, both parents must sign the passport application. The purpose of this is to prevent one of the parents from taking the child out of the country or away from its permanent place of residence without the consent of the other parent. There is, however, a drawback to this requirement in that it may impede the implementation of legally binding court decisions, for example in child abduction cases where the child happens to be abroad and the parent who has not been awarded the day-to-day care of the child (often the abductor) is opposed to the child being issued with a passport. A similar problem may occur in cases involving female genital mutilation or forced marriage where minors are subjected to abuse while abroad, but do not themselves possess travel documents for returning to Norway. In such cases the mission may, in consultation with the competent authorities in Norway, invoke the exception clause in the Passport Act as regards the issuing of a passport to a minor without the consent of both parents.3

Under the Passport Act, the authorities may also refuse to issue a passport in other exceptional cases, for example on the grounds that the applicant is suffering from a serious mental illness and is not considered capable of taking care of himself while abroad, or that the person has repeatedly incurred expenses for the public purse by failing to repay emergency loans, etc.

In certain cases, diplomatic and consular missions may also issue other types of travel documents, but only when this has been agreed with the competent Norwegian authorities. For example, foreign citizens who have lost their Norwegian refugee travel document or immigrant passport while travelling abroad may be issued with a laissez-passer that authorises a single entry into Norway. A laissez-passer is only issued on the basis of written instructions from the Directorate of Immigration.

Diplomatic and consular missions may also issue an Emergency Travel Document (ETA) instead of an emergency passport in special cases. Such a travel document, which is only accepted by certain countries, applies only to return travel to Norway. In the EU, a special form has been drawn up for applying for an ETA. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will, in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, examine the use of temporary travel documents more closely.

Approximately 27 000 Norwegian passports were reported as lost in 2010. Most of them are probably still in the possession of the holder, as many people are simply unable to find their passports when preparing for a trip. These passports are not usually misused. Nevertheless, the loss of any passport is to be reported to the police or a Norwegian diplomatic or consular mission. The passport will then be registered as invalid both with the National Criminal Investigation Service (Kripos) and in Interpol’s database in France. People who attempt to use these passports will be apprehended.

There is an ongoing effort to make Norwegian passports more secure. For example, all passports that are issued today contain both a portrait photo and biometric fingerprint data. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security will continue to give priority to this work.

6.2 Registration in the National Population Register

Children born in a country other than Norway are Norwegian citizens if their father or mother is a Norwegian citizen,4 but the child is not automatically registered as a citizen of Norway. The parents must apply for a national identity number and registration in the National Population Register before they can apply for a passport for the child. This may be done through a Norwegian diplomatic or consular mission on the basis of a birth certificate issued by the authorities in the country where the child was born.5

Paternity may only be registered in the National Population Register when it has been established in accordance with the provisions of the Children Act. Paternity may be established according to the pater est rule and may be acknowledged by the embassy if the parties have sufficiently close ties to Norway. Alternatively, a foreign certificate of paternity may be submitted to NAV International for recognition under Norwegian law. In some countries it is relatively easy to obtain false documents. In certain countries, therefore, men who claim to be the father of a child are required to submit to a DNA test in connection with the registration of children.6

Figur 6.1 Brochure on the rights of Thai– Norwegian children

Figur 6.1 Brochure on the rights of Thai– Norwegian children

Some children who have Norwegian citizenship are not registered with the Norwegian authorities until several years have passed. There is also reason to believe that there are children who have, for various reasons, never been registered as Norwegian citizens, for example in cases where one of the parents is a citizen of the country where the family is resident and the child becomes a citizen of that country and grows up there. If a Norwegian father dies or abandons a child abroad, it may be difficult for a foreign mother to obtain information about the child’s rights as a Norwegian citizen. This has been a problem in Thailand, for example. The Norwegian authorities have therefore published a brochure in Norwegian and Thai providing information for mothers and children who find themselves in such a situation. It is important to be particularly aware of this group of children in order to ensure that their rights are safeguarded.

6.3 Surrogacy

Surrogacy is an arrangement by which a woman enters into an agreement with another woman to become pregnant and give birth to a child, and then to hand the child over to the other party to the agreement. The surrogate mother may be the child’s genetic mother or be implanted with an egg donated by the woman who commissioned the surrogacy arrangement or a third woman.

Egg donation is prohibited under Norwegian law,7 which means that gestational surrogacy, i.e. using a fertilised egg from a woman other than the one who will carry the child to term, is illegal.

Some Norwegian couples and single people travel to other countries and make agreements with women who bear a child on their behalf. When the child is born, they apply to a Norwegian diplomatic or consular mission for assistance in establishing paternity, registering the child in the National Population Register and obtaining a passport for the child.

Under the Children Act,8 the woman who has given birth to the child is regarded as the mother of the child.

The man the woman is married to at the time of the child’s birth is regarded as the father. In cases where the mother is unmarried, the father may acknowledge paternity.9 A Norwegian diplomatic or consular officer may accept such acknowledgement of paternity in cases where the requirements of the Children Act have been fulfilled.10 If the surrogate mother is married, paternity may be transferred to another man who has acknowledged paternity provided that all the parties affected agree to this and the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) considers it probable that the other man is the father of the child.11 A DNA analysis is made as a matter of routine in surrogacy cases where the surrogate mother is married, in order to exclude the possibility that the woman’s husband is the biological father of the child. Diplomatic and consular missions may provide assistance in connection with DNA testing. DNA samples are sent to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Oslo to be analysed.

Surrogacy raises some serious ethical and legal dilemmas. Currently, a child born of a surrogate mother may risk ending up stateless and without rights. There is also reason to be concerned that surrogacy could encourage trafficking in children and other gross abuse of children. In June 2010, an interministerial working group submitted a report on some of the challenges posed by surrogacy.12

The Government attaches great importance to complying with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Insofar as Norwegian citizens are involved in surrogacy cases, the Government will focus primarily on safeguarding the best interests of the child within the framework of local, Norwegian and international law. At the same time it will seek to promote greater international understanding of the many ethical and legal problems raised by surrogacy.

6.4 Adoption

Children who are adopted in accordance with Norwegian law13 become Norwegian citizens as soon as the adoption process has been completed. Parents may register the child in the National Population Register and apply for a national identity number for the child through a diplomatic or consular mission. In many cases the time it takes to obtain a national identity number and then a standard passport may seem unnecessarily long. In some countries where there is no Norwegian embassy, the procedures may be very time-consuming and complex. Therefore an arrangement has been established whereby certain honorary consulates have been authorised to issue emergency passports for single entry into Norway for newly adopted children, provided that this is in accordance with local legislation.

The Norwegian authorities are obliged under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Hague Convention to ensure that adoption is in the best interests of the child, and to prevent abduction and child trafficking in connection with adoption.

In autumn 2009 an official Norwegian report on adoption was presented, which proposes a number of measures for simplifying and streamlining adoption procedures and improving their quality. Efforts are currently being made to follow up these proposals.

6.5 Solemnisation of marriage

Under Norwegian law,14 Norwegians may be married abroad either by a public official of the country in question or a chaplain of the Norwegian Church Abroad, or at a Norwegian diplomatic or consular mission.15 The Foreign Service was originally authorised to solemnise marriage in order to give Norwegian seamen who were rarely in Norway an opportunity to marry. Today both parties to a marriage tend to be permanently resident in Norway, but prefer a less traditional wedding. It is very popular to get married at a diplomatic or consular mission. There are long waiting lists at the most sought-after places (for example Madrid, Paris and Rome), particularly at certain times of the year, and a number of missions have had to limit the number of marriages they perform.

Tabell 6.2 


Heterosexual marriages

Homosexual marriages














* Partnerships entered into before the new Marriage Act came into force.

In order for a diplomatic or consular mission to perform a marriage, the marriage must be legal in form and substance, both under Norwegian law and under the legislation of the country where the ceremony is to take place. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs may authorise a mission to solemnise marriage after having consulted the authorities of the country concerned. Without such authorisation, no diplomatic or consular mission has the authority to solemnise a marriage between a Norwegian citizen and a citizen of the country where the mission is located.16

Since the entry into force on 1 January 2009 of amendments to the Norwegian Marriage Act according homosexual couples the same right to marry as heterosexual couples, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been examining the possibilities of marrying people of the same sex in those countries where Norwegian diplomatic or consular missions already have the right to solemnise marriage. The feedback from most countries is that this is not possible as such marriages would not be valid under the law of the country concerned. Thus, at present same-sex couples may only get married at the missions in Brussels, Copenhagen, Sofia, Berlin, Hamburg, Stockholm, The Hague, Madrid and Lisbon. Some of these countries require both parties to the marriage to be Norwegian citizens, and none of them allow a mission to solemnise a marriage where one of the parties is a citizen of that country.

Now that there are far fewer Norwegian seamen and it is much easier for Norwegians who are resident abroad to travel to Norway, it can be argued that there is no longer a need to solemnise marriage at Norwegian diplomatic and consular missions. Nonetheless, given that Norwegian missions have a long, highly valued tradition of solemnising marriage, the Ministry intends to maintain this service at the current level. If this should require additional resources, or if the waiting times at certain missions should become excessively long, the Ministry will recommend an amendment to the Regulations relating to the solemnisation of marriage abroad whereby at least one of the parties to the marriage must be permanently resident in the country in which the marriage is contracted.

There are business policy considerations that could make it potentially profitable to expand the right to solemnise marriage, for example by authorising captains of Norwegian-registered cruise ships to perform civil marriages on board. The Government is currently considering whether the Marriage Act should be amended to provide for this.

Although bigamy is not a big problem in connection with marriages performed abroad, there have been instances of Norwegian citizens marrying two or more spouses in different countries. Bigamy is illegal under Norwegian law; it also creates major problems in connection with inheritance, for example when two surviving spouses are both legally registered as married to the deceased and are thus entitled to inheritance.

6.6 Deaths

It is only natural that the increase in the number of Norwegians travelling and living abroad has been accompanied by an increase in the number of deaths outside Norway. In 2010 the Foreign Service received reports of 753 Norwegians who died while abroad, and the mission in the consular district concerned provided assistance in most of these cases.

Notification of next-of-kin is an important task in the event of a death. In cases where close relatives or friends were together with the deceased, the mission will attempt to put them in contact with a chaplain of the Norwegian Church Abroad or other appropriate support person at the place in question. If the closest relatives are in Norway, the mission will, after having obtained the necessary documentation from the local authorities, inform the Foreign Service Response Centre, which will contact the National Criminal Investigation Service (Kripos), which will then see to it that relatives are notified by the police, a district sheriff or a clergyman at their place of residence.17 Great importance is attached in this connection to ensuring that no personal data concerning the deceased is released and that relatives are not notified until the deceased’s identity has been established beyond doubt. In some cases it may take some time before the mission receives written confirmation of the deceased’s identity, and can thus begin the notification process. In the meantime, the next-of-kin may have been informed of the death through other channels, which of course creates a very difficult situation. Nonetheless, the missions will continue to follow the existing routines as the incorrect notification of a death can be very distressing.

In the event of a death abroad, the diplomatic or consular mission will also be able to assist in establishing contact with the local authorities and providing information and practical assistance in connection with transporting coffins or urns back to Norway. However, the Foreign Service does not have funds to cover local expenses or transport costs to Norway.

The settlement of an estate after a death abroad may be a complex matter, particularly if the deceased owned property abroad. In some countries, the legislation of the country of which the deceased is a citizen applies in such cases. In other countries, the legislation of that country – i.e. the country of residence or the country where the property is located – applies. In the latter case, the diplomatic and consular missions advise the next-of-kin to contact the local probate authorities and a lawyer for assistance. The settlement of an estate is generally less complicated if a proper will has been drawn up with the help of a local lawyer.

6.7 Other assistance

The diplomatic and consular missions also perform other legal acts and services for Norwegian citizens abroad, primarily in connection with maritime matters, legalisation, service of process and letters of request.

Norwegian diplomatic and consular missions deal with a large number of maritime matters every year. These services are carried out on behalf of the Norwegian maritime authorities and include assistance to Norwegian and foreign seamen who are employed on Norwegian-registered vessels. This work is extremely important in terms of safeguarding Norwegian shipping interests.

In recent years there has also been a considerable increase in the need for notarial services,18 particularly legalisation.19 This is not only because more Norwegians need to have documents legalised in their dealings with other countries, but also because an increasing number of foreign citizens and recently naturalised Norwegian citizens have documents that they need to have legalised. In 2010, the Foreign Service legalised approximately 16 000 documents in Oslo, and more than 6 000 at missions abroad. Most of these were certificates, notifications, articles of association and export documents. Efforts are being made at international level to simplify legalisation procedures by means of electronic systems. Norway is participating actively in this work, but it seems that there is still a long way to go before common international electronic procedures and standards are established in this field.

Boks 6.2 Legalisation

Legalisation is the formality by which a Norwegian public official certifies the authenticity of the signature and the capacity in which the person signing the document has acted. The document must bear the official seal or stamp of the institution concerned. Legalisation does not entail any validation of the accuracy of the content of the document. The general procedure is that a document is certified first by a notary public (i.e. the city recorder or the district court), then by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and finally by the respective countries’ embassies that are accredited to Norway. The diplomatic and consular missions are authorised to act as notary public abroad.

The diplomatic and consular missions also perform other legal services, such as tasks on behalf of the Norwegian judiciary in connection with the extradition of offenders and letters of request. The latter include service of process, recording statements and taking evidence. The diplomatic and consular missions are involved in the service of process (notification to the parties and witnesses from the public authorities, or in connection with court proceedings) and letters of request (requests from one court to another to perform a legal service, for example to take evidence or serve process) in approximately 800 cases a year. The missions will continue to give priority to these tasks as long as there is no alternative that adequately safeguards the interests of Norwegian citizens.

The diplomatic and consular missions also provide facilities for receiving absentee ballots in connection with all types of official elections in Norway. The ballots are sent to the voters’ respective constituencies. Therefore there are no overall statistics on the number of ballots cast abroad. In the general election in 2009, it was possible to vote at some 100 diplomatic and consular missions and 200 honorary consulates.



Act of 19 June 1997 No. 82 relating to passports (Passport Act).


In order to enhance the security of Norwegian passports, a requirement has been introduced whereby fingerprint data is to be collected from all persons above the age of 12 who apply for a standard passport. This requirement came into effect in April 2010. Fingerprint data may only be registered at career missions.


Cf. section 4, last paragraph, of the Passport Act.


Act of 10 June 2005 No. 51 relating to Norwegian nationality (Nationality Act).


The Directorate of Taxes, which is responsible for the National Population Register, has, in cooperation with the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, drawn up guidelines for registering Norwegian children born abroad: (Norwegian only).


In certain cases where registration in the National Population Register is considered unproblematic beyond any reasonable doubt and there are weighty reasons to issue an emergency passport, diplomatic and consular missions may issue such a passport to a child who has not been given a national identity number. This exception is practised very restrictively.


Act of 12 May 2003 No. 100 relating to the application of biotechnology in human medicine, etc.


Section 2 of Act of 8 April 1981 No. 7 relating to children and parents (Children Act).


Cf. section 4 of the Children Act.


Cf. section 81 of the Children Act.


Cf. section 7 of the Children Act.


Cf. the report of 28 June 2010 from the interministerial working group on dealing with surrogacy cases to the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion.


Act of 28 February 1986 No. 8 relating to adoption (Adoption Act).


Act No. 20 of 30 June 1955 relating to the authority of Norwegian public officials to solemnise marriage abroad, and of foreign public officials to solemnise marriage in Norway.


Regulations of 21 May 2001 relating to the solemnisation of marriage by Norwegian Foreign Service officers.


An overview of the diplomatic and consular missions that are authorised to solemnise marriage and the conditions that must be fulfilled is available at


In the event of a death in the Nordic region, notification is made directly through the Nordic police districts.


The tasks imposed on a notary public by statute or regulations, for example solemnising marriage and legalising documents.


Act of 1 July 2002 No. 12 relating to the notary public.

To front page