Article 12

Article 12

The right to freedom of movement and to choose residence within the territory of a State

136. According to section 7, second paragraph, of the 1988 Immigration Act, both work permits and residence permits are valid in the whole national territory. (A person who is granted asylum will also be granted a work permit or a residence permit, according to section 18 of the Act). Thus, such a permit confers the right to reside and move freely throughout the territory, unless restrictions are stipulated in accordance with rules set out in or pursuant to the Act.

137. As stated in Norway’s fourth periodic report (paragraphs 121 and 122), a foreign national’s freedom of movement may only be subject to legal restrictions if national security or “compelling social considerations” make this necessary (cf. section 43 of the Immigration Act). This term is given a narrow interpretation and is only invoked in exceptional circumstances.

138. Norway offers asylum seekers the opportunity to stay in an open reception centre until their applications for asylum have been dealt with. Asylum seekers who do not need an allowance from the Government may live wherever they wish within the territory. However, the majority of asylum seekers are lodged in reception centres situated throughout the country. When an asylum seeker agrees to stay in a reception centre, he or she must reside in the municipality to which he or she has been assigned until the application for asylum has been decided. Asylum seekers may be transferred from one reception centre to another.

139. All foreign nationals with a residence permit are, with due consideration to their own wishes, assigned to specific municipalities throughout the country to avoid the concentration of large numbers of foreign nationals in some parts of the country, especially in the largest cities. The local authorities are allocated funds for the integration of the number of foreign nationals who are settled in their municipality, based on the estimated average costs for integration of that number of persons over a five-year period. This is intended to cover inter alia the costs of operating a reception centre for asylum seekers (if relevant) and funding for an introductory programme to Norwegian society. Foreign nationals from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who have recently arrived in Norway and have been granted asylum or a work permit or a residence permit on the basis of an application for asylum, and their family members, have the right and obligation to participate in an educational programme as an introduction to Norwegian society, including language education. This right is dependent on continued residence in the municipality in which the foreign national was first settled, since it is this municipality that is allocated the funds necessary for financing the introductory programme offered to that foreign national. This means that foreign nationals who decide to move from the municipality in which they were first settled no longer have the right to participate in the introductory programme. This cannot, however, be regarded as a legal restriction on the right to free movement within Norwegian territory.

140. A foreign national’s right to social services according to the Social Services Act is suspended if the he or she is offered free residence at a reception centre for asylum seekers, provided that the reception centre can satisfy the basic needs of the person in question. This cannot be regarded as a legal restriction on foreign nationals’ right to move freely and choose their residence within Norwegian territory.

Freedom to leave the country

141. The Passport Act was adopted on 19 June 1997. (An English translation of the Act is enclosed at Appendix 9.) Passports are issued to all applicants who have Norwegian nationality, subject to payment of a fee, at present approximately EUR 116. Pursuant to section 5, first paragraph, of the Act, passports are not to be issued

  • if the applicant is wanted by the police or remanded in custody under suspicion of a criminal offence;
  • if the applicant has debts and is prohibited from leaving the country pursuant to the Enforcement of Civil Claims Act sections 14-17 or the Debt Negotiations and Bankruptcy Act section 102 (see the fourth periodic report paragraphs 123-130); or
  • when a decision has been made by a public authority pursuant to statute which prohibits the applicant from leaving the country, for instance pursuant to the Debt Negotiations and Bankruptcy Act section 105 or the General Conscription Act section 39.

142. Pursuant to section 5, second and third paragraphs, of the Passport Act, the competent authority may also refuse to issue a passport if the applicant has been sentenced to detention in a criminal case or in other instances where this is prescribed by law; where the applicant is subject to other restrictions pursuant to certain provisions of the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Act or the Execution of Sentences Act; if the applicant has previously abused his passport or has forged or used a false passport; there is reason to suspect that the purpose of the applicant’s departure is unlawful activity; the applicant has been granted a loan secured against his passport by a Norwegian foreign service mission and the loan has not been repaid; the applicant is seriously mentally ill or mentally disabled and will not be capable of looking after himself; or the applicant does not keep his previous passport in a satisfactory manner or the passport is in the possession of an unauthorised person.

143. In these cases, the competent authority may only refuse to issue a passport if this is justified by weighty considerations, with due regard to the importance of having a passport for the applicant in question.

144. Pursuant to section 7 of the Passport Act, a passport may be withdrawn on the same conditions as mentioned in section 5. A passport may also be withdrawn if it has been altered or if it no longer corresponds to the appearance of its holder. There are no regulations besides the Passport Act authorising confiscation of passports. The provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act mentioned in Norway’s third report (sections 123-124) have been repealed. According to section 12 of the Immigration Act, refugees staying lawfully within the territory have the right to be issued a travel document authorising departure from and re-entry into the country. The same applies to other foreign nationals who have applied for asylum and have been granted a work or residence permit. The competent authority may refuse to issue such a travel document in the same circumstances as mentioned in section 5 of the Passport Act. In addition, a foreign national may be refused a travel document pursuant to section 65, subsection 2 of the regulations to the Immigration Act if the person concerned has been convicted of a very serious criminal offence and poses a threat to society, there are doubts concerning the refugee’s identity, or national security or weighty considerations of foreign policy so require.

The right to enter one’s own country

145. Apart from those instances covered by Article 13 of the Covenant, there are no restrictions on the right of Norwegian citizens or foreign nationals with a residence permit to enter Norwegian territory. However, if a foreign national has had permanent residence outside the country for two years or more, a residence or settlement permit may be withdrawn. Norway may in such cases no longer be regarded as the foreign national’s “own country” within the meaning of Article 12, paragraph 4, of the Covenant.

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