Press release | Date: 19/02/2021
A new scheme for businesses is to enable them to bring essential personnel to Norway from abroad. The scheme will have strict requirements and limits in place.
‘The infection situation in Norway as well as Europe indicates that we must regrettably continue to limit the numbers travelling here as much as possible. At the same time, we must seek to maintain levels of activity in Norwegian businesses. This is why we are now launching a very limited exemption scheme for Norwegian businesses applying for entry for employees that are strictly necessary to maintain activity,’ says Iselin Nybø, Minister of Trade and Industry.
In order to limit the risk of the spread of the more highly infectious strains of Covid-19, the government significantly tightened non-Norwegian citizens’ rights to enter Norway.
The government announced in early February that it would establish a very limited, application-based scheme for individuals whom industry were dependent upon for ensuring operations continued. This scheme is now in place.
The scheme will be rolled out from Saturday 20 February at 10:00. The scheme applies to non-Norwegian workers with technical skills who are wholly necessary for the installation, removal, inspection, repair or maintenance of machinery and technical equipment, or who may otherwise provide informed training relating to these. The employee must be an employee of or contractor to the company that submits the application. It is also a requirement of the scheme that the work in question is strictly necessary in order to ensure continued activities in the business.
The employee will only have permission to enter Norway for a period of 14 days following the date of their application acceptance. This validity period covers the permit to enter and is unrelated to the duration of the employee’s stay. A prerequisite for admission to Norway is that the terms and conditions for entry stipulated by the Norwegian Immigration Act are fulfilled. It is not possible to apply for permission to enter at a future date on behalf of employees.
Employees arriving in Norway must adhere to the applicable quarantine provisions in place. The government is also currently tightening the rules relating to the use of quarantine hotels at the point of entry.
The scheme is administered by the Norwegian Maritime Authority and companies may apply via Altinn.
May be extended
The Minister of Trade and Industry is open to the idea that the scheme may be extended.
‘I fully understand that the restrictions on entry into the country are having a significant impact on industry and on foreign employees. The government is working to gradually re-open the country’s borders. In the initial phase of this scheme, we are allowing technical personnel who carry out activities that are strictly necessary to ensuring the ongoing operations of Norwegian businesses. We will then examine whether we are able to open the scheme up to other employees. We will announce details of this following a comprehensive review of the infection situation and the needs of industry,’ says Nybø.
Strict follow-up rules
Employees who receive an exemption must still adhere to the strict quarantine provisions in place.
Employers must provide details in their application of the quarantine location, any details of the pre-approval of other suitable accommodation and information about transportation from the point of entry to the quarantine location. In the event of any breach of quarantine regulations or infection prevention rules, the employee may be deported and the employer excluded from the exemption scheme.
All persons entering Norway are required to quarantine. As a rule, quarantine must be undertaken in a quarantine hotel. Persons arriving in Norway to carry out work or contract assignments and who are able to prove that their employer has placed pre-approved accommodation at their disposal are not required to stay in a quarantine hotel. The government is also introducing a requirement that suitable accommodation placed at employees’ disposal for use as quarantine facilities must be pre-approved. This scheme will enter into force on 22 February.
Who is eligible for an exemption from the restrictions on entry to Norway?
In the initial phase, it will only be possible to apply for an exemption from the restrictions on entry to Norway for non-Norwegian citizens with technical skills who will undertake the installation, inspection, repair or maintenance of machinery and technical equipment, or who may otherwise provide informed training relating to these. The application does not grant an exemption automatically. The foreign citizen must have a contract of employment or contractor agreement in place with the company submitting the application, and the individual in question must be responsible for carrying out work that is strictly necessary for maintaining ongoing activity within the applicant’s business. It is also a requirement that the work must be carried out through a physical presence in Norway and that the necessary resources cannot be sourced via the Norwegian labour market. The exemption does not grant any exemption from other infection prevention regulations and guidelines. It is a prerequisite of the exemption that all quarantine requirements will be adhered to in a satisfactory manner.
How do you document whether the individual for whom an exemption is being sought performs a critical role or has technical skills?
The company must submit an application on behalf of the employee. The company must be registered in the Register of Business Enterprises/the Central Coordinating Register for Legal Entities, be tax-domiciled in Norway (cf. chapter 2 of the Taxes Act), be in good standing in terms of all payments of taxes and fees, and the company must be engaged in lawful activities. Applications should be submitted to the Norwegian Maritime Authority using the form available via Altinn. The application must contain contact details for the company and a tax certificate. It must also include the full name, nationality, passport number, and date of birth (or alternative international personal identification number) of the individual for whom the exemption is being sought. Furthermore, the work to be carried out by the foreign citizen on behalf of the applicant must be described, and justification must be provided as to why the work is necessary and how it meets the requirements for an exemption. The application must include a contract of employment or contractor agreement that documents the employment relationship. The applicant must also specify the quarantine hotel or pre-approved suitable, alternative accommodation where the individual in question will quarantine in accordance with the Covid-19 regulations.
What is meant by ‘technical skills’?
Technical skills refer to having specialised professional knowledge that is crucial to the execution of given tasks. Not all types of technical skills will be approved as grounds for an exemption from the restrictions on entry to Norway. Only those holding specialist professional knowledge who are wholly necessary for the installation, removal, inspection, repair or maintenance of machinery and technical equipment, or who may otherwise provide informed training relating to these. It is also a requirement that the work in question is strictly necessary for ensuring that the business’s activities can continue and that there are not persons in Norway in possession of equivalent specialist knowledge who may instead carry out the work.
How do you determine whether the technical skills in question are available in the Norwegian labour market?
The details provided in the application will be checked against information available from the following public bodies: The Brønnøysund Register Centre, the Norwegian Tax Administration, the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, and other public bodies where necessary. This will also apply to details pertaining to the availability of professional expertise in the Norwegian labour market.
How long does an exemption apply in relation to an individual employee?
The exemption from the restrictions on entry to Norway will permit the individual to enter for 14 days following the date of approval. This exemption does not supersede other rules that may otherwise apply to the person being brought to Norway to carry out the work pursuant to the Immigration Regulations, the Immigration Act and other applicable regulations.
Do people granted an exemption still have to quarantine?
Yes. A prerequisite to receiving an exemption is that any person entering Norway with one will adhere to the applicable infection prevention regulations at all times during their stay for work purposes. This also applies to their quarantine period. Applicants must specify where the individual being brought to Norway will stay during their quarantine upon arrival in accordance with the applicable regulations.
Who assesses the applications?
Applications are processed by the Norwegian Maritime Authority who obtain all necessary details from public bodies in order to verify the information contained within when necessary.
Will the provision of incorrect information have any consequences for the applicant?
The individual may be deported in accordance with the temporary law restricting entry to Norway for foreign citizens on the grounds of public health in the event that they are granted an exemption on the basis of incorrect information. An application may be rejected if the company provided materially incorrect or clearly misleading information in a previous application for an exemption from the restrictions on entry to Norway.
How long will the scheme remain in place?
The scheme is considered to be a safety valve for industry to ensure that the negative impact of the restrictions on entry to Norway do not have overly serious consequences for ongoing operations while restrictive measures remain in place for entry into the country.
Will the scheme apply to business travellers from all countries regardless of infection situation?
The scheme solely enables applicants to seek an exemption from the current restrictions on entry to Norway that have been introduced on the grounds of public health, but it does not grant any exemption from the provisions pertaining to quarantine upon arrival or visa regulations which remain in force.
Do companies have to apply for exemptions for employees one-by-one, or can they apply for all employees at once?
Each application submitted by a company may apply for an exemption from the restrictions on entry to Norway for one employee.
What is the statutory basis for exempting individual groups from the restrictions in place?
The statutory legal basis for this type of exemption is set out in the temporary act of 19 June 2020 no. 83 restricting entry to Norway for foreign citizens on the grounds of public health in Section 2, paragraph 4, and in Section 3, paragraph 3.
What are examples of people who do not qualify for an exemption under this scheme?
Persons who wish to work in Norway but do not hold specialised professional expertise are not covered by this exemption scheme. Persons without technical skills and who are required to carry out tasks that do not require their physical presence in Norway are also not covered by this exemption scheme. The same applies to those with technical skills who are not required to install, remove, inspect, repair or maintain machinery and technical equipment, or otherwise provide informed training relating to these.