Becoming Norwegian

I realized today that I still have a few student guest blogs that I never got around to posting!  Here’s one on Norway’s citizenship policy…more to follow soon!

Norway’s Coat of Arms

For the most part, automatic Norwegian citizenship laws revert to a default of Jus Sanguis, where the right of citizenship is given to those who are descended from Norwegian heritage.  Citizenship is not automatically given to individuals born in Norway unless they have a Norwegian mother, or a Norwegian father married to the mother of the individual.  The man married to the woman at the time of birth is regarded as the father.  Divorce before birth nullifies the above mentioned statement, if citizenship would have been awarded through the father. 

However, there are plenty of opportunities for those who do not qualify to apply for citizenship through Naturalization.  Generally, several thousand people a year are granted citizenship.  Intriguingly there is a different process with different requirements for “Nordic Citizens” (people who are citizens of Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, or Finland), thanks to the Norwegian Nationality Act of 1950.   There is a separate process and application for everyone else.  For Nordic citizens there are two options: you can apply by either application or notification.

It is sufficient for a Nordic Citizen to apply for citizenship by application if he or she:

  • Has lived in the country for the last two years and will continue to do so.
  • Is able to prove their identity.
  • Is over the age of 12.
  • Must not have been convicted of a criminal offence or been ordered to undergo enforced psychiatric health treatment.  This is known as the Good Conduct Requirement.
  • Is willing to pay the application fee.

In order to apply by notification, a Nordic Citizen must:

  • Be above the age of 18.
  • Have lived in Norway the past seven years.
  • Fulfill the Good Conduct Requirement

For everyone else, an application must be filed with the local Norwegian Police Department (or Norwegian Foreign Service) who then pass it on to the UDI (Directorate of Immigration).  Obtaining a Norwegian citizenship requires the following things:

Image from The Nordic Page
  • You must be older than 12 (This does not apply to stateless persons or children with Norwegian parents or children applying at the same time as their parents.
  • You must be able to prove your identity with documentation, specifically, a valid passport.
  • You need to have been a resident of Norway for seven of the last ten years on permits which were granted for at least one year.  (Illegal stays in Norway do not count, and time spent away from Norway for more than 2 consecutive months in a calendar year extends the amount of time required for residency.)  You must also intend to continue to live in Norway.
  • You must meet a Norwegian Language Requirement by completing a language test, or completing 30 units or 300 hours of Norwegian or Sami language courses at the primary, secondary level, or University level in any country.  (Technically passing the admission criteria to major in these languages at a Norwegian University also qualifies you.)
  • You must fulfill the Good Conduct Requirement.
  • You must be willing to give up your original citizenship if it doesn’t automatically expire when you become Norwegian.
  • You must pay the 2,500 NOK application fee.

There are exceptions to the residency requirement as it is written above:

  • If you came to Norway before you turned 18, you must have lived in Norway for a total of five of the last seven years.
  • If you are married, a registered partner, or a cohabitant of a Norwegian national, you must have been married (or cohabiting) in Norway for at least seven years total. You need only to have lived in Norway for three of the last ten years.  (You must also still be married…a divorcé of a Norwegian citizen does not count.)
  • If you are stateless and above the age of 18 years, you must have lived in Norway for the last three years.
  • Children whose parents are also applying or are already Norwegian must have lived in Norway for the last two years.  (There was a new law added in 2005 which provided adopted children (or their Norwegian adoptive parents) with the right to apply for Norwegian citizenship for that child.)

There are numerous exceptions for particular cases provided for in the Norwegian laws, mainly pertaining to difficulties in procuring documents and the length of waiting periods after incarceration or psychiatric treatment before one can apply.  There are however a few more interesting tidbits such as:

  • Section 8-1 which provides for the Naturalization of Athletes which bypasses some of the citizenship requirements if Norwegian citizenship is required for an Athlete to compete in a major international championship, and the applicant intends to compete for Norway.  The Athlete must have “resided in the realm” of Norway for six of the last ten years.
  • Also, the provision for Kola Norwegian applicants is intriguing.  Kola Norwegians are applicants descended from Norwegian nationals who emigrated to Murmansk or Arkhangel County in Russia from the second half of the 19th century until the Russian border was closed in the late 1920s.  They have been granted a residence or work permit because they have a specific connection with Norway.  The applicant must have lived in “realm” of Norway for the last two years in order to apply for citizenship.

You can find a complete detailed description of the Norwegian citizenship application requirements for both Automatic and Naturalized citizens (Nordic and otherwise) at the website for the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, which is in English:


Norwegian Directorate of Immigration: UDI: Norwegian Directorate of Immigration

European Union Democracy Observatory on Citizenship: Introduction to National Citizenship Laws-Norway:




  1. I am a South African citizen. My grand father came to South Africa from Norway as an 1820settler. Am I eligible for a Norwegian ancestral visa/passport?

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