What is Norway’s immigration directorate doing to reduce work permit times?

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) took an average of 87 days to process a work permit last year. We asked them what they are doing to reduce waiting times.

A mockup of a residence card.
This is what the UDI is doing to improve waiting times for work permits. Pictured: A mockup of a residence card.

What is the reason for current long waiting times? 

The UDI puts down the slow processing times to the introduction of dual citizenship in 2020, which led to a surge in citizenship applications, which then combined with the backlog still left over from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Work with entry restrictions required a lot of resources and both the UDI’s and the police’s work was affected in different ways by the corona situation,” Karl Erik Sjøholt, the directorate’s director of residence, told The Local.

“An important factor was also the opening for dual citizenship from January 2020, which resulted in a large increase in the number of citizenship applications.” 

You can check the current wait times for different types of permit here


What does the directorate want to do about it? 

The directorate hopes to clear the backlog of work permits by the end of 2023 and to then begin to reduce waiting waiting times for applications for residence permits as skilled workers to around 30 days, as it was before 2020, with only the most complex cases taking longer to process. 

What measures is UDI taking to solve the problem?

The directorate says it is only able to hire additional employees to process work permits “in line with the budget and any political wishes”. 

It has, however, changed the way it organises its staff to bring more resources to work on the problem, and also changed the way it handles work permit cases.

“We are continually looking to make case handling more efficient.” Sjøholt said. “We have changed the structural staff setup and [established] new collaboration methods [and] automated processes.” 

The changed way of handling work permits reduced waiting times for most applicants in 2022, but meant that some of those who applied before January 1st 2022 have had to wait even longer. 


In Norway, UDI has changed the way it handles cases to shorten waiting times at the start of 2022. While this has improved the situation for many applicants, it has also meant that some of the more complex applications submitted before the start of 2022 have taken even longer to process. 

“UDI is aware that some applicants from before 2022 have had to wait longer, but we have completed a large part of these cases, and most of the cases from before 2022 will be completed in the first half of 2023,” a UDI spokesperson told The Local last week. 

The directorate also plans to start automating the processing of some work permit applications, after successfully using an automated system to process citizenship applications. 

“We have good results from using automation in citizenship applications. In 2022 approximately 30 percent of all applications for citizenship were automatically processed,” Sjøholt said. “We are also looking to expand automation to other case areas.”

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What happens if you spend too long outside Norway for medical reasons? 

Should you have an accident or fall ill while outside of Norway and require time for treatment and recovery, what happens to your residence rights? 

What happens if you spend too long outside Norway for medical reasons? 

If you are a national from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), you will typically need to be granted a residence permit to live in Norway. 

There are two types of residence in Norway; the first is a temporary residence. This is typically granted to people who wish to work, study or reunite with family in Norway. Those moving to Norway for the first time will be granted temporary residence. 

Depending on your application type, you will need to fulfil several conditions. Once your residence is granted by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI), you will need to meet a number of requirements to remain a Norwegian resident. 

One of these is ensuring you don’t leave Norway for too long. When granted residence, you will be told how long you can remain outside Norway without losing residence. As a rule of thumb, if the permit is less than a year, you must stay in Norway for half of that. 

If a permit is granted for several years, the total time spent abroad must not exceed 182 days during a period of 365 days

So, what happens should you fall ill on a holiday or trip home and be unable to return to Norway in time? 

“The UDI may decide that you will lose your residence permit if you stay too long outside Norway. The purpose behind the stay abroad will be taken into consideration, but the fact that the stay is due to medical reasons will not necessarily imply that a decision of revocation will not be made. A concrete assessment of the overall situation will be made,” the UDI told The Local Norway. 

This means the UDI will consider your situation when deciding whether to revoke your residence permit. However, there is no guarantee that being outside of the country for medical reasons will prevent the UDI from stripping you of your residence card. 

In cases where residence is revoked, the person losing residence may be eligible for another type of permit, such as a family or work permit. 

Permanent residence has more rights than temporary residence and lets holders spend even longer outside of Norway. 

“The same rules apply to everyone holding a permanent residency in Norway. Hence one cannot stay abroad for a continuous period of two years or more.

Furthermore, one cannot have several stays that totally exceed two years or more during a four-year period. Stays lasting less than two months per calendar year are not deemed to constitute stays abroad in this context. If one stays in Norway for a continuous period of 15 months, one can stay abroad for a new period of up to two years,” the UDI wrote in an email. 

In practical terms, being able to spend so long outside of Norway means that illness shouldn’t be a factor if you go over the rules as a permanent residence holder. 

The illness of a family member, for both residence types, wouldn’t exempt somebody from losing their residence. For residence card holders, though, their overall circumstances would be considered. 

If you do receive notice that the UDI plans to revoke your residence, you can explain why and submit any supporting paperwork. You are also allowed to appeal any decision. Throughout this process, you will have access to legal help.