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Norwegian work permits: What happens if your qualifications don’t match the job?

Many wishing to move to Norway for work must hold a residence permit for skilled workers. So what happens if your qualifications don't exactly line up with your job offer? 

Pictured is the barcode district of Oslo.
This is what you need to know about the qualification requirements for work permits. Pictured is the barcode district of Oslo. Photo by Gunnar Ridderström on Unsplash

High wages and a good work-life balance make Norway an attractive place to live and work. However, you can’t just stick and take the first job offer that comes your way. 

Instead, you will likely need to meet several requirements. These criteria are the loosest for EEA-nationals as they have the freedom of movement across the Schengen Area. 

Those from the EEA simply have to register they are living and working in Norway if they plan on spending more than three months in the country. 

EEA nationals need to have a job and a contract they can present when registering with the authorities. They can hold more than one job and there are no restrictions on qualifications. 

Moving to Norway for work as a non-EEA resident is much more complicated. To get a residence permit based on work, you will usually need to classify as a “skilled worker”, and you will have to pay a hefty application fee of 6,300 kroner.

This means you will need to have completed either higher education, for example, a bachelor’s or master’s degree, or completed at least three years of vocational training at the upper secondary school level. 

However, having an education and a job offer isn’t enough. Your educational background will need to be relevant to your job role. 

If it isn’t, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) will turn down your application. This applies even when the UDI has given you permission to start work before your application is fully processed. 

Even if you have previous experience in the role or industry you will be working with, your application will still be rejected if your qualifications don’t align with the job. 

This also applies if you are changing jobs. If you are going to start a new type of position or job role, then you will need to reapply for a work permit. When reapplying for a work permit, you must meet all the requirements again. 

This rules out sudden career changes as your qualifications may not be matched to the direction you wish to take your career in. 

If you are going to move to a new job with a different company and the same position, you will not need to apply for a different residence permit, and you can continue working on the one you have. 

Are there any ways around this? 

In some exceptional cases, applicants can prove that they have gained special skills through “long professional experience”. However, as this is quite vague, it can be hard to say what constitutes special skills or long professional experience. 

If the job you have is in the tourism and hospitality sector, you can apply for a seasonal worker permit. Your employer will be required to illustrate why a Norwegian cannot do the job, such as possessing vital expertise or language skills. However, these permits are only valid for six months, so they are only temporary solutions. 

If you have a Norwegian spouse or partner you have lived with for more than two years, you can apply for a family immigration residence permit. The fee for family immigration is 10,500 kroner for a first-time application, and the Norwegian partner needs to show that they have an income of at least 300,988 kroner per year pre-tax. 

The same applies if your partner isn’t Norwegian but is a residence holder of Norway. 

If your partner is an EEA-national, you can also apply as the family member of an EEA-national, which doesn’t come with much in the way of fees and requirements. 

When moving to Norway as a family member, there are no restrictions on your qualifications – giving you complete career freedom. 

What else do I need to know? 

When applying for a skilled worker permit, there are a number of other requirements to meet. The job offer will need to be for a company based in Norway, and you will need to be offered a contract of 80 percent of full-time hours or more. 

Pay and working conditions must be “normal” for Norway. This means you need to earn as much as the collective agreement for the industry in which you work. If your industry does not have a collective agreement, you need to earn at least 417,900 kroner a year pre-tax for jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree and at least 449,900 kroner per year pre-tax for jobs requiring a master’s degree. 

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Nordic countries urged to set common working from home rules

The Nordic countries should have common conditions on working from the place of residence, including working from home, to fulfil the objective of an integrated labour market, says a report by the region's Freedom of Movement Council.

Nordic countries urged to set common working from home rules

The proposal is part of a series of recommendations to simplify tax agreements to facilitate free movement of people and make the region “the most integrated” in the world by 2030, as agreed by Nordic Prime Ministers.

The Freedom of Movement Council argues that the pandemic revealed the flaws in the current system, as a large proportion of cross-border workers had to operate from home, facing taxation in two countries, different tax levels and mounting bureaucracy.

“Now that more companies are open to their employees working from home, the current Nordic tax agreement just isn’t keeping up. I hope this analysis will pave the way for dialogue and that the end result will be simplification and less bureaucracy,” said Karen Ellemann, secretary-general of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Internationally less known than EU free movement rules, the region has a special agreement on free movement of people that dates back to the 1950s.

Under the Nordic Passport Union, citizens can move within the region without travel documents or residence permits and enjoy more rights than those granted to EU citizens within the European Union. Non-EU residents, however, only partially benefit as they do not have the automatic right to work in another Nordic state.

The Nordic free movement area covers Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands and Åland. Greenland is not part of the Passport Union but is in practice subject to some of its provisions.

The Nordic governments set up the Freedom of Movement Council as an independent body to identify obstacles to this principle and propose how to remove them.

In an interview with The Local, chair Siv Friðleifsdóttir said the Council has identified over 100 barriers to free movement and prioritised 30. The tax system is one of them.

“The Nordic countries currently have several agreements that regulate cross-border and remote working. Common to all of them is that they’re based on the countries’ need to protect their tax base,” the Council notes.


The report, prepared by consultancies KPMG and Resonans Nordic, points at four problems in particular: rules for domestic work, registration obligations in more than one country for employers, as well as taxation of wages and pensions when working in another Nordic state.

The Council therefore proposes to set common conditions on “permanent establishment” when working in the country of residence, including from home. It also suggests to tax salaries in the country of employment and consider work from home in the country of residence equal to work in the country where the employer is located.

In addition, advance tax should be reported and collected in the employer’s country to avoid having different rules for the same salary.

Pension contributions should be mutually recognised as deductible in another Nordic states and returns taxed only under the legislation of the country where the pension plan is established, the Council argues.

In the Øresund region, between Denmark and Sweden, a fully integrated labour market could generate combined annual socio-economic gains of 2.9 billion Danish kroner, the report estimates.

“Our countries have a lot to gain from having a flexible common labour market. It can solve the problem of skills shortages in one country and the problem of unemployment in another. In other words, a functioning labour market is a strong catalyst for our countries’ economies,” says Siv Friðleifsdóttir, chair of the Freedom of Movement Council.

The full report is currently only available in Danish but translations are expected in the coming weeks.