Is dual citizenship an option for you?
Norway’s new citizenship rules will most likely begin in 2020—but what does that mean?
Lori Ann Reinhall
The Norwegian American
During the month of May, Norwegians Worldwide (Nordmanns-Forbundet) held a series of seminars about the new laws on dual citizenship in Norway in major U.S. cities: San Francisco, Austin, Houston, and Seattle. In Seattle alone, over 150 were in attendance, the Sons of Norway Leif Erikson Hall filled to the brim with curious Norwegian Americans anxious to reinforce their ties with the home country.
The session were led by Norwegians Worldwide’s acting Secretary General, Linn Helene Løken. Løken remarked: “We wanted to begin the tour in the United States, because it’s historically very important for Norway and Nordmanns-Forbundet/Norwegians Worldwide. We have many members and chapters there, and over 4.5 million people in the United States are of Norwegian heritage. Considering the great interest I experienced on this tour, there will definitely be a surge of applications to reclaim Norwegian citizenship.”
On Dec. 6, 2018, the parliament of Norway approved changes to the Citizenship Act that will allow Norwegians to hold dual citizenship, a move that brings Norway in line with much of the world. The changes, however, will not immediately come into effect. First, Norway was required to give the Council of Europe a one-year notice of the change, meaning that the new rules will most likely be introduced on Jan. 1, 2020.
In the meantime, Norwegian consular officials around the United States are getting ready to answer the many requests and questions that Norwegian Americans will have in regard to the new law. The rules will change both for those who already are Norwegian citizens, and for those who are applying for Norwegian citizenship. Here are a few common questions about the new law answered with information from the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration:
If I previously was a Norwegian citizen, can I apply to get my Norwegian citizenship back?
Yes, under the following conditions:
• You lost your Norwegian citizenship because you became a citizen of another country. This would be the case for Norwegian immigrants to the United States and Canada.
• The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration revoked your Norwegian citizenship because you did not renounce your original citizenship within the deadline you were given. This would apply to Americans living and working in Norway who wanted to become Norwegian citizens.
Do I need to live in Norway to get back my Norwegian passport?
No, you will not be required to live in Norway to get your Norwegian citizenship back. You will then be able to apply through a simplified application process.
What if I had dual citizenship from birth but failed to apply for retention (bibehold) before my 22nd birthday?
In this case, the law doesn’t change, and it will not be so easy to get your Norwegian citizenship back.
What if I haven’t lived in Norway for at least two years before turning 22?
If you became a Norwegian citizen automatically when you were born and you have not lived in Norway for at least two years, or in another Nordic country for at least seven years, before you turn 22, you will still lose your Norwegian citizenship automatically when you turn 22. Note that this is only the case if you are also a citizen of another country. If you are only a Norwegian citizen, you will keep your Norwegian citizenship automatically, even if you have never lived in Norway.
What if I am now a Norwegian citizen and wish to become a citizen of another country?
In the future, you will able to retain your Norwegian citizenship and become a citizen of another country, but it is important to check whether the other country also allows for dual citizenship. In the case of the United States and Canada, dual citizenship is permitted.
Am I eligible to become a Norwegian citizen if I have Norwegian heritage?
Unlike in Ireland, there is no provision for people of Norwegian heritage (for example, an American with Norwegian grandparents) to become citizens; they must meet the full criteria for citizenship. Typically, any foreigner needs to reside in Norway with valid residence permits for seven of the last 10 years. Additionally, an applicant must have documented fluency in the Norwegian language and pass an exam on Norwegian society, laws, and history.
With these changes, Norway is following a trend more in line with the realities of a new global society. “As we allow double citizenship, we are ensuring that Norwegian law follows developments in a more globalized world, with more and more connections to more countries,” said Jan Tore Sanner, minister of knowledge and integration, earlier this year.
Without a doubt, the new law is a very welcome change to many Norwegian Americans who love their adopted country in the United States while maintaining close ties to their homeland in Norway. Dual citizenship will allow them to more easily work across borders, although there may be serious tax and retirement benefit implications.
For many Norwegian Americans, reclaiming dual citizenship is a very emotional, symbolic gesture. Even though they may not plan to live on Norwegian soil again, Norway is part of the “divided heart” of the immigrant. Åsmund “Ozzie” Kvithammer, who attended the session in Seattle, says he plans to apply for his red passport as soon as possible, that it will fill a gap he has felt for most of his life.
But Kvithammer’s wife, Anne-Lise Berger, feels differently. For her, the passport itself does not mean much to her. While Norway will always be close to her heart and she will always be Norwegian in spirit, she has lived most of her adult life in the United States, and it is now her home.
To learn more about the requirements for dual citizenship, check the following websites, which will be updated as more information and application deadlines are posted:
• Norwegians Worldwide: www.nww.no/kategori/network/dual-citizenship
• Norwegian Directorate of Immigration: www.udi.no/en/word definitions/dual-citizenship
• Royal Norwegian Embassy in the United States: www.norway.no/en/usa
• Royal Norwegian Embassy in Canada: www.norway.no/en/canada
Lori Ann Reinhall is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association and state representative for Sister Cities International, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.
This article originally appeared in the July 26, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.