Immigration, dual citizenship, visas, oh my!

Photos: (left) Wallpaper Flare; (right) NTB scanpix
As of Jan. 1, 2020, Norwegian law permits dual citizenship. Specific eligibility requirements exist, and the waiting periods in the application process can be long, with closures because of COVID-19.

MICHAEL KLEINER
The Norwegian American

So, what’s the latest on Norway? You’re Norwegian living in the United States, but how do you apply for dual citizenship? What are the requirements of the new law? Who can I ask? You’re exploring the United States for business opportunities. What’s the right visa for you? How do I become a U.S. citizen?

Another webinar hosted by Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce USA on June 11 focused on “Immigration Implications in Uncertain Times” and featured Honorary Consul for Illinois Susan Meyer, and Don Garner, U.S. corporate immigration attorney at LL.M. Law Group in Chicago, moderated by Bjørn Rektorli, president of NACC Chicago and a Fortune 500 finance executive. 

Susan Meyer

Photo: Private
Honorary Consul for Illinois Susan Meyer explained the responsibilities of Norway’s embassy, consulates general, and honorary consuls in the United States.

Embassy, consulates, honorary consuls

Meyer explained the different responsibilities and functions of the embassy, consulate generals, and honorary consulates. The embassy in Washington, D.C., with 50 employees, provides various consular services. Ambassador Kåre R. Aas is the top Norwegian diplomat. Norway has three consulates: New York, Houston, and San Francisco. They are headed by career diplomats, who are appointed as consuls general by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “They are full-service missions with full-time paid staff,” Meyer said. 

Norway has 38 unpaid honorary consulates around the United States. They can handle passports for children younger than 12, assist people working or studying in Norway, answer questions about travel, and serve as a contact in the unfortunate circumstance of a Norwegian being involved in a crime. 

Children older than 12 must be fingerprinted for passports, and the consulates general and the embassy have the biometric machines. New York is also the center for Schengen visa applications for North and South America.

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) is “responsible for processing applications from foreigners who want to visit or live in Norway; the operation of asylum reception centers and deportation cases,” according to its website. It also helps navigate the dual-citizenship applications.

The honorary consuls “can provide information about Norwegian and American relations; the process of moving to Norway; information about study abroad, recognizing that the Norwegian directorate of information is the source for references related to study abroad, visas, tourists; an activity and residency in Norway,” said Meyer. “We can answer questions about travel to Norway.”

“We can answer questions and help assist with traveling with the remains of loved ones to Norway or scattering ashes; provide notary services for official documents; take applications for surrogates and paternity forms. The UDI is the place to go for visas and residency permits. The documents related to visas and residency permits are handled by VFS Global and can be accepted in the embassy in Washington, D.C., and the consulates in New York, Houston, and San Francisco,” she explained.

U.S. citizens do not need a visa to travel to Norway, but short-term tourist visas are valid for only 90 days. Bear in mind that now during COVID-19, travel restrictions are in place, and most Americans cannot travel to Norway. Other restrictions and quarantines are in place for Norwegians returning to Norway. But the situation is changing rapidly as Europe—including Norway—reopens. Meyer recommends checking www.norway.no “early and often before making plans.” 

Further, “Keep in mind, that due to COVID-19, the embassies, consul general, consulates are closed or working remotely a limited number of hours. They are not accepting applications at the present time.”

Photo: Tore Meek / NTB scanpix
The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy is located in Huseby in Oslo. It is here that Norwegians may obtain a visa to visit or work in the United States.

Dual citizenship

On Jan. 1, a new law revising the abilit

y for Norwegians to have dual citizenships went into effect, as well as regulations about how and who can become a Norwegian citizen. This also falls under the auspices of UDI. Who does this apply to?

You are Norwegian by birth

You were born to a Norwegian mother or father, or you were adopted before you were 18, and that adoption is recorded and recognized by the Norwegian authorities

If you are currently a Norwegian citizen and you became a citizen of another country, you can keep your Norwegian citizenship

You have previously been a Norwegian citizen, bur you lost it because you became a citizen of another country or because UDI revoked your citizenship, because you did not renounce that original citizenship within the deadline that you were given.

If you are a Norwegian citizen by birth but have lost that citizenship because you did not live in Norway for two years (Note: you may keep it by applying for a retention.)

To maintain your Norwegian citizenship as a child, you must apply before you turn 22—you will not be able to reclaim it later

American citizens with Norwegian grandparents are not eligible

“If your children already have passports, please keep them current,” said Meyer. “We are facing a number of circumstances where people are trying to renew their Norwegian passports to be able to travel to Norway. Of course, they’re necessarily delayed through the COVID-19 situation. You must have at least a six-month stay in Norway before you turn 22. This can be on separate holidays or family visits during those 22 years. 

“There is no fee for this application. It needs to be registered in the application portal of the UDI website. The application should then be submitted within the deadline to one of the Norwegian career missions or the embassy. As part of the citizenship application process, you also need an appointment with one of the career missions or the embassy. Right now, they aren’t open. The date of your submission is when you present those documents to the foreign mission.

“There are a number of procedures for children that are born outside of Norway with at least one Norwegian parent. You need to request a Norwegian identity number. Typically, that is done at the same time that you applied for the child’s first passport. 

“There are a number of documents: the residence permit, the marriage certificate, a birth certificate. The child will also get registered with the Norwegian tax authorities. The request for this identity number normally takes up to three months. Factor that in when you are making your plans to allow a sufficient amount of time. That has now been extended based on COVID-19,” she said.

Don Garner

Photo: Private
Don Garner, an immigration lawyer based in Chicago, explained the ins and outs of U.S. visa requirements for Norwegians coming to work in the United States.

What about the other way around?

Now, the flipside, becoming a U.S. citizen and business visas needed. Don Garner’s concentration has been on corporate or business immigration law, but he has also worked with families and individuals.

Some eligibility requirements:

You must be a permanent resident with a green card

You must be at least 18 (Note: It’s possible for children to apply for U.S. citizenship with a different form, typically submitted after their parents have become U.S. citizens.)

You must have resided in the United States for at least three years if you got your green card through marriage or at least five years, if you got your green card through some other way (lottery, employer sponsorship, asylum) 

Garner noted, “Technically, it’s two years and nine months and four years and nine months. There’s three months early that you can apply for citizenship. Keep that in mind if your green card is ready to expire.”

Importantly, you must be physically present in the United States for at least half the designated time. Garner said, “It’s very important as a green card holder—No. 1—that you do not leave the United States for more than one year continuously, because you can lose your green card. When you leave for six months straight, there is a rebuttable presumption that you have abandoned your permanent residence. At one year, you are considered to have abandoned your permanent residence. You would have to start the green card process all over again.” 

Naturalization

The naturalization process involves an English test, a civics test of 10 questions (answer six correctly) after being given 100 to study, and an interview with an immigration officer. Garner cautions that if you pass these three milestones, that is not when you officially become a citizen.

“You will be scheduled for an oath ceremony typically about six weeks after the naturalization interview. Turn in your green card and receive what is called a certificate of naturalization,” he said. “That is the moment when you become a U.S. citizen. That distinction is very important. When you get that certificate of naturalization, I recommend to you immediately apply for a U.S. passport, because you can no longer use your Norwegian passport and green card to travel like you’ve done in the past to reenter the United States,” said Garner.

What if your green card is about to expire, you applied for citizenship a year ago, and haven’t had your interview scheduled?

“I recommend that you apply to renew your green card if you have not received your appointment for citizenship,” said Garner. “You need to keep that green card in order to show evidence that you are still a permanent resident. Now, if you lose your green card or it expires, that doesn’t mean that you lose your permanent-resident status. You don’t have anything to show the customs officer when you are traveling. 

“You don’t have anything to show your employer that you’re eligible to work here in the United States. If it’s getting very close to the time for the green card to expire and you have not received your U.S. citizenship appointment yet, you can make an appointment at a local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office and get a temporary green card stamp in your passport, which will typically last anywhere from 90 days to six months.”

Business visas

The most common work visa is the B-1 or temporary stay. At the start, the term cannot exceed a year, though one can apply for extensions in six-month increments. A combined B1/B2 visa lasts 10 years. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol determines the length—from one to six months—at the time entry to the United States. The applicant must live in Norway and intend to return.

“The B-1 business visitor visa is good for doing business in the United States,” said Garner. “That does not mean working in the United States. Typically, most people will come to the United States, even on business, for very short periods of time. You’ll come just using your passport through the visa waiver program, or as many of you know it, ESTA, which is just the registration of the visa waiver program. If you come on ESTA, then you get 90 days in the United States before you need to go back to Norway, or at least leave the United States. The advantages of a B-1 business, visitor visa, is that you can come and stay up to six months in the United States. You can change your visa status.

“One of the major restrictions of ESTA or the visa waiver program is that you may not change your status while in the United States. If you’re planning on opening a U.S. office, I recommend getting a B-1 visa, which is generally going to be good for 10 years, and it will be good for multiple entries. 

“Understand, they’re not going to let you stay for 10 years straight. They’re only going to give you six months at customs. That is the difference between the visa stamp that you receive on your passport from the U.S. Embassy or consulate in Norway and what’s called the I-94 arrival departure stamp that you receive at customs. Understand that the stamp that you receive at the embassy, the B-1 stamp or any other type of non-immigrant temporary stamp, is only permission to ask customs to enter the United States. The final say is at customs. You are not guaranteed entry just because you have the okay from the U.S. Embassy. The maximum that you get will be on the I-94 stamp. That controls your status in the United States, how much time you can stay and whether you’re authorized to work.”

Working and doing business can be a tricky line, but also critical—and what customs is trying to gauge—is a visa holder’s intent.

“I’ll give you some examples of doing business,” said Garner. “You can negotiate contracts. You can look at places to open a business space, discuss lease terms. I don’t recommend signing contracts or leases until you are back in Norway because, then it could be considered that you’re going to be working. You could be a speaker at a business. You can attend various conferences. You can purchase goods or materials. You can pretty much discuss investment. 

“This applies even for volunteer activities. Anything that a U.S. citizen would be considered working at, either on a volunteer or for-pay basis—that is not allowed on a B-1 business visitor visa. So when you’re applying for a B-1 visa, generally, you want to have documentation from your employer saying you’re going to continue to be paid in Norway, that you’re going to have a job when you return. You need to prove that you are going to return. That’s probably one of the biggest things about immigration law. What is your intent? What is in your mind when coming into the United States. Are you going to stay permanently, meaning you need a green card, or are you going to say temporarily?

“Understand and always keep in mind, that a customs officer must by law presume that you have immigrant intent, meaning that if you’re coming in on a tourist visa or on just ESTA, then they think you’re lying that you’re only going to stay 90 days or six months, because 45% of the illegal or undocumented population in the United States are people that came in legally but just overstayed their visa.”

Garner advised against having information on any electronic equipment, because U.S. immigration agents can search your texts. They can even search your emails. They’re allowed to see if you are planning on getting married, and if you don’t have a fiancé visa, they will assume that you are planning on working.

While there are several other visas, Garner provided an overview of two common ones—for which Norwegians are eligible to apply—that allow foreigners to come for a longer period of time and work: the L-1 intracompany transfer visa and E-1 and E-2 treaty trader and treaty investor visa.

“The L-1 actually may be barred from entering today,” said Garner. “As you may have heard, President Trump, a little over a month ago, barred immigrants from entering into the United States due to the COVID-19 virus. The L-1 intra-company means there needs to be a parent company in Norway and a subsidiary or some type of affiliate in the United States. It doesn’t necessarily have to be parent and subsidiary, but there must be some type of relationship between the U. S. and the Norwegian company. The person applying for the L-1 visa must have been working at least one year full time, not as an independent contractor, in the last three years for the Norwegian company or one of its affiliates, if it’s a multinational company, before being transferred to the United States. There are two types of L-1 visas. There is the L-1A for executives and managers and the L-1B, for specialized knowledge workers. 

“In order to work in the United States, L-1A holders can work up to seven years, L-1B workers can work up to five years. L-1B specialized knowledge is basically knowledge of the company and its processes that isn’t normal in the industry, is something that person has gained while working abroad and is bringing that specialized knowledge to apply it in the United States.

“The L-1 visa allows for immigrant intent, meaning that you can apply for a green card while in the United States on an L-1 visa, continue to travel abroad and reenter the United States while your green card is processing if you’re getting the green card through marriage or through employment. I have E visa holders that have been here 25 years. So, for all intents and purposes, they are permanent residents. They can apply for the green card, but there are restrictions on travel. The E-1 visa is the treaty trader. That means your company is doing at least 50% of trade with the United States for whatever it is that you’re trading. 

“More common is the E-2 investment, meaning that you’re investing a certain amount of money into opening a new business or purchasing an existing business in the United States. There is no set minimum amount that you need. I generally recommend that you’re going to want at least $100,000. That typically avoids the question of whether you are going to have enough money to support the business. Keep in mind, these visas are good generally for five years and can be renewed indefinitely. That’s why I was saying I’ve got clients that have been here 25 years on an E-visa.  Every five years, they just keep renewing it. That’s the visa that they get in their passport. The I-94 stamp they receive when coming to the United States will only be good for two years. With the L-1 and the E visa, your spouse can apply for employment authorization after arriving in the United States on those visas.”

Culture shock

After all the alphabet soup of visas and explanations of navigating them, Garner offered some forewarnings about culture shock Norwegians—and their American employers—should anticipate, as everyone adapts to new work and social environment.

“When coming to the United States, there’s a different way of doing business, but there’s also practical steps you need to be thinking about on a personal level,” said Garner. The very first thing that you need to do is get a Social Security number. Without that, you cannot open a bank account, enroll your children in school, or get a driver’s license. Any new employee also needs to fill out an I-9 employment eligibility form. 

Garner recommends that new employees contact a human resources manager as quickly as possible to make sure they are compliant with any employment laws. The Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce (NACC) is also a good source of information, offering extensive networking opportunities on both a professional and personal level. Even seemingly mundane everyday chores may be subject to different requirements in different countries. Speaking to Norwegians, Garner said, “Since, I know you all are familiar with snow, as much as we get here in Chicago, you have to remove snow and ice from the front of your house legally.”

 The list of things to keep in mind when moving go a foreign country is long: “You are not permitted to make copies of keys in most rental properties. When driving in the United States, you must stop behind school buses. Then a biggie here in Chicago, at least with red-light cameras, just make sure you check to see if a right turn is allowed on red or not.  There’s a lot more, of course, but those are just some of the basics,” said Garner.

Traveling, working, and doing business across borders carries challenges, but without a doubt, it is almost always worth it. If you have your own venture or adventure to pursue, the Norwegian consular network and the NACC offer you invaluable resources.

More info:

The Royal Norwegian Embassy, Norwegian consuls general and honorary consuls in the United States: www.norway.no/en/usa

Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce: www.naccusa.org

This article originally appeared in the July 10, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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