Living and working in Norway

What’s the difference between permanent residency status and obtaining Norwegian citizenship?

Norwegian passport

Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen
A new passport was launched in Norway on Oct. 19, 2020.

The Local

Once you’ve lived in Norway for a certain amount of time, you’ll become eligible for permanent residency and, in many cases, Norwegian citizenship. Either status grants you more security to stay in Norway for the long term, but there are some important differences between the two.

What is a permanent residency permit, and who is eligible for it?

Permanent residency enables foreign nationals to live and work in Norway indefinitely. It also gives extra protection against expulsion from Norway. 

The rules for permanent residency have a lot to do with individual situations, but they are primarily based on your citizenship and how long you have been living in Norway. 

You are eligible to apply for permanent residence (PR), after you have lived legally in Norway for at least three years.

Nationals from Nordic countries, as well as European Union and European Economic Area citizens, don’t need to apply for a residence permit before moving to Norway, but if you come from outside the EU/EEA, you will have to apply for a permit before travel.

To have been considered a continuous three-year resident before applying, you must not have lived outside the country for more than six months during a year within those three years, although there are some exceptions worth noting, including pregnancy and illness.

As of Dec. 10, 2020, the Norwegian government raised the minimum period to apply for permanent residency from three years to five years for certain individuals, including asylum seekers.

Permanent residency cardholders in Norway are entitled to automatic membership in the Norwegian national insurance plan, which gives them access to benefits, such as welfare options, health care, and other valuable advantages. For residence cardholders to keep this membership, they must not leave the country for more than 12 months. 

The fee to apply for permanent residence is NOK 4,700 kroner (about $568). There is no application fee for those applicants who are younger than 18. While work permits allow a foreigner to legally stay and work in Norway, it is often necessary for the individual to keep the specific job for which the permit was issued. A foreigner who is the owner of a PR card has a little more flexibility. If they chose to change occupations or take a break to study, they can do so freely without having to apply for a different type of residency permit. 

When it comes to voting, a PR cardholder can take part in local and municipal elections. You are eligible to become a voter after you have lived in Norway consecutively for three years. 

If you decide to travel outside of the country as a PR cardholder, you must have your PR card, or proof of residency, to get back inside the country. Without it, you may be refused re-entry or detained for further investigation. 

What about Norwegian citizenship?

The rules for applying for citizenship in Norway rely heavily on specific factors, including your existing nationality, how long you have lived in Norway, when you came to Norway and whether you are married or the partner of a Norwegian citizen. The general rule is that you must have lived in the country for at least seven of the past 10 years to be eligible.  

The application to apply for citizenship as an adult is NOK 3,700 (about $447), and the fee is waived for applicants younger than 18. 

As with permanent residency, you may keep and use your native passport. As of Jan. 1, 2020, it became legal to hold dual citizenship in Norway. This permits a dual citizen to receive consular aid from both Norway and their home country if ever needed. 

Traveling as a Norwegian citizen can be easier compared with those who have permanent residency. Having a Norwegian passport can eliminate costly and timely visa applications, as well as make it easier to re-enter the country after travel. According to the Passport Index (, Norway is ranked No. 4 on the global passport power ranking list. This high ranking is partially because Norwegian passport owners can freely enter 86 countries without a visa. 

Norwegian citizenship means you can live and study abroad for longer than one year and still be a part of the national insurance program. You are also eligible to move to neighboring Nordic countries without losing your citizenship.

In addition to being able to vote in local and municipal elections, citizenship allows you to take part in national elections. This is a huge benefit for foreigners who are deeply interested in taking part in national matters, such as introducing new legislation, imposing taxes, and public spending. 

Citizenship requires that you learn the Norwegian language and you have at least a basic knowledge of it. According to the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, applicants must have passed an oral Norwegian test to apply for citizenship. Citizens from neighboring Nordic countries are omitted from this rule if they can demonstrate an understanding of the Norwegian language.

This article first appeared in the Apr. 21, 2020, issue of the and was reprinted with permission.

If you are interested in living or working in Norway, doing business there, or if you have questions about dual citizenship requirements, visit the website of the Royal Norwegian Embassy for more information:

This article originally appeared in the May 7, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Local

This article first appeared in The Local, a independent source for Norway's news in English. Visit