In 2019, Norway received 41 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status), 1.8% more than in 2018. This figure comprises 48.4% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 10.6% labour migrants, 28.5% family members (including accompanying family) and 12.4% humanitarian migrants. Around 3 800 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 7 900 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants.

Poland, Lithuania and India were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2019. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Congo registered the strongest increase (600) and Syria the largest decrease (-2 400) in flows to Norway compared to the previous year.

In 2020, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by -39.2%, to reach around 1 300. The majority of applicants came from Syria (500), Eritrea (200) and Turkey (85). The largest increase since 2019 concerned nationals of Tanzania (5) and the largest decrease nationals of Turkey (-300). Of the 1 600 decisions taken in 2020, 72.5% were positive.

Emigration of Norwegians to OECD countries increased by 3% in 2019, to 8 600. Approximately 21% of this group migrated to Sweden, 17% to Denmark and 16% to Spain.

Norway is implementing a new Integration Act since January 2021. It allows for more differentiation of the length of the Introduction Programme for refugees and their families – to last between six months to four years -and provides better access to acquire formal education, notably to complete upper secondary education during participation. As a part of a regional reform in Norway, and regulated in the Integration Act, the counties will co-ordinate regional integration work, provide plans for the qualification of immigrants, give career guidance and recommend how many refugees should settle in their municipalities. The Integration Act also replaces the previous need-based offer of hours in Norwegian language training by a Norwegian language goal, between A2 and B2 depending on prior education and skills. For Norwegian language learning more generally, Norway is piloting a grant scheme offering participants a pass to access a certain number of teacher-led Norwegian language lessons.

In 2020, temporary regulatory changes allowed non-EU/EFTA seasonal workers in agriculture staying in Norway to renew their residence permit and work for more than six months. The temporary changes ceased on 31 December 2020, but were reintroduced on 19 April 2021 to apply through September 2021. Skilled workers from outside the EU/EFTA with temporary residence permits, laid off work between March and October 2020, had been allowed to stay in Norway until their permits expired, apply for unemployment benefits and renew their permits between June to end-October 2020. This is no longer possible and skilled workers with temporary residence permit who lose their job, do not qualify for unemployment benefits and have to leave Norway when their permit expires.

Since March 2020, a new regulation on assisted return defines who may be granted return assistance. It regulates the amount of assistance, standardised for each country of origin, but leaves room for flexibility, based on individual needs.

In December 2019, Norway launched a new Action Plan against Racism and Discrimination on the Grounds of Ethnicity and Religion and in September 2020 the first Action Plan against Discrimination and Hatred of Muslims. The Action Plan against Radicalisation and Violent Extremism was revised in 2020, including new measures addressing right-wing extremism.

As a follow-up of the strategy against work-related crime, the government proposed and the parliament passed, that the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority supervises hiring processes, and issues orders and reactions in the event of illegal hiring. The new regulation entered into force from July 2020.

To fight the spread of COVID-19, Norway introduced entry restrictions for foreign nationals from March 2020. Borders were re-opened on several occasions for EEA/Schengen residents, requiring a mandatory quarantine period. Restrictions remained throughout for third country nationals, but exemptions applied for certain groups. Norway suspended refugee resettlement between March and August 2020, and as a result did not fill all quota places of 2020. Support measures for vulnerable groups included financial compensation for temporary layoffs of additional groups, for example international students. To encourage competence building, the possibility to combine training and education with unemployment benefits was eased until July 2021 and will be replaced by a new permanent set of rules.

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