Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Slightly Frustrated Ex-patriate: That's Me.

I applied for my skilled workers visa on August 3, 2011. When I called at the end of September, I was told my application was "in the queue." When I called at the end of November, they said "oh, you haven't received it yet? It was mailed in October."  So I traveled to the police station, waited over an hour in line only for them to tell me that I was in the 'wrong line'. Fantastic. So I pulled another number for the right line, and waited another hour.

They took my picture, and put a sticker in my passport and sent me away.

Taking care of some more business during my Christmas holiday, I also stopped by the tax office to hand over our 'official' marriage license. Apparently, if you want to be married in Norway, your marriage license has to have an 'apostille' stamp from the place it was issued. Naturally, our original copy didn't have that, so I mailed it to my dear dad, who mailed it Sacramento, which was mailed back for insufficient postage, which was resent to Sacramento with the correct postage. It was stamped and stapled to a letter from the capitol saying that it was, after all, an authentic document, and then mailed back to my dad in Los Angeles and then mailed back to me here in Bergen. What an ordeal. I dropped it off at the tax office, where I was told they would register our marriage and it would be mailed back to me. With the husband's instruction, I also asked about getting a new tax card. Apparently they send you a new one at the beginning of each new year.

That would be a really nice piece of information to share with the new people here, don't you think? I had no idea that you have to get a new card every year (it basically tells you and your employer how much you will be taxed, as I understand it).

It's January 10th, and have I received my new tax card? Nope. With the threat of 50% tax looming over my February paycheck, I made a quick call to the tax office this morning. I told the tax people that I haven't received it yet. They looked up my information and confirmed that no, I have not received it. Naturally, I asked what the next steps are, and they said that since I have a temporary personal number (pretend it's like an SSN, American readers - but temporary), I have to fill out a form and deliver it to the tax office only because they need to be sure of my identity (which means: bring your passport and ANY immigration papers/work contracts/etc that I've received). I left work early, waited at the office (it goes fairly fast, actually), and finally stepped up to the counter.

On the form I filled out, there's a place for "date of departure," which is basically asking when I will be leaving Norway. I left it blank because I have no intention of leaving any time soon. The woman looking over my form was confused by this, but I explained I married a Norwegian guy and work here and will be staying awhile.

So what'd she do?

Oh, she handed me another form because apparently I can't have a 'temporary' number anymore in light of this new information.

I grew weary of this because my temporary number is used for everything: it's on my visa that I just spent time at the police station for, it's my bank id, it's connected to my telephone number, etc. and by being issued another new number, I'll have to call the immigration department (which is....worse than the DMV?), I'll have to take a trip to the bank, and so many other things.

Then, she asked me for my marriage license...which I didn't think of bringing because it was only mailed back to us from that very office a week and half ago. She started to say I would need to come back with it, but I protested with: "well, I brought in about 3 weeks ago and it was just mailed back to me....isn't that in the system somewhere?" Ahh, she found it. Yes, I was in fact married to Stian, after all.

It's supposed to take a week to get this new card, but I'll be honest: I will be shocked if I get it that fast, because I haven't received anything on time or without an annoyed phone call. Nothing but inconvenient and inconsistent experiences for this expat!!!

Norway is notorious for bureaucratic nonsense (but what country isn't, I mean really?), and I feel like I'm experiencing it's full potential. I don't know what it's like to be an 'immigrant' anywhere else, but I think I'd rather be an immigrant here than in the States because I've heard that's pretty rough, too.

Although, maybe they're better at telling you what to expect, and when and where to take care of things, because they really don't tell you anything here. Thank goodness for a husband that's a native, and an employer who knows what I need so that I can get paid every month.

This will get easier...

....eventually. Good thing I'm lovin' it here! (You know, besides all the stuff I just wrote about...)


  1. Alyssa,

    I totally understand. I came here for my husband's work contract. He got a temporary number almost immediately and a "permanent" number once we had an address. However, since I am not working. They won't even give me a temporary number, and said that my immigration papers don't have priority.

    So, I asked about getting assigned a GP; "yah you don't get a doctor until you have a number." I said, I wanted to work, and the lady said "enjoy the time off and drink." I went back, with yah, but I am an oilfield engineer, I can get a good job pretty easy and quick, if you just get me a number. And she said "You are NOT allowed to work until you have a number, because you are in process for a family visa not a visa based on work. Enjoy the time off." They said my number should be here shortly, haha. I'm lovin' it here too, except for the bureaucracy, and the fact that if you ask 2 people the same question you get different answers. I wish they had a more clean cut process, also. But, yes, I'm loving it here. Hope your card comes quickly!!!

  2. Goodness that sounds like an awful lot of drama just to get the bank number thingy sorted (I'm still struggling with mine so I can sympathise!) I'm getting married to a Norwegian this year, my work is ran threw England (Graphic design so its done over the internet at the moment.) so I cant get it through work and UGH.

    Other places may be worse however Norway seems so much more choatic when it comes to paperwork.

    I just having to keep reminding myself that given the choice - I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

  3. There is so much paperwork here, and the different departments do not seem to talk to each other - so bring every form you have, every time, no matter who you are talking to! I didn't realise how difficult it was until my husband moved here and I had to help him through the processes. Once it is all done, and you have your real social security number it does get easiser, and things will start to happen automatically... Good luck!

  4. UiO has a resource for foreign employees that gives good guidance for the process of setting up in Norway http://www.uio.no/english/for-employees/employment/international-researchers/arrival/.
    If you're with a Norwegian often they get a much better response from the authorities than you will. When the police in Bergen lost my application, I had phoned repeatedly and got fobbed off, one call from my wife and they then looked properly and admitted they couldn't find it. In general though it's the getting registered that's the pain, once you're in the system it becomes easier with being able to change GP's through the internet, do tax returns and so on.
    If you want to see the contrast in the way Norwegians are treated vs. immigrants then look at the passport office next to the Immigration office in Bergen central police station, spot the lack of queues, the seating areas and the number of staff on duty.
    In fact that's why the queue at the tax office goes fast compaired with the one at the immigration office.

  5. Oh gosh, sounds awful! We almost moved to Norway several years ago and I had a feeling I'd be dealing with all of those issues on my own (with 2 small kids in tow, of course) while my husband sat at his new job... Looking back, we may or may not have made the right decision not to move, but I'm glad I didn't have to experience the hassle, at least!

  6. The States is probably better at recieving immigrants. thats to be expected when you look at how the USA came to be, really.

    Norway is fairly new to the concept of people actually wanting to move in. And sadly, being a rich first-world country, Norway is high on the list of desirable destinations, and gets a lot of pressure from third-world immigrants. So the system is _designed_ to be difficult, and resistant to shortcuts I think.

  7. It 's very surprise me how immigrants encounter the same sort of problems in Norway and Sweden.