Svalbard is part of the Kingdom of Norway, but not all laws that apply on the Norwegian mainland apply for Svalbard. For example, Svalbard is not part of the Schengen co-operation or the EEA Agreement, and there is a requirement that you must be able to support yourself if you are living on, or travelling to, Svalbard. However, the Nordic Convention on Social Security does apply on the archipelago in the north, but you should note that regulations may differ from those that apply on mainland Norway.
Since the Schengen Agreement requires passport control between Schengen countries and non-Schengen countries, everyone travelling in and out of Svalbard must be able to prove their identity with a passport. Norwegian citizens can also prove their identity with a driving licence issued after 1998, a bank card, or a Ministry of Defence Identity Card when entering Svalbard. The documents must be issued in Norway and must include at least name, photo and date of birth. This is a transitional arrangement that applies until a national ID card is introduced in Norway. However, after the national ID card has been introduced, Norwegians (including children) must prove their identity with a passport or a national ID card.
Residence, social services, rights and obligations
The Norwegian Immigration Act does not apply on Svalbard, but Svalbard has a particular status in international law through the Svalbard Treaty. This means that citizens of all countries that are signatories to the treaty will have the same right of access to and residence on Svalbard. As Svalbard is not part of the Schengen co-operation, foreigners need neither a visa nor a work or residence permit to stay on Svalbard. However, a visa for the Schengen area is required when travelling via the Norwegian mainland.
Another requirement is that visitors must have sufficient resources to support themselves on Svalbard; the Governor (Sysselmannen) is entitled to reject persons who do not satisfy the requirements. This applies to Norwegian citizens and citizens of other countries. The Norwegian Social Welfare Act does not apply on Svalbard, so residents are not entitled to financial support for living expenses or housing. Residents are not entitled to practical assistance if they have special needs because of illness, disability or age.
In order to receive benefits from The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) on Svalbard, you must be a member of the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme (folketrygden). If you work for a Norwegian employer on Svalbard, you are automatically a member of the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme, but the membership ceases one month after the work agreement ends. If you have any questions about entitlement to social security benefits on Svalbard, contact NAV and the social insurance authorities in your home country before departure. Foreign citizens admitted to hospital on Svalbard must be able to show their passports and a health insurance card. If you do not have a health insurance card, you must be insured or be able to pay for the hospital stay yourself.
Because the Norwegian Immigration Act does not apply on Svalbard, residence on Svalbard does not qualify you for residence permits on the Norwegian mainland, even if you have lived on Svalbard for several years.
People planning to live on Svalbard must register in the archipelago’s Population Register within 8 days of arrival. You should visit the tax office and notify residence if:
- You are moving to Svalbard and will be there for at least 6 months
- You are moving within Svalbard and your period of residence will be/has been at least 6 months
- You are moving from Svalbard
If you are registered as a resident on Svalbard, you have certain rights regarding hunting and fishing, firearms, alcohol cards and health services. Even if you are registered as a resident on Svalbard, you are not regarded as a resident of Norway, so it is important to check with your home country about your rights and obligations when you live on Svalbard.
Work and housing
Finding a job on Svalbard can be difficult, so you are recommended to arrange a job before travelling. Most housing on Svalbard is owned by employers, and accommodation is usually offered in combination with a job offer. This makes it difficult to find housing without having a job on Svalbard.
Svalbard has its own university centre (UNIS), offering research-based education in the fields of Arctic biology, geology, geophysics and technology. UNIS is not an independent university, but a specialist institution for students who have already studied at another university in Norway or abroad. English is the official language at UNIS, where a number of courses are offered at bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral level.
Svalbard has its own tax legislation, so all tax collected is used in the archipelago. Tax rates are lower than on the Norwegian mainland. There two tax schemes. You can either be subject to ordinary tax liability as a resident or have limited tax liability.
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NB! If you have questions regarding the processing of a specific case or application, or other personal matters, please contact the relevant authority directly.