Effects of immigration policies on immigration to Norway 1969-2010 (2011)

This project examines how changes to regulations and the economic conditions have influenced this immigration, using statistics for gross immigration to Norway from, in principle, all countries in the world during the period 1969 – 2010.

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Effects of immigration policies on immigration to Norway 1969-2010 (pdf, 301 kB)


Immigration to Norway increased during the period 1951 - 2010, as did the emigration from Norway. While during the 1950s there was net emigration most years, there was a balance during the 1960s while there has been a positive and increasing net immigration since then. In particular there was a strong increase in labour immigration following the expansion of the EU in 2004. From the beginning of the 1970s the Norwegian authorities have implemented several measures to regulate immigration to Norway. This project examines how changes to regulations and the economic conditions have influenced this immigration, using statistics for gross immigration to Norway from, in principle, all countries in the world during the period 1969 – 2010.

Economic research on migration flows has used one standard model for the decision to migrate. This model stresses the economic conditions in the country of residence compared to those in the possible destination country. Expected differences in earnings will play a role, but the possibilities for finding a job corresponding to ones level of competence will also be important. The costs of moving and settling will also play a role when making the decision. These costs are influenced by cultural and linguistic differences between the countries of origin and destination. In many situations such economic considerations may have a limited influence if the person is migrating because of political persecution. In other cases the decision to migrate may be decided by new or existing family ties. From 1957 Norway had a fairly liberal set of regulations on immigration, established by a new legislation (“Fremmedloven”). In 1971 this legislation was modified by introducing a requirement that the immigrant had to have obtained a job and a place to live before receiving a residence permit. As a temporary measure in 1974 and permanently from 1975 an “immigration halt” was introduced. Many of the numerous changes that have been introduced subsequently are also included in this analysis, i.e. those considered likely to have had the most significant impact on migration to Norway. The important changes following from the Norwegian entry into the EEA agreement in 1994 is particularly important, as is the Norwegian membership in the Schengen agreement and the impact of the subsequent increased membership in the EU. In total this analysis includes more than 20 changes to the regulations after 1971.

In line with existing studies of immigration we find that economic factors were important for the immigration to Norway. Income differences between Norway and other countries have the expected impact, as do differences in income distributions. The labour market situation in Norway has also been important. Lower unemployment in Norway has resulted in higher immigration. We do not have statistics on the labour market situation in all the countries included in this study, but for the countries with such statistics the results demonstrate that higher unemployment in the country of origin lead to higher emigration to Norway. We find that many modifications to the immigration policies have had effects in the expected direction. One example is the 1975 ‘immigration halt’ mentioned above. We have estimated that this measure did have a strong and long lasting effect on the total immigration to Norway and in particular on the immigration from the American continent and from Asia, while the effect on immigration from other European countries was insignificant. The further tightening of the immigration regulations that came in 1977 also reduced the immigration, while the more liberal policies introduced in 1981 and the continued income growth in the early 1980s contributed to higher immigration. Around 1990 many special events influenced the immigration to Norway. From 2000 to 2010 several changes linked to the EU influenced immigration to Norway. Norway’s membership in the European Economic Area (EEA) from 1994 resulted in simpler immigration procedures for citizens of non-Nordic EU member countries, but does not seem to have influenced significantly the immigration from these countries. The Schengen agreement of 2001 did result in higher immigration, and the 2004 enlargement of EU did increase labour immigration to Norway substantially, later also family related immigration. The EU-enlargement of 2007 did also increase immigration to Norway, and the 2008 tightening of the rules for family establishment did have a notable effect according to our analysis.

Carried out by: Statistics Norway (SSB)

Comissioned by: UDI

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