There is a lot of confusing and misleading information on the web-o-phere concerning financial benefits for non-citizens of Norway.  Here is just one from www.expatfocus.com:

Norway – Social Security
Norway has a very advanced social security system covering statutory sick pay, maternity pay, child benefit, pensions, unemployment, disability and other benefits.

Anyone who is working and paying tax in Norway, apart from employees of foreign states or inter-governmental organisations, is covered by the Social Insurance Scheme, and is eligible to claim benefits. Any dependants living with them in Norway are also entitled to the same benefits.

Anyone living in Norway on a residence permit for a year or more, even if they are not working, is also covered by the scheme.

7.8% of tax payments go to the social security scheme and are normally deducted direct from salaries.

Norway has reciprocal social security arrangements with EU/EEA countries which mean that social security contributions made in one country can be transferred to the other. (Accessed: 13th march 2009)

The statements that I have highlighted are not entirely true as the information is not clarified enough.  I get a lot of emails asking me to clarify certain information on unemployment entitlements and benefits in Norway for foreign nationals, especially after they realise that it is not as easy as statements, like the above, have declared.  This post is the first in a series on the subject of the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme.

In this post I will give a brief outline of the benefits with a concentration on the unemployment  benefit or the “Daily Cash Benefit”.  Please note that all the information I have obtained is from the nav.no and the regjeringen.no websites.

unemployment

On the DNTS website is says:

Personal Scope of the National Insurance Scheme
Compulsorily insured under the National Insurance Scheme are all persons who are either resident or working as employees in Norway or on permanent or movable installations on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.
Excluded from compulsory insurance are foreign citizens who are paid employees of a foreign state or of an international organisation.  Under specified conditions the same applies to persons with a short-term employment in the Relm and persons exclusively in receipt of pension from abroad etc.

The above means than anyone in general employment who pays tax to the Norwegian government or anyone who resides in Norway on lawful residency permits are entitled to receive the general benefits of the National Insurance Scheme.

The benefits for people insured under the National Insurance Scheme include:

old-age, survivors, and disability pensions, time limited disability benefit, basic benefit and attendance benefit in case of disablement, rehabilitation benefits, occupational injury benefits, benefits to single parents, cash benefits in case of sickness, adoption and unemployment, medical benefits in case of sickness, and maternity and funeral grant.

All benefits have ‘relational’ basic amounts (and often depends on a person’s need).  **Not everyone who is insured under the National Insurance Scheme are entitled to the benefits above.

Clarification:
Involuntary and Voluntary Membership in the National Insurance Scheme

There are two main memberships in the National Insurance Scheme – Involuntary membership, meaning a person does not financially contribute to the scheme, and Voluntary membership, meaning a person financially contributes to the National Insurance Scheme via paying taxes.

Nav actually states (for basic insurance):

You do not have to be a Norwegian citizen, registered with the National Population Register or pay taxes in Norway (to have) membership in the National Insurance Scheme. What is crucial is that your residence in Norway is lawful.

**However, each benefit has certain requirements that must be fulfilled before an entitlement is granted.

Nav says:

National insurance entitlements depend on present or previous membership. Some entitlements may however, be granted to the family of a member of the National Insurance Scheme.

The benefits that you can claim will be determined on what coverage your membership provides. Some national insurance benefits require that you have been a member of the National Insurance Scheme for a certain time.

People who are ‘involuntary’ members of the scheme are only entitled to the very basic health and pension coverage.  People who are ‘voluntary’ members of the National Insurance Scheme have access to all benefits – including the Daily Cash Benefit.

Daily Cash Benefit

A person who is insured under the National Insurance Scheme is entitled to Daily Cash Benefit, however, to be granted Daily Cash Benefit a person needs to have previously worked and paid tax to the Norwegian government for a certain amount of time.   In fact, a person must have had an income of:

1.5 X the Basic Amount (NOK 100 218) the preceding calendar year or an income from work of at least 3 X the Basic Amount (NOK 200 436) during the three proceeding calendar years. (http://www.nav.no/102098.cms,  Accessed: 13th March 09)

The other requirements include:

The insured person must be a bona fide applicant for work, i.e. capable of work and registered as an applicant with the labour and welfare service.  He/she must also, at short notice and in any part of Norway, be available for any type of part-time for full-time work.

The insured person must have also had their working hours reduced by at least 50 percent in order to claim and cannot be a student.  They must also return ‘employment status cards’ to Nav every two weeks.  Other persons entitled are those who are setting up their own business or without work through bankruptcy.

Even though Norway is often seen as a ‘socialist’ society (and generally promoted as one by unofficial immigration or expat websites), a very important part of Norwegian culture is self reliance.  In fact, people are expect to exhaust all other avenues before claiming for any benefit.

The DNTS website says:

Before financial support is given, you must exploit and access all other options to support yourself.  For instance, income from work, any rights for child benefit and other benefits, employment schemes, student loans, savings, or reducing expenses.  Spouses and defactos have an obligation to support each other.

To apply for financial assistance you need to give all your financial, job seeking activities, family and personal information over to a State benefits consultant who will make an assessment.  You will need to have an interview about your ‘other options’ and receive financial counselling.  You are expected to budget and cut out unnecessary expenses.

A Norwegian friend of mine received a reduced amount of Daily Cash Benefit because she was giving too much money to charity.  You are expected to put your family first.

There are other benefits that have time limits too to make sure that Norway stays a ‘working’ nation.  As such, the ‘Stay at Home’ benefit for mums is only granted when the child is 1-3 years.  After that the mother is expected to put the child in childcare and go to work.

How much is the basic Daily Cash Benefit?

For the full-time unemployed, the annual Basic Amount was NOK 66 812 in 2008.  (This is barely enough money to pay rent for a one bedroom flat in Oslo.)  The amount is adjusted by Parliament every year for inflation (and is still subject to tax).  However, each application is assessed individually and you can be granted more Daily Cash Benefit based on your needs.

So how long can you get Daily Cash Benefit?

From DNTS:

* 104 weeks of employment income of at least NOK 140,512 (2 times the basic amount of national insurance)
* 52 weeks of employment income of less than NOK 140,512 (2 times the basic amount of national insurance), but higher than NOK 70,256 (basic amount of national insurance)

This might seem a lot but when you consider over 60% of this will be going to rent and 30% for food (for a one child family), there is not much for other expenses.  But of course, there is a catch -   How long you could receive Daily Cash Benefit depends on how much employment income you received in the last calendar year (or average of the last three calendar years).  If you earnt a decent amount while employed the previous year, your benefit will likely be delayed until this money is considered appropriately used for your unemployed circumstance.  Also, if you don’t meet the Daily Cash Benefit requirements during your unemployment period your benefit will stop.

Services are available to everyone

However, even if you are not entitled to receive Daily Cash Benefit, you still have access to the great services offered by Nav – the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration.

There are special rules for EU/EEA citizens including the Balkan countries.  Please go to the nav.no and the regjeringen.no websites for more information.

Please feel free to ask questions in the comments section below so everyone can benefit from the answers.