Immigrating to Svalbard (Norway) without a visa or work permit: 1920 Treaty and its implications


L'Immigration to SvalbardSvalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic, has some unique features. Under the Svalbard Treaty signed in 1920, citizens of all signatory countries can settle and work on this archipelago without the need for a visa or work permit. This exceptional policy creates a distinctive immigration environment, attracting people from all over the world.

Svalbard Treaty 1920: Historical and legal background

The Svalbard Treaty, signed in Paris on February 9, 1920, is a landmark event in the history of this corner of the world. Born of the need to establish sovereignty and clear rules for the economic exploitation of this area, it was the fruit of complex negotiations in the post-First World War context. The region, rich in resources, notably coal, was at the heart of the geostrategic and economic interests of several nations.

This treaty grants sovereignty over the archipelago to Norway, while imposing specific conditions. It ensures equal treatment for citizens and companies from all signatory countries in terms of access, residence and commercial activity. The treaty also establishes a demilitarized, tax-free zone for businesses, with environmental protection standards.

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The signatory countries, which include the USA, Russia, the UK and 40 other countries, have equal rights for their nationals. Citizens of these countries can live and work in Svalbard without the need for a visa or work permit.

These countries, by virtue of their signature of the Svalbard Treaty, have certain specific rights for their citizens in terms of residence and economic activity in Svalbard.

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Svalbard immigration procedures for treaty countries

The Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is subject to unique immigration and residency regulations, stemming from the Svalbard Treaty signed in 1920. This treaty, ratified by several countries, allows their citizens to reside and work in Svalbard without the need for a visa or traditional residence permit. Here's how it works for citizens of signatory countries:

  1. Right to live and work : Citizens of Svalbard Treaty countries can move, live and work in Svalbard without a visa or permit. This means that the procedure for moving to Svalbard is much simpler than for other destinations.
  2. Employment : Although residents do not need a work permit, they must find employment to support themselves. Svalbard's economy is based mainly on tourism, scientific research and mining.
  3. Self-sufficiency : The Norwegian government requires all Svalbard residents to be self-sufficient. There is no welfare system as in mainland Norway, so residents must have sufficient financial means or stable employment.
  4. Housing : Finding accommodation can be a challenge, given the limited number of homes available and extreme weather conditions. Newcomers often have to arrange their accommodation before arriving.
  5. Environmental regulations : Residents must comply with strict environmental regulations to protect the fragile Arctic ecosystem.
  6. Tax implications : Residents of Svalbard are subject to a different tax regime from mainland Norway, with generally lower rates.

Useful links to find out more :

What if my country is not a signatory to the treaty?

For citizens of non-signatory countries to the Svalbard Treaty, access to and stay on Svalbard is subject to slightly different conditions than for signatory countries. Here are the key aspects:

Enter Norway via Schengen Visa Schengen visa: Citizens of non-signatory countries must obtain a Schengen visa to enter Norway, which is the main access route to Svalbard. This visa is necessary because Svalbard, although not included in the the Schengen areais accessible mainly via Norway.

Stay in Svalbard Once they've arrived in Svalbard, citizens from non-signatory countries can reside and work without a visa or specific residence permit, just like the citizens of signatory countries. This is due to the archipelago's unique legal status.

Proof of installation The presentation of proof of settlement or employment in Svalbard can significantly increase the company's profitability.he chances of obtaining a Schengen visa for Norway. This demonstrates to the consulate or embassy concerned that the applicant has a legitimate reason for travel and a clear plan for his or her stay.

Self-sufficiency As with nationals of signatory countries, citizens of non-signatory countries must prove their ability to support themselves without depending on a welfare system. This includes having a job or sufficient financial means to live in Svalbard.

Arrival and departure checks Although there is no passport control on arrival in Svalbard, citizens of non-signatory countries must go through passport control on departure. the Schengen area in mainland Norway.

Visit citizens of non-signatory countries can also take advantage of the opportunities offered by Svalbard, provided they follow the appropriate procedures to enter Norway and demonstrate their ability to live independently on the archipelago.

List of countries that have signed the Svalbard Treaty :

  1. Norway
  2. United States
  3. Russia (then the Soviet Union)
  4. United Kingdom
  5. Denmark
  6. France
  7. Italy
  8. Japan
  9. Netherlands
  10. Sweden
  11. Canada
  12. Australia
  13. New Zealand
  14. Finland
  15. Germany
  16. China
  17. India
  18. Monaco
  19. Belgium
  20. Poland
  21. Switzerland
  22. Austria
  23. Iceland
  24. South Korea
  25. Spain
  26. Bulgaria
  27. Greece
  28. Hungary
  29. Romania
  30. Croatia
  31. Estonia
  32. Latvia
  33. Lithuania
  34. Czech Republic
  35. Slovakia
  36. Belarus
  37. Ukraine

Rights and obligations when living in Svalbard

Residence in and immigration to Svalbard involves unique considerations in terms of rights and obligations, not least because of its special legal status.

Financial self-sufficiency

One of the main requirements is the ability to support oneself. The Governor of Svalbard, the Norwegian government's main representative on the archipelago, has the right to refuse people who do not meet this requirement. This rule applies to Norwegian citizens as well as to citizens of other countries.

Absence of the Norwegian Social Welfare Act

Norway's Welfare Act does not apply to Svalbard. As a result, residents receive no financial support for living expenses or accommodation. Nor are they eligible for practical assistance in the event of special needs due to illness, disability or age.

Insurance and Social benefits

To receive benefits from the Norwegian Labor and Welfare Administration (NAV) in Svalbard, you need to be a member of the Norwegian national insurance scheme (folketrygden). This status is automatic for those working for a Norwegian employer in Svalbard, but ends one month after termination of the employment contract. It is advisable to contact NAV in Norway or the social insurance authorities in your home country before traveling.

Care of Health for foreign citizens

Foreign citizens hospitalized in Svalbard must present their passport and a health insurance card. Without an insurance card, they must be insured or able to pay for their hospital stay themselves.

Residence in Continental Norway

Under Svalbard's legal regime, living for several years on the archipelago does not automatically confer the right to residence permits for mainland Norway. Indeed, Svalbard operates under a separate legal framework, and residence on the archipelago is governed primarily by the 1920 Svalbard Treaty. This treaty grants citizens of signatory countries the right to reside and work on the archipelago without traditional visas or residence permits. However, this specificity does not translate into direct eligibility for residence on the Norwegian mainland, which is governed by a number of conditions. immigration rules distinct.

However, establishing a social and professional life on the archipelago can often create conditions that can potentially favor obtaining residency in mainland Norway. By developing strong professional ties, acquiring significant work experience, and forging social and community relationships, Svalbard residents can improve their application profile for residency in Norway. In addition, experience gained in Svalbard, particularly in specialized fields such as scientific research or mining, can be leveraged in an application for a residence permit in mainland Norway. It is important to note that each case is unique, and applications for residency are assessed individually by the Norwegian authorities, taking into account various factors including professional experience, financial stability, and integration into Norwegian society.

So, while residency in Svalbard does not offer a direct route to residency in mainland Norway, experience of living and working on the archipelago can be an asset in the process of applying for residency in Norway, provided you meet the criteria and requirements laid down by the Norwegian authorities.

Job search resources

The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) provides a list of all job vacancies in Norway, including Svalbard.

Find job vacancies on Svalbard (NAV) (in Norwegian)

SvalbardThe Arctic Archipelago is known for its extreme climate. Winter temperatures generally range from -13°C to -20°C, but can sometimes dip below -30°C. In summer, temperatures hover around 4°C to 6°C. The region is also subject to the phenomenon of the polar night, when the sun doesn't rise for several months, and the midnight sun, when it doesn't set during the summer. These unique climatic conditions greatly affect local flora and fauna, as well as human activities.

Living in Svalbard: Arctic climate and daily challenges

Daily life at Svalbard is profoundly influenced by these harsh climatic conditions. The relatively small population is concentrated mainly in the town of Longyearbyen. Residents face challenges such as geographical isolation, lack of fresh resources, and the need to protect themselves from polar bears. Despite these challenges, the community is renowned for its spirit of solidarity and adaptability. Key economic sectors include tourism, scientific research and mining, although the latter is in decline.

Finally, the impact of climate change on Svalbard are particularly visible. Rising temperatures are leading to accelerated ice melt and permafrost thaw, affecting the local ecosystem and infrastructure built on permanent frost. This raises environmental concerns and challenges for the future of the region. Scientists are closely monitoring these changes, with Svalbard serving as an important reference point for Arctic climate studies.

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57 Responses

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