Migration for welfare (WELLMIG) Nurses within three regimes of immigration and integration into the Norwegian welfare state

A Graded System

The word test in a dictionary. Photo: colourbox.com

Taylor Vaughn and Marie Louise Seeberg write about how both informal and formal rules are different for Swedish, Polish and Filipino nurses who want to work in Norway.

In order for us to better understand and contextualize our ethnographic and interview data, we have begun compiling the information we already know and are finding out about the structural conditions, or regimes, shaping the migration and integration of nurses to Norway. These regimes may be further broken down into formal and informal sets of rules.

Formal and informal rules

Formal rules are legislation and legally binding agreements on a global, international, regional, bilateral, or national level. Informal rules are to a much larger extent subject to our own definitions and may comprise any perceived structural constraints or facilitators that are not legally binding.

As for formal regimes, labour migrants (including nurses) in Norway are separated into three classifications: Nordic citizens, EU/EEA citizens, and citizens of third countries. This classification also applies to the authorization process. WELLMIG’s focus on nurses from Sweden, Poland, and the Philippines entails examining the laws and regulations shaping all three regimes.

While the immigration and authorization of nurses from Sweden in Norway is facilitated as intra-Nordic mobility under the Helsinki Treaty, nurses from the Philippines need residence permits and work contracts as skilled workers, and their nursing credentials are assessed under the Norwegian Health Personnel Law, which sets strict criteria on their authorization – sometimes halting it altogether. Nurses from Poland fall between these two, with eased EEA immigration and authorization regulations according to the Professional Qualifications Directive EU Directive 2005/36/EC.

Language requirement and the cost

Two particularly interesting aspects of the differences in legislation are the language requirement and the cost. From January 2017, there are new requirements for nurses trained outside of the EEA. One of these is a formal language requirement, which stipulates that non-EEA trained nurses must pass an approved oral and written language test at the B2 level in order to be authorized.

Despite also not being educated in Norwegian, Polish and Swedish nurses have no such stipulation. Most of the Polish and multiple of the Swedish nurses we interviewed described having issues with the language in the beginning. In addition to the language requirement, there are also other tests and courses the Filipino nurses must take that nurses trained in Poland and Sweden do not. We have calculated that these extra requirements currently cost the Filipino nurses at least NOK 27,820 (2,884 EUR).

What the nurses comment

The inequality in the formal structures dictating the mobility of nurses within the three regimes is not lost on the nurses:

And it’s very easy like this when you apply for the authorization in Norway as a Swedish nurse. You just send in the papers of your exam and birth certificate maybe and a proof of your ID. And maybe it was like a police certificate as well or something. And then you pay the fee and then you just wait […].

(Swedish nurse interviewed by Taylor)


I was surprised because it took me only maybe 3-4 days to collect everything and to send them. They say that they send an answer after three months and I got an answer after one month, so everything was perfect and I didn’t have to wait so long. So it was easy-peasy. But I think it was because I…Yeah, we have bachelor in Poland now that is the same type. It would be more difficult for nurses who went to the high-school before […].

(Polish nurse interviewed by Taylor)

But it’s really unfair, because for example if I’m from Poland I can work here without learning the language. I have experienced a lot of nurses where I worked before. They came here, they were hired. They just came here and the leader interviewed them. The leaders don’t have any choice but to hire them because they need the nurses.

(Filipino nurse interviewed by Aslaug)

We hope to use our growing knowledge on both the formal and informal regimes in conjunction with our interview data. This will allow us to better identify and examine which structural conditions are affecting nurses’ experiences and how.

By Taylor Vaughn and Marie Louise Seeberg


This post created by:

Nina Eriksen