Seeking a job-seeker visa
After receiving her master’s degree, Taylor decided to apply for a job-seeker visa in Norway on the basis of having graduated from a Norwegian university. This visa would allow Taylor to work and remain in Norway for one year while looking for a job.
She didn’t really need to look for a job as she already had a contract from NOVA at OsloMet to work as part of the WELLMIG team. Unfortunately, the position was a part-time (50%) assignment. One needs to have at least an 80% position to apply for a work visa, but Taylor was optimistic that the job-seeker visa would allow her to continue working with our team. However, to Taylor’s dismay, her application was rejected on other grounds.
What constitutes being a graduate of a Norwegian university?
UDI (the Norwegian immigration authorities) said that Taylor had not graduated from a Norwegian university and therefore didn’t meet the criteria for a job-seeker visa. Taylor master’s program is a European Master’s program made up of six partner universities both in Europe and Africa. Upon graduating, you get a joint-degree from all partner universities. However, since the coordinating university is in Germany, UDI determined that Taylor had graduated from a German university. Taylor was devastated and scared of having to leave the country she began to think of as her home, where she had a partner, and a job in her field.
Successful appeal, but visas eventually expire
Never one to give up, Taylor started an appeal process. After three-months of waiting, during which Taylor could not legally work, she received the anxiously awaited good news: Taylor’s appeal seceded and she was given the coveted job-seeker visa. She could finally start working.
The next year went by smoothly and NOVA was able to extend Taylor’s contract multiple times. To the delight of the whole WELLMIG team, NOVA managed to find enough money to keep Taylor gainfully employed until December 2018, but, sadly, Taylor had to refuse the contract. Once again, visa issues were getting in the way of her work. The job-seeker visa was only valid for one year and expired in the beginning of November 2018. Taylor called UDI to specifically ask them if she was allowed to continue working while between visas, but was told that it wasn’t possible in her situation.
Next remedy and discrepancies in information
The next step was to apply for a cohabitation visa with Taylor’s partner, who is a Norwegian citizen. However, the application process can take up to six months. Once again, Taylor found herself unable to work legally in Norway. During her last month on the job, Taylor was right in the middle of writing an article—on nurses waiting (sic!) to be authorized to work in Norway–with Marie Louise and Aslaug. Having to let Taylor go was frustrating to all of us, but for Taylor it was also a huge financial and emotional strain.
Surprisingly, in a letter from UDI that Taylor requested regarding her right to stay in Norway while waiting for her visa decision, she inadvertently got written confirmation that she can in fact continue working! Contrary to what she was told on the phone, the letter from UDI states that Taylor has the same right to work while between visas as she had with her last visa. NOVA was once again able to find enough money to offer Taylor another part-time positon, but this misinformation set her back two months in her work.
EU citizenship is helpful to get a job contract, but ….
As a Polish citizen, Elżbieta did not have any problems securing a position on the WELLMIG project. EU citizenship has its perks. However, not all was smooth sailing.
In the globalized world where people are constantly on the move, working in more than one country is nothing extraordinary. There are bilateral agreements between different countries that protect mobile workers from double taxation and payments into multiple social security schemes. Norway and Poland have such agreements. Thus, NOVA asked Elżbieta for proof that she pays into the social security system in Poland. This way she would not have to pay 43 percent of her Norwegian salary into the social security system in Norway. The human resources department sent her a link to an appropriate Polish website instructing how to apply for the appropriate form. Seems easy, right? Go to the website, fill out a form, and you are done! Not so fast….
The saga of form A1
Per Polish regulations, form A1 is issued to three categories of workers:
- Polish citizen employed in Poland and send by her Polish employer on what we in the United States call detail to another country;
- Polish citizen who has a private business in Poland and wants to move it to a different country; and
- Polish citizen who wants to open a private business in a foreign country.
Obviously, Elżbieta does not fit into any of these categories! Her relationship to NOVA is that of a research professor, not an employee of a Polish university sent to perform her work in Norway. And Elżbieta certainly does not have a private business, nor does she intend to establish one!
Not able to do anything online, Elżbieta called the Polish Social Security office to seek advice. After talking to three different clerks, she finally got transferred to someone who actually knew what she needed. Elżbieta went to the Social Security Office in early July and was given a bunch of forms to be filled out – by hand, in triplicate.
She dutifully filled out all the documents and dropped them off at the appropriate office where she was then told that it would take seven working days for form A1 to be issued. A few days later, Elżbieta got a call to come back because “your forms do not make sense.”
The clerk first wanted to know why the application was not sent by Elżbieta’s Polish employer since–in her imagination–they are sending Elżbieta to Norway to conduct field research. Elżbieta explained patiently that her assumption could not be further from the truth: she is working in Norway as a researcher employed by NOVA, not as an employee of a Polish university. After this piece of information finally sunk in, the clerk remarked: Well, you do not really fall under the usual categories of people who ask for form A1 and I suggest you go back home and write a nice, long, and detailed addendum to your application explaining your various working arrangements. Come back tomorrow to file your application again.
As an afterthought, she added that she was not sure Elżbieta could get form A1 for the duration of her employment at NOVA, because they usually issue the form for 12 months at a time. After a few more weeks of waiting, Elżbieta finally got her form A1.
The moral of the stories
Like the mobile and migrant nurses whom we study in this project, the members of the international research team face similar bureaucratic obstacles. Prolonged application processes, lack of understanding of mobile employees, rigid rules that do not envision new categories of mobility are not only frustrating for the mobile worker, but create inefficiencies and challenges for the employer as well.