Entry and residence
The regulations concerning entry to and residence in Svalbard are different from the regulations on the Norwegian mainland. Svalbard is not part of the Schengen area. Norwegian authorities do not require a visa for visiting Svalbard, but as most transport links connect Svalbard with Norway, foreigners with visa requirements to Norway/the Schengen area will need a valid visa to travel through the Schengen area. If you are on Svalbard and need a visa, please contact the Governor’s Office between 08:30 and 15:30 on Tuesdays and Fridays. Processing visa applications may take up to 14 days.
Those who consider living in Svalbard should be aware that it is difficult to find both work and housing, and the weather conditions are very challenging compared to most other places in the world. Living expenses are very high, and the Governor can reject persons without sufficient means to support themselves.
Svalbard is part of Norway and the archipelago is situated to the North of the Norwegian mainland, in the Barents Sea. The largest community is Longyearbyen, one of the northernmost communities in the world (78 degrees north). There are no roads between Longyearbyen and the other communities.
More than 60 per cent of the archipelago is covered by ice, and the weather conditions are very challenging compared to most other places in the world. During winter the temperature can drop below -30 degrees C, and the average temperature in summer is approx. 5 degrees C. Due to Longyearbyen's position far north, the sun is away from late October until the beginning of March. From mid November to February it is dark 24 hours a day.
Polar bears are common in Svalbard, and it is not advisable to travel outside Longyearbyen without a proper firearm for self protection. One is also required to carry appropriate means of frigthening and chasing off polar bears, according to the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act.
The Immigration Act and The Svalbard Treaty
In mainland Norway the Immigration Act regulates foreign citizen's entry to and residence in the country. Despite the fact that Svalbard is part of Norway the Immigration Act does not apply on the archipelago. Svalbard has a special status pertaining to international law. An international treaty, the Svalbard Treaty, provides for Norwegian sovereignty in the archipelago. Article 3 in the Treaty states that citizens and companies from all treaty nations enjoy the same right of access to and residence in Svalbard. As a consequence, the Immigration Act does not apply and Svalbard is outside the Schengen area.
Visa and entry to Svalbard
Everyone may, in principle, travel to Svalbard, and foreign citizens do not need a visa or a work or residence permit from Norwegian authorities in order to settle in Svalbard. Foreign citizens with visa requirements to the Schengen area do, however, need a valid Schengen visa if they travel through Schengen on their way to or from Svalbard. It is required with two entries in the traveller's visa to be able to return to the Schengen area (mainland Norway) after the stay at Svalbard.
Conditions for residence in Svalbard
Though neither a visa nor a work or residence permit is required, everyone has to meet certain conditions in order to live in Svalbard. These conditions are outlined in a specific set of regulations from 1995 called "Regulations concerning rejection and expulsion from Svalbard". Among other things the regulations state that The Governor can reject persons whithout sufficient means to support themselves. Therefore, it is advisable to secure housing and employment before deciding to settle in Svalbard.
It is difficult to find work in Longyearbyen, and Norwegian is the main working language. The Governor of Svalbard is not an employment agency and is not updated on vacancies and job opportunities. The official employment agency in Norway, NAV, registers vacant positions in Norwegian, but not in English. NAV does however have English web pages with general information on employment in Norway. Through the English web pages one can also contact NAV. Another possibility is to contact the different local employers in Longyearbyen directly.
Most houses and apartments in Svalbard are owned by companies and institutions that provide them to their employees as part of the work relationship. It is difficult to find housing if you do not have a job. Practically all land in Svalbard is owned by the Norwegian state, and you normally can't buy land to build a private house. There are a few apartments and houses on the private market, but the prices are very high. In general, housing and living expenses in Norway and Svalbard are among the highest in the world
Travel from Svalbard to the mainland/Schengen and Norwegian citizenship
Foreign citizens who stay in Svalbard can hand in applications for visa to Norway/Schengen area, applications for residence and work permit in Norway and applications for Norwegian citizenship to The Governor of Svalbard. It is important to notice that residence in Svalbard does not in itself give the right to obtain a residence permit for the mainland or Norwegian citizenship.
The Governor's part in processing foreign citizens cases
The Governor of Svalbard can assist with advice and information about questions relating to Norwegian immigration legislation. The Governor does not, however, process applications in these matters, but forward them to The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI). UDI processes all applications for visas, residence permits, citizenships etc. For further information,we advise you to visit the website of the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration.