Statistical analysis, 2017

The Directorate of Immigration (UDI)

UDI and the immigration administration


This article was first published in Norwegian, in Statistics Norway’s journal Samfunnsspeilet: Gravdahl, Berit og Randi Wilskow (2016): Utlendingsdirektoratet (UDI). UDI og utlendingsforvaltningen. Samfunnsspeilet 4/2016. Statistisk sentralbyrå.

The article and tables 3-8 were updated with new figures in February 2017.

The Directorate of Immigration (UDI) is the central agency in the Norwegian immigration administration. The UDI implements and helps to develop the government’s immigration and refugee policy. The UDI is tasked with facilitating lawful and desirable immigration and ensuring that those who meet the requirements are given an opportunity to come to Norway. The Directorate also carries out a control function, and is responsible for preventing abuse of the system.

The UDI processes applications for protection (asylum), visitor’s visas, family immigration, residence permits for work and study purposes, citizenship, permanent residence permits and travel documents. The Directorate also makes decisions on rejection and expulsion.

In addition, the UDI is responsible for ensuring that all asylum seekers are offered somewhere to stay during the application process. The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir) is responsible for care centres for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers under 15 years. The UDI also works with assisted returns.

The UDI has its head office and a regional office located in Oslo. There are also regional offices in Narvik, Trondheim, Bergen, Kristiansand and Gjøvik.



Immigrants: persons born abroad with two foreign-born parents and four foreign-born grandparents.

Norwegian-born to immigrant parents: born in Norway to two foreign-born parents, and with four foreign-born grandparents.

As a whole, these two groups are often referred to as persons with an immigrant background.

Refugees and family immigrants of refugees

Refugee: a person who has been granted a residence permit subsequent to an application for protection (asylum). Refers to those granted residence on humanitarian grounds, protection, collective protection, or as a resettlement.

Residence on humanitarian grounds is granted to persons who need protection or are in a vulnerable position.

Resettlement refugee: a person who is not in their native country, and is transferred to a third country in line with an official decision, normally in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Collective protection covers refugees and their families who are fleeing war (in Norway this term has mainly applied to refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina).

Primary refugee: a person who has been granted asylum or residence on humanitarian grounds, as a resettlement refugee or as a person who belongs to a group with collective protection.

Family immigrant: a person who is granted a residence permit because they have a family member (reference person) in the host country. Covers family reunification, expansion/establishment, accompaniment (where someone accompanies another family immigrant), family ties and unspecified grounds relating to family.

Persons with a refugee background: refugees and family immigrants of such persons (combined total of primary refugees and family immigrants).

Not included: asylum seekers who are awaiting a decision on protection (asylum) and residence in the country are not counted as persons with a refugee background.

Source: Statistics Norway

Adjusting resources

The work of the UDI fluctuates with the number of applications received. The available resources therefore need to be adjusted accordingly. The fluctuating number of applications from asylum seekers has a particularly large impact. The large increase in asylum seekers in autumn 2015 led to the UDI doubling its resources for processing asylum cases in winter 2016. The number of asylum seekers dropped considerably in 2016, and the resources had to be reduced accordingly.

The UDI has an obligation to offer asylum seekers somewhere to stay. In the period 1 August to 31 December 2015, the Directorate created about 28 000 places in various types of reception centres and other units. The decline in the number of asylum seekers in 2016 means that the UDI are now reducing the number of places in reception centres.

The immigration administration also consists of several other players, including the following:

  • The Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi) is responsible for implementing the government's refugee settlement policy and for following up the Introduction Act. The IMDi was established on 1 January 2006 when it took over some of the work of the UDI.
  • The Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) processes appeals against the UDI’s decisions and is superior to the UDI as a body for legal interpretation.
  • The National Police Immigration Service (PU) registers new asylum seekers, checks their travel routes, ascertains their identities, and prepares and implements final rejections in asylum cases (deportations).
  • The police districts receive and prepare applications for residence and citizenship. The police can initiate expulsion cases, but only the UDI can make decisions on these matters. The police have the authority to reject an application.
  • The Foreign Service is the front-line service for foreign nationals who want to visit or move to Norway. It provides information on regulations and procedures, and processes applications for visitor’s visas. Cases that the Foreign Service cannot process are sent to the UDI.

Asylum process

The UDI processes applications pursuant to the provisions of the Immigration Act and the associated regulations in accordance with international obligations.

A person has a right to protection (asylum) if he/she

  • has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her ethnicity, origin, skin colour, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, political views, or
  • faces a real risk of being subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by returning to his or her home country.

The main rule is that a person must be in Norway or at the Norwegian border in order to seek protection. In 2015, there were 31 150 applications for protection (asylum) in Norway. Of these, 5 480 were from unaccompanied refugee minors. In 2016 3 460 applied for asylum, of which 320 were unaccompanied minors.

Table 1. Asylum applications 2015 by citizenship

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Table 2. Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers 2015, by citizenship

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Table 3. Asylum applications 1.1.-31.12.2016, by citizenship

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Table 4. Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers 1.1-31.12.2016, by citizenship

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Different processing procedures

  • Normal procedure: The applicant is interviewed and the case is processed by the UDI.
  • 48-hour procedure: Express procedure where the UDI reaches a decision and considers deferred implementation within 48 hours of registration of an application. Applicable in cases where the UDI believes that help is available for the applicant from the government of their own country. This applies to most European countries (Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia are countries with most decisions in this procedure in 2016), and also to some countries in Africa, Asia and South and Central America. Almost no one from these countries will be granted residence in Norway.
  • 3-week procedure: Express procedure for countries where the UDI has previously experienced that most applications are denied – such as Bangladesh, Belarus and Nepal. Very few from these countries will be granted residence in Norway.
  • Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers that are under 18, and who seek protection without their parents, have the right to a representative to protect their rights in Norway, both legally and financially. Where the UDI questions the age of an unaccompanied minor asylum seeker, an age examination will be offered.
  • Dublin procedure: The Dublin Agreement is a cooperation between the EU member states, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The Agreement determines which country is responsible for processing an application for protection. An asylum seeker can only have his/her application processed in one of the Agreement member countries, and the main rule is that the application is processed by the first member country that the applicant reaches. If the asylum seeker applies for protection in a different member country, he/she will be sent back to the country that has already processed the application, or that is responsible for processing the application.

Different application decisions

Substantive assessment entails the UDI deciding whether a person has a need for protection (convention refugee/other refugee status). If the applicant is not deemed to have a need for protection, the UDI will consider whether he/she should be granted residence on humanitarian grounds. When the Directorate processes applications from persons who are already registered in another member country of the Dublin agreement, it does not consider whether they need protection, but whether they should be sent back to this country, i.e. such cases are not subject to a substantive assessment.

This also applies to applicants who have protection in a different country (referred to as a safe third country). In such cases, the applicant may be sent to another country in accordance with international law agreements, or can be referred for protection to another safe country where the applicant has stayed prior to entry into Norway.

In connection with the arrivals from Russia via Storskog in autumn 2015, asylum seekers who have stayed in Russia should, in general, be denied a substantive assessment in Norway. On 30 November 2016, the UDI received an instruction from the Ministry of Justice and Public Security that applicants with an expired multiple-entry visa or residence permit in Russia can have their asylum application processed in Norway. The justification for the instruction is that returning to Russia is no longer considered feasible for this group.

Some cases are also withdrawn by the applicant, or closed. The asylum seekers are allowed to withdraw their application before or after a decision is made. Where applicants are subjected to an assisted return, his/her application is withdrawn. If the asylum seeker disappears, the application is closed (Table 6).

For statistics on asylum decisions, see

Relocation and resettlement refugees

  • Relocation: As part of the EU’s relocation programme from 2015, Norway has voluntarily agreed to accept a total of 1 500 asylum seekers in 2016 and 2017. The relocation programme entails applicants who are in Italy and Greece being distributed between the EU countries in order to ease the burden. Norway will be assigned applicants from nationality groups that have an application success rate in Europe of at least 75 per cent. Following a review of their case, applicants will be transferred to Norway. In 2016, 257 relocated asylum seekers arrived to Norway, 236 of them were from Eritrea. These numbers are included in the number of asylum seekers in 2016. Asylum interviews and the decision-making will be carried out in Norway.
  • Resettlement refugees (quota refugees): Resettlement refugees are usually people who are registered as refugees outside their home country. The majority live in refugee camps, but this is only a temporary solution. Norway’s quota is determined by the government, and in 2016 was 3 120, of which 3 000 places were reserved for Syrians. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) forwards the applications for resettlement refugees. The UDI decides who to accept in Norway, based on interviews with the applicants.

Appeals procedure

All applications rejected by UDI can be appealed. Applicants who are rejected are appointed a lawyer to assist with the appeal. The UDI determines whether the appellant can remain in Norway during the appeals process. The UDI may reverse its own decision if further information comes to light in the appeal that will change the outcome. If the decision is not reversed, the appeal is forwarded to the Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) for processing.

Family immigration and refugees

Once a person has been granted protection in Norway, family members in their home country can apply for family immigration. Requirements are imposed on the applicant’s relationship with the reference person in Norway, and the reference person’s income. If it is less than one year since the reference person has been granted protection when the application for family immigration is submitted, the income requirement is not applicable if the applicant is a spouse, cohabitant or child under 18 years.

If family relations are established after the reference person arrived in Norway, the income requirement is applicable, in addition to four years of education and/or work. The rules for family immigration have changed several times, particularly in connection with the introduction of the new Immigration Act in 2010. In 2016, the subsistence requirement was increased, and a lower age limit of 24 was set for establishment. This lower age limit has not yet been implemented.


Those who have been granted protection in Norway through an application for asylum or as a resettlement refugee are settled in a municipality. The municipality is responsible for providing both accommodation and a place on the introduction programme. The introduction programme consists of Norwegian language training and social studies, as well as initiatives to prepare the participant for further studies or employment. The Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi) is responsible for settlement.

Return of asylum seekers

If an application for protection is rejected, the applicant must return to their home country. The assisted return programme provides help and financial support to return home and resettle in their home country. This entails financial and practical support, help to obtain a passport and travel documents, flight ticket and advice from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Norway.

  • A sum of NOK 20 000 is paid for assisted return applications submitted before expiry of the departure deadline, or before a deadline is set.
  • A sum of NOK 7 000 is paid for assisted return applications submitted after expiry of the departure deadline.
  • An additional NOK 5 000 is paid to applicants who provide a valid passport with their application for assisted return.

People coming from visa-free countries or countries covered by the 48-hour procedure will not receive financial support or a flight ticket. Those from Belarus and Bangladesh will only get support to buy a flight ticket.

In 2015, 1 167 people left Norway as part of the assisted return programme. Iraq was the largest return country, followed by Russia and Afghanistan. In 2016, 1456 people have travelled with the programme. Iraq was the return country for over half, followed by Afghanistan and Iran.

Those who do not leave Norway voluntarily risk being forcibly returned by the National Police Immigration Service (PU).

In 2015, 7 825 persons were forcibly returned. In 2016, the figure was 8 078. The figure from 2016 is made up of 1 385 rejected asylum seekers and 1 346 Dublin cases. A total of 5 347 cases were not related to asylum seekers (retrieved from

Reception system

Asylum seekers have the right to a place to stay during the application process. An asylum reception centre is an open, voluntary offer of accommodation for asylum seekers. A reception centre is not a closed institution or detention centre. Most asylum seekers in Norway choose to stay in a reception centre. Those who do, receive financial support (for food, clothing and transport), which varies depending on whether they are part of family immigration, or are single or married. The amount paid to asylum seekers also depends on the status of the asylum case (if it is being processed, if the application has been rejected or is covered by the Dublin procedure). Table 5 shows that 13 418 asylum seekers stayed in reception centres in Norway in mid-2015, and by the end of the year this had increased to 30 199. At the end of 2016, the figure had fallen to 13 451. 2016 saw a sharp decline in the number of pending applications, while the number waiting to be allocated a municipality of residence increased for a period, but fell again towards the end of the year (Table 5).

Table 5. Residents of reception centres by application status

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Different types of reception centres

Transit centre: consists of arrival centres and relief centres. The first arrival centres were opened in autumn 2015. These were located in Østfold and Finnmark, but only the Østfold (Råde) centre is still in operation. This is the first stop for asylum seekers to Norway.

The purpose of creating arrival centres was to coordinate the registration of asylum seekers, including registration with the police and in the UDI’s asylum reception system. The police are responsible for registration, followed by medical examinations, vaccinations for children, distribution of clothing and bedding, disinfestation of clothes and luggage that asylum seekers arrive with, and providing information on rights and obligations.

A normal stay at an arrival centre is two days. When the asylum seekers have done everything they need to do at the centre, they are offered accommodation in a relief centre.

The applicants stay in the relief centre until the asylum interview is completed and they are allocated a place in an ordinary reception centre. The interview process is aided when asylum seekers stay in a centre close to where the UDI conducts the interviews. The relief centres are therefore located near Oslo.

Unaccompanied minors are not sent to arrival centres; they are registered by the Police Immigration Service (PU) in Oslo and referred directly to a transit centre for unaccompanied minors.

Ordinary reception centre: Asylum seekers are moved to an ordinary reception centre after their asylum interview with the UDI. Asylum seekers live in ordinary reception centres during the application process. Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers between 15 and 18 are offered a place in centres or units that meet their needs. Those who have been given a decision can also stay in reception centres.

Special unit: units that are adapted for asylum seekers with physical or mental health needs. Primarily for asylum seekers with mental health issues, but who are not sick enough to require psychiatric treatment. Staying at these units is voluntary.

Care centre: unaccompanied minor asylum seekers under the age of 15 stay at separate care centres, which The Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir) is responsible for.

Integration centre: trial arrangement commencing late autumn 2016. The target group is those who have recently received a residence permit and asylum seekers from groups that have a high success rate (such as Syria) for applications for protection. As well as the offer given in the ordinary reception centres, those in integration centres receive additional offers and follow-up by the host municipality and local career centre with a view to accelerating their entry into the labour market and society.

Asylum seeker numbers – 2015–2016

Norway had a record number of asylum seekers in 2015. What happened to them after they applied, has their application been processed, and what was the outcome?

Of the 31 150 who applied in 2015, by 31 January 2017 15 234 were granted protection (convention refugee, other refugee status or residence on humanitarian grounds). The largest group that was granted residence is from Syria (8 383), followed by Eritrea (2 629) and Afghanistan (1 710) (Table 6).

A total of 7 523 applicants were rejected by 31 January 2017 (the figure also includes 427 unaccompanied minors who were granted a restricted permit that only gives the right to stay in Norway until they turn 18). The largest group of rejections were for Afghanistan (3 486), followed by Iraq (1 158) and Albania (317). The success rate as a percentage of applications subject to substantive assessment was 67 per cent (Table 6).

Table 6. Asylum applications from 2015, and processing up to 31 January 2017

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A total of 2 538 applicants have not yet had a decision on their case by the end of January 2017. These include large numbers from Afghanistan (799), Syria (723) and Iraq (444) (Table 6).

A total of 1 913 received a decision under the Dublin II Regulation, 1 428 withdrew their application and 1 497 applications were shelved. The number referred to a safe third country where they already have a residence permit or can seek protection was 1 017. The largest group among these was the arrivals from Russia via Storskog (Table 7).

Table 7. Asylum applications from 2015 not subject to a substantive assessment in Norway as at 31 January 2017, by reason

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Where are they now?

A total of 8 447 live in an asylum reception centre or a care centre, 1 576 were the subject of assisted returns by the IOM, while 3 266 were deported by the police. A total of 11 189 persons were granted residence in a municipality, 6 672 have either given a private address of residence or are staying at an unknown address in Norway or abroad (Table 8).

Table 8. Where asylum seekers from 2015 are, as at 31 January 2017

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The overview was prepared by Berit Gravdahl and Randi Wilskow, both senior advisers in the UDI, Analysis and development department.