Kompetansespor – a pilot project to make the work visa process for skilled immigrants more efficient

Published by Oslo Business Region, 22 February 2024

Oslo and the rest of Norway are facing a shortage of skilled talent, prompting many companies to seek expertise from overseas. But they typically encounter prolonged waiting periods for immigration processing that hinder their ability to compete for top talent and grow. To address the issue, the City of Oslo initiated a pilot project in 2023 to reduce the visa processing time from 37 weeks to only 3 days.

About the project:

Recognizing the severity of extended immigration processing times, the City of Oslo last year invited governmental entities such as the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI), Police, Tax Authority, and the Norwegian Directorate of Labour and Welfare (SUA) to address the bottlenecks and introduce a more efficient solution. The organizations gathered to explore solutions for enhancing the immigration process for companies and new hires. Through a series of workshops, a digital wallet technology emerged as a viable solution. The technology, designed to provide an EU-wide platform for storing and sharing information securely, presented an opportunity to enhance privacy considerations while fostering greater efficiency for users and stakeholders involved in immigration processes.

Design and development of the digital wallet pilot was led by software development firm Symfoni founder Jon Ramvi. The pilot focused on testing solutions for candidates from third country nationals from visa-free countries (candidates outside the EU) applying for work permits in Norway.

The University of Oslo was selected as the primary partner due to its status as a prominent public institution with a substantial pool of potential users, and they host a considerable number of researchers and visiting professors every year. Their willingness to commit time and resources to ensure the success of the pilot project was also important in the decision to select them for the pilot. A total of nine candidates participated in the pilot project, and visa processing was completed in three days.

The next phase of the pilot will be implemented this year and will include additional target groups such as students and family members of work permit applicants. There is no timeline for when the solution will be permanently implemented within UDI, Tax Authority or the Police.

Kompetansespor is a pilot by the City of Oslo in collaboration with our partners:

Oslo kommune, Digdir, UDI, Politiet, Skatteetaten, UiO, Finans Norge, Antler, SUA, Digital Identitet Norden, Symfoni, BankID, Abelia og Osloregionen.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the city of Oslo concerned about the need for talent?

  • The need for skilled talent continues to intensify as Norway transitions from an oil and gas-driven economy to sustainable industries. There is strong global competition for skilled talent, so Oslo needs to take proactive measures to attract the right expertise for fuelling local and national economic growth. Two-thirds of the companies in Norway are experiencing a shortage of the necessary talent for scaling operations. Compounding this issue is the slow and cumbersome immigration process for hiring skilled talent. The aim of the pilot is to streamline the process to make the visa process more accessible, reliable, and secure.

Why have a pilot?

  • The Norwegian immigration system operates within distinct silos, with responsibilities dispersed among various entities such as embassies (receipt of work permit applications), the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI for issuance of work permits, the Norwegian Tax Authority (issuance of identity numbers and tax cards), the Police (identity verification), and others. This fragmentation leads to bureaucratic hurdles that applicants for work permits cannot easily navigate, resulting in uncertainty regarding processing times and individual status. The pilot program aims to establish a proof of concept for the use of a "digital wallet," simplifying the process for users, reducing processing costs for involved entities, and creating a clearer, more transparent process.

Who participated in the pilot?

  • The pilot program processed a total of nine cases in August and September 2023, with all users being recruited by the University of Oslo as researchers. These cases involved third-country nationals from visa-free countries (candidates outside the EU).

Was the pilot successful?

  • Yes, the pilot program was on all accounts successful. All nine users completed the immigration process within three days. One individual found the process to be so efficient and straightforward that he repeated the process six times for confirmation. Moreover, the streamlined process influenced at least one individual to choose Oslo over another city due to the short processing times.
  • The technical solutions demonstrated that digitalizing the immigration process is not only feasible but highly effective. The working group plans to conduct further pilots to test with new user groups, but there is no timeline for when this process is available to the public.

Who is behind the pilot?

  • The pilot program is led by a working group of “Kompetansespor,” a collaborative initiative spearheaded by the City of Oslo in partnership with key stakeholders including Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI), Police, Tax Authority, and the Norwegian Directorate of Labour and Welfare (SUA), University of Oslo, Symfoni, Osloregionen, Oslo Business Region and Digdir. Special acknowledgement is extended to Jon Ramvi (Symfoni) for his pivotal role in development and implementation of the digital wallet solution. Other participating organizations include Antler, Abelia, Finans Norge, Digital Identitet Norden, and BankID who have been consulted or involved in different stages of the pilot.

Who may I contact if I have questions about the completed pilot program or inquiries about future pilots?

  • Currently, the program is conducted in collaboration with employers rather than individual candidates. For any inquiries, please reach out via email to kompetansespor@udi.no

The Kompetansespor pilot project was presented at Arendalsuka 2023. Watch a recording of the event, where you can hear from:

  • Rina Mariann Hansen, Vice Mayor for Business Development and Public Ownership at the City of Oslo (Oslo kommune)
  • Siw Andersen, CEO of Oslo Business Region
  • Thomas Bergøy Johansen, Special Advisor at the City of Oslo
  • Karen Dolva, Founder and CEO of No Isolation
  • Synne Kjeka Namtvedt, Team Leader of UDI Brukerlab