The government sets a deadline that is crucial for international students to obtain a residence permit.
By: Torkjell Trædal
English translation of Khrono's article that ISU Norway's National President, Amine Fquihi, was interviewed in. To read the original Norwegian version of the article see: "Får mer tid tl å skaffe penger".
In order for international students who come from outside the EU and the EEA to obtain a residence permit in Norway, they must prove that they can support themselves. Earlier this spring, the student organization in Norway, the International Student's Union, was able to talk about students who could not afford rent .
The government is now following up with delaying the deadline for international students to document that they can pay for their own living.
The new deadline is October 1, and the Directorate of Immigration will be instructed to wait until this date if an application for a stay is pending the so-called subsistence requirement.
The head of the International Student Union of Norway, Amine Fquihi, is grateful for the postponement - although he wishes it was even more generous.
- We are pleased that international students who are struggling financially have been given the deadline to prove that they can support themselves. We will, however, ask the Norwegian authorities to extend the deadline to the end of December 2020. The fact is that we do not know when the restrictions will be softened up enough to find work in the service professions. These types of jobs are the ones most accessible to international students, comments Fquihi.
Many laid off
The Ministry of Education and Research points out that many foreign students are laid off from their jobs and that it can make it difficult for them to finance their own stay.
The requirement to stay is to have approx. NOK 120,000 available, either as student loans from the home country or money on account. This also includes income from part-time jobs. Three out of four international students have part-time jobs in Norway, of which they partially live on.
- I know that many international students in Norway are experiencing a lot of uncertainty now, and my wish is that they will manage financially through this period. Therefore, we should give those who have lost their income base a little more time to get their part-time job back, find a new job or find other ways to fulfill the maintenance requirement. In addition, the scheme that gives the right to 18 days' salary compensation to laid-off students also applies to foreign students, says Research and Higher Education Minister Henrik Asheim in a press release the Ministry of Education and Research is publishing today.
Not being able to document their own financial security, furthermore, means that the students who were thinking of being in Norway longer to complete a degree, risk not having their residence permit renewed. Last year, this applied to 2,400 students. Now these will have more time.
Fear competition for jobs
But Fquihi in the International Student's Union is not sure that October 1 is enough. He says he fears stiff competition for jobs, even though workplaces will open up by October 1st.
- The competition for jobs is likely to be extreme, given the high unemployment rate in Norway now. In addition, it is often difficult for international students to find a job today, due to language problems, Fquihi points out.
Students who do not get back old jobs, but need to hunt for a new job, may therefore need more time.
- We hope the authorities will be flexible and take into account the challenges. With continued discussion with the Ministry of Education, and if both sides can be flexible, we can come up with solutions that can help the international students further. There are also international students who are about to complete their degree and who want to apply for jobs as job seekers. These students must show that they have NOK 246,246 to obtain a new residence permit. These should also be taken care of.
Ask the student welfare society to postpone rent
The Ministry of Education also points out that very many of the foreign students in Norway live in student accommodation. Now, the government is asking the student welfare societies to continue to show flexibility - and with that, giving foreign students with poor economy a postponement on rent payments.
Jonas Virtanen, Chair of the Student Welfare Society SiO, says to Khrono that they have given payment deferrals and will find good solutions for international students.
- Many students are experiencing great uncertainty around their study situation and their economy now, and we have a great understanding that international people are experiencing this time of crisis as challenging. We will be there to help all students who are struggling, and we are excited about national measures that help ease the situation. International students and other students who have liquidity problems receive payment deferrals on the rent with us, and we try to find good solutions for those who come in contact.
Virtanen also emphasizes that SiO offers financial advice and offers English information about it on its websites.
- SiO has recently launched a corona package of almost 20 million for all students. It ensures the capacity of providing welfare services to students, and enables us to provide financial counseling, and increased psychological health care and other measures. We want to help as many students as possible and the measures should be financially sound so that SiO can provide good welfare services to the students in the long term as well. Emphasis has also been placed on establishing crisis solutions for particularly vulnerable students, and being flexible to those who are struggling, says Virtanen.