Monday, June 25, 2012

If this is what Norway's like ....?

I've been working in Norway for well over 20 years. I've had a house and a son here for well over 10 years yet only had a residence permit for 1 year. The renewal of the residence permit was refused just after my son was born (in Norway to a Norwegian mother) because I'd done 68 days of work on a Norwegian registered boat sailing out of Norway and wasn't in Norway for more than 3 months at a time and therefore didn't "need" a residence permit. I keep my presence in Norway legal by taking work outside of Norway, making sure I am not in Norway more than three months at a time returning to my house in Norway where I stay with my son until it's time to go and work again.

When I first came to Norway in the 80s, I was paying £1,000 a month in tax and believed that was going towards a Norwegian pension. Eventually I learned none of about £50,000 worth of tax deductions had been awarded "pension points". As I'd also recently discovered a Norwegian company administering my wages had not been passing on to the Norwegian tax authorities all the tax they had been deducting from my wages (a practise not untypical in Norway for foreign workers) I wondered if the tax that had been deducted at source earlier in my career in Noreway had been paid to the tax collecting authority and emailed them ... I got no reply, I waited a month, emailed them again, I got no reply so I phoned them and was put through to a woman who listened to my story and said "right, so you've imported a car?" ... I continued emailing and then, almost exactly a year after my first email, I got a reply and about 10 days after that, I got details of the taxes that HAD been paid to the Norwegian state by my Norwegian employers. I haven't had time to check yet to see if any was "stolen"

Not content with "losing" my tax deductions, it was about this time the Norwegian tax authorities started taking an interest in the tax regime the employers were using to "lose" my tax deductions (and those of many other foreign workers with whom I have had contact) and the employer "lost" my wages as well and went "bust" later on.

I'd first tried to claim social security in Norway when my Norwegian girlfriend was pregnant so I could avoid going away to work leaving her isolated. Despite paying Norwegian National Insurance contributions, I was apparently entitled to no support nor unemployment benefit. Nothing. When my wages weren't paid, I asked again if I could have any help. This was refused again and I lived by drawing cash out of Norwegian minibanks using UK credit cards. The Norwegian tax authorities then asked me to pay again the taxes that had been stolen.

At the moment, I am obliged to pay tax to Norway on wages I earn outside of Norway yet have no right to permanent residence, no right to a regular doctor, no right to social security and owe the tax authorities about £20,000 for back taxes plus fines and interest on what was "lost" by the Norwegian employer (who, as far as I know has not been prosecuted and still lives in their nice house) since my son and I have been living on whatever I have managed to save from contracts.

Amazingly enough, I know other foreign workers who have come to Norway and have had a far worse time than I.

Countries with high taxes (I receive tax demands for 45% of my gross turnover in Norway) only make sense if they go towards a welfare system to which you have access so that if the taxes make you poor, the welfare system makes you less poor by giving back to you some of what you have paid in taxes ... or even more. I found this link on another blog about living in Norway

If you have no desire to settle in Norway and will not be working there for enough time for the Norwegian authorities to claim you "live" there, it's a nice country with fine people that needs "migrant workers". However, their system is designed to make sure you remain a "migrant worker".

Having a house in Norway, even if it's the only house you have and it's your home, does not entitle you to a residence permit. Having a child in Norway that lives with you in your Norwegian home doesn't entitle you to a residence permit. Paying tax in Norway and National Insurance Contributions doesn't entitle you to a residence permit and, in my experience, any children you have in Norway will only inherit from you debt and a tendency to be bullied at school because their father isn't Norwegian ... and that's coming from a white Caucasian male with only British ancestry going back 4 generations.

Feel free to ask questions. I'm busy trying to build a future for my son and I outside of Norway but will answer what I can when I can.

My main advice for now is don't even think of coming to work in Norway because ...

1. There is a high chance your wages will be stolen. I'm far from the only foreign worker I know who has had their wages stolen. People can offer you great contracts worth a lot of money if they have no intention of paying you anyway. Having a contract is no guarantee you will be paid. It is only a guarantee you will probably feel legally obliged to complete the contract and, when you're not paid, be unable to afford lawyers and accountants to a) get paid and b) deal with demands for tax on the money you were never paid in the first place. Work it out ... you pay to get to Norway, you work, don't get paid, go home, find a tax demand and then have to hire people, from abroad, to sort the mess out for you. If you think that's progress, you must be desperate.

2. There is a high chance tax deducted from your wages, if you're paid at all, will not be paid to the tax authorities. This will generate demands for tax plus interest plus fines you will have to try and fix from abroad at huge expense.

3. If you are not paid, how will you get "home"? What rights will you have lost by working abroad? As you will see from the link above, Norway (and other countries) try and avoid supporting foreign workers financially even if their laws are illegal. Countries do this because ... they can .... and no-one can really stop them.

Stories about foreign workers' problems don't sell newspapers as well as celebrity gossip which is why you have to read about this here and Norway isn't exactly going to make itself popular by collecting data on the number of foreign workers' corpses scraped off the frozen streets every winter.

Look at it this way ... where YOU come from, foreign workers tend to do jobs the natives don't want. Right? They're treated badly yet blamed by the lazy and unemployed for taking jobs they never intended doing in the first place because their life in benefits is better than they'd have ... for examply, picking potatoes, packing salad, cleaning government offices, working in abbatoirs ...

The smart thing is to stay where you are and either work your way up the social ladder, MARRY your way up the social ladder or scam the welfare system knowing it's subsidised by foreign workers who pay into the national insurance system that supports you but from which they can't claim any support.

humans are still territorial, tribal and primitive. Stick with your own class, clan, trive, ethnic minority .... where you belong. There is strength in numbers and it's better to play at "home" than permanently away, on your own deprived of help from family, friends and the community that surrounds you now.

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