Subscribe to the latest news from the Nordic Labour Journal by e-mail. The newsletter is issued 9 times a year. Subscription is free of charge.

You are here: Home i News i News 2023 i Info Norden: 25 years of facilitating Nordic movement
Info Norden: 25 years of facilitating Nordic movement

Info Norden: 25 years of facilitating Nordic movement

| Text: Gunhild Wallin, photo: Qupanuk Olsen

For the past 25 years, Info Norden has been answering questions and learning things from people who want to move between Nordic countries in order to live, work, study or start a business. Info Norden is now seen as an important part of the Nordic Vision 2030 – to be the most sustainable and integrated region in the world.

A lot of people want to move between the Nordic countries, and the number looks to be growing. In 2022, 5,370 people contacted Info Norden, the information service of the Nordic Council of Ministers, to ask for information. That is 7 per cent more than in 2021. Last year, Info Norden’s website was viewed 2.7 million times and had 1.9 million visitors. 

“The number of inquiries has risen enormously and the types of questions we receive are getting increasingly complex. Info Norden can now be accessed in English too, which means we get more questions from people outside of the Nordic countries,” says Anna Sophie Liebst, the project leader for Info Norden’s Stockholm office.

Info Norden adIt started with a service phone

The first Nordic information service opened in July 1998, to help Nordic citizens make use of the Nordic freedom of movement by providing answers to questions about things like taxation, pensions, education and family politics. The Öresund Bridge had not yet opened for traffic and the mobile phone was first and foremost a telephone and not a smartphone.

Consequently, the new service was a service telephone called “Hello Norden”. The service has grown over the years, and today, Info Norden has offices in all of the Nordic capitals. They provide information about all of the Nordic countries and also about the autonomous areas – the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland. 

The information is primarily published online, in Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish and English. Those interested can read about the latest developments, find out which are the relevant authorities and also ask questions about various issues.

Anna Sophie Liebst has been working for Info Norden and its predecessor Hello Norden since 2004. During nearly two decades she has seen what concerns those who want to move between the Nordics the most, and which obstacles they have met and are still facing. 

She has been moving between Nordic countries herself. Anna Sophie Liebst was born and raised in Denmark, studied at the University of Oslo and has been living in Stockholm for many years. One of the main things she has learned over the years is the importance of dual citizenship. This became possible in Norway in 2020, in Denmark in 2015, and in Finland and Iceland in 2003. Dual citizenship has been legal in Sweden since 2001. 

Anna Sophie Liebst“It used not to be so important to have dual citizenship, but after the pandemic, we have seen that this is an increasingly important issue. During the pandemic, the only way for me to travel to Denmark was using my dual citizenship, for instance,” she says. 

New and old questions

Before we meet, Anna Sophie Liebst has been thinking through which are the most common questions in Info Norden's inbox.

“Perhaps the most common question of all is when and how to apply for a pension in one or several Nordic countries. We refer to the respective countries’ pension authorities, but we also know that many of those who have been working in another Nordic country than their own, never get in touch and risk losing their accumulated pension,” says Anna Sophie Liebst.  

Another common question is why you are not allowed a Swedish Bank-ID (an electronic identification system) when you are a Nordic citizen who works, studies or owns property in Sweden. Sweden differs from the other Nordic countries when it comes to Bank-ID, explains Anna Sophie Liebst, and this has to do with the banks, not the state. 

This throws spanners in the works for those who live in one country and want to bank in another. Or for those who perhaps want to help elderly parents pay their bills, even if they live across the border. The Bank-ID problem is also not very visible. 

“Someone who cannot become a customer of a bank is an invisible problem of course,” says Anna Sophie Liebst.  

Another common question is whether someone with a permit to stay in one Nordic country can also enjoy the Nordic freedom of movement. This is no inherent right and depends on national rules which must be checked before you move. Other typical questions include whether you can move with your cat or dog and whether you can apply for a student loan in a different country than your home country.

Many wonder how state support and tax systems will work for people who want to work in a different Nordic country, and what rules apply when it comes to work permits, registration, ID, and the necessary requirements and conditions for companies that want to send workers to another Nordic country for shorter periods of time.

A lot of people also wonder what they need to know before buying a holiday home in Norway or Sweden, and whether other Nordic citizens are allowed to buy holiday homes or other property in Denmark at all. Those who want to work in the health sector wonder what are the requirements in different Nordic countries and whether they need special authorisation.

Digital nomads

These days, Info Norden also receives many questions about remote work. How does it work, for instance, performing your job in Sweden when you are employed in Norway? There are no general rules for this, and different countries have reached different levels of agreement on such issues, explains Anna Sophie Liebst. 

“We also see that more young people are now interested in working anywhere in the world. They are digital nomads, but the Nordic countries are not in the forefront when it comes to meeting their needs – for instance when it comes to how remote working links to social security,” says Anna Sophie Liebst.

Another trend observed in the information flow generated at Info Norden is an increase in questions about inheritance and wills across borders. This is another area where people experience challenges surrounding Bank-ID. An increasing number of people now want to spend some or the whole of their upper secondary education in a different Nordic country. 

Women who have children with Norwegian or Swedish men might contact Info Norden to ask what support is available for children whose father lives in a different Nordic country. Other parents who live in separate Nordic countries wonder about rules surrounding child benefit and maintenance. Many also want to know about job opportunities in Svalbard and Greenland. 

“We cover issues from cradle to grave, and the questions we are asked are becoming increasingly complicated. But difficult questions are fun,” says Anna Sophie Liebst. 

Impatient for smooth freedom of movement

Many of those who contact her have great expectations of a smooth freedom of movement between Nordic countries and ask: “Why does it not work?” and “What are the Nordics and Nordic politicians doing?”. 

Anna Sophie Liebst briefs national ministries and the Nordic Border Barriers Council’s representatives about the obstacles citizens face. The Border Barrier Council is part of the Nordic cooperation and collaborates with actors working to address border obstacles for both individuals and businesses in the Nordic region.

Anna Sophie Liebst considers the vision that the Nordic Region shall be the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. It was agreed on in 2019, but in 2020, Nordic borders were shut and it turned out that Denmark, Finland and Norway defined regions and border regions in completely different ways with accompanying differing regulations. 

“It is the Nordic region that should become the most integrated, it is not to become the region with the world’s most integrated separate regions. That is why the same rules and opportunities should apply to all no matter where in the Nordics they live,” she says. 

Anna Sophie Liebst says three things are needed for the vision to become reality. One is a digital identity – a Nordic electronic ID that works across all of the countries granting access to public information in other Nordic countries outside of people’s home countries. The other is a common labour market, including for people with residency permits.

“The world’s most integrated region cannot limit the citizens’ freedom of movement for work. We work in the Nordics, no matter where we live."

She also wants it to become easier to work remotely across the Nordics.

“The Nordics should be a Mecca for people who want to work remotely and for digital nomads. It should be easy to work remotely, easy to understand the rules and to do the right thing as a Northern citizen in the Nordics, for Northern citizens in the world and for global citizens in the Nordics. And are our regulations and welfare states linked to the future which has already arrived?” asks Anna Sophie Liebst.

Info Norden

visits Greenland. From left: Qupanuk Olsen, Anna Sophie Liebst, Alf Kronvall, Tone Heiene, Jakob Storm Tråsdahl, Lars Herning, Heli Mäkipää, Pauliina Oinonen, Ástrós Signýjardóttir, Kate Hammer and Bent Blomqvist.


Receive Nordic Labour Journal's newsletter nine times a year. It's free.

This is themeComment