The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is working on an amendment to the Immigration Regulations Act to allow foreign workers already in Norway to receive a residence permit extension. This amendment is of great importance to agriculture.
The coronavirus situation is causing major agricultural challenges as closed borders and quarantine restrictions lead to a shortage of foreign workers. The problem is particularly serious in the fruit, berry and vegetable sector, which sees a need for many thousands of seasonal workers throughout the year.
There are already hundreds of workers in the country who will be able to extend their residence permit in Norway. This will alleviate acute problems for certain producers who lack labour,’ said Minister of Agriculture and Food Olaug Bollestad.
Besides retaining foreign workers, the Norwegian government is looking for ways to keep their citizens employed. One is to use available Norwegian labour. The other is to facilitate access to labour from abroad. A number of Norwegian workers have been laid off, and we must look at whether they can be accommodated in other types of work during their lay-off period. Other relevant groups include Norwegian students and pensioners.
Gaining access to foreign labour with appropriate expertise is also important. The specialised fruit, berry and vegetable sector requires personnel with a variety of different backgrounds. Numerous seasonal workers from abroad have the required expertise.
The lack of agricultural labour is a high-priority issue, and the problems associated with it must be resolved quickly. I am working closely with the industry and several ministries to identify good solutions. Agriculture faces a labour-intensive period ahead, so we have no time to lose,’ says Ollaug Bollestad, Norway’s Agriculture Minister.
The amendment to the Immigration Regulations will make it possible for seasonal workers who are in Norway during the COVID-19 pandemic to renew their residence permit and stay in Norway for more than six consecutive months. The aim of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is to have the amendments adopted at the beginning of next week.