The Passport Crisis in Norway in 2022 Explained

Norway is currently in the middle of a passport crisis, and there does not currently seem to be a good solution to end it. But what is this passport crisis all about, and how did we get here?

The short summary is that no one really ordered new passports during the covid pandemic, so lots of people need new passports to travel now. High supply in addition to problems with raw materials has lead to a very long wait to get a passport in Norway.

A Norwegian passport
A Norwegian passport. Photo by Christian Leonard Quale / CC BY-SA 3.0.

The current situation in the summer of 2022 is that people don’t get their passport in time for their vacation. Lots of families have had to stay home, cancel their entire trip, or even leave certain family members behind while the rest travels to syden (a Norwegian word for any warm country in southern Europe).

Let’s take a closer look at the passport crisis, what it’s like for people who want to get a passport, and what caused the crisis in the first place.

Norwegians need a new passport every 10 years

Normal passports last for 10 years in Norway, which means that about 10 % of the population should in theory renew their passport every year. The problem that has lead to the passport crisis is because very few people bothered to renew their passports during the pandemic.

This has lead to over 30 % of the Norwegian population wanting to renew their passport, and pretty much everyone decided to try to renew the passport during the spring and summer of 2022!

This is around 1.6 million people in total (since there are about 5.5 million people in Norway), and while not everyone is going to want a passport, many of them are.

In addition, children’s passports have a short life span, so as many as 50 % of children under the age of 16 needs to have their passport renewed if their old one is from before the pandemic.

This filled up all the slots at the police station where you need to order your passports.

Map of Norway

How the passport crisis is like for people who need a passport

So, what’s life like if you need a passport in Norway? Firstly you need to book an appointment at a police station to take your photo and order the passport.

My local police district (I live in a pretty large city in Norway) does not have any appointments available before late October. That’s four months from now!

I also checked the wait in Oslo, but they just told me that there are no available appointments in the next six months, and check back later.

After you have gotten your photo taken and ordered your passport, you need to wait for the passport to actually arrive.

Firstly you need to wait for the passport to be produced. This is estimated to take between 6 and 8 weeks. When it’s ready, it will be sent to Oslo where you can either pick it up (we’ll get back to that), or you can wait an estimated 2 weeks to get it in the mail.

Norwegian mailboxes
Norwegian mailboxes. Photo published with permission.

In other words, if I were to try to get a passport renewal today, it would arrive around Christmas / New Year, almost 6 months from now.

There’s a small trick to make it a bit faster, since you can get your passport fixed at any police station in Norway. So some people have chosen to go to northern Norway and other remote places to get their appointment faster! While this is a possibility for some, not everyone can bring their entire family on a plane to Alta to get their passport ordered there.

Picking up your passport at Oslo Police Station

Some people have chosen to pick up their passports personally at Oslo Police Station instead of getting it delivered by mail. This should in theory prevent them from having to wait the additional two week period for it to get in your mailbox.

While this might be a good idea in theory, the reality is that this is yet another chaotic situation.

The queues to actually physically pick up your passport is between 4 and 8 hours, so you should be prepared to spend your entire day at the police station waiting.

Imagine how fun that is if you have several children who need to pick up their passports.. Some have even reported waiting there the entire day just to be sent home because of closing times, then having to come back (and be at the back of the line again) the next day.

Oslo Police Station
Oslo Police Station. Photo published with permission.

How the raw material situation affects the wait for passports

There is currently a supply issue where the manufacturer of Norwegian passports lack access to the raw materials needed to make the electronic component of the passport. These all use a type of chip that must be verifiable by digital means, and require some special raw materials to produce. I’m not sure exactly what the material is, since they don’t publicly disclose this.

As of right now, this supply problem is one of the biggest problems with the passport production, and the passport manufacturer have no idea if they will be able to get access to more raw materials. This has lead to the two to three month long wait period to get your passport produced after having ordered it, and no one even knows if this wait time will increase in the future.

The reason for the supply problem has to do with the war in Ukraine, and importing the goods needed. They are currently working on trying to source the supplies from another country, but that seemed to be difficult.

What happens if you don’t have a passport before you travel?

No passport – no vacation!

You can theoretically freely travel in all of EU and EEA, it’s actually not that easy. Many EU countries require a valid passport because of documentation reasons, so you can technically get to the country, but get in trouble for not having a valid passport after getting there.

Pretty much all countries outside of EU or EEA require a passport if you want to enter.

That just leaves a handful of countries you can travel to. Norwegians can freely travel to Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland without a passport, as well as Switzerland and a few other countries.

Norway does not distribute emergency passports to people who want to go on vacation either, so you don’t really have any good options if you don’t have a passport and want to travel to another country for vacation. They just have to stay home this summer, and order a passport in the winter to get it ready for next summer.

When will be passport crisis be resolved?

No one knows when or if the passport crisis will be resolved. Since one of the biggest issue to raw material supplies, it’s really not something that will work itself out anytime soon unless the manufacturer get access to another source of it. Since the shortage is tied to trade bans with Russia due to the war in Ukraine, it seems unlikely that this will be a quick fix.

The police does not want to open more slots and increase staffing for ordering new passports. This makes sense, since more passports ordered would just move the problem to the manufacturer and increase the wait at that point instead.

That said, you can solve the crisis on a personal level by just booking an appointment to get your passport ready well in advance of any travel plans you might have. If you have plans to go on vacation in the summer of 2023, you might as well get your passport as soon as possible.

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