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Doing business in Norway

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Simple visa and registration processes make the country a prime location for foreign investment

Companies considering doing business overseas should consider Norway, where the visa process is simple, the business culture is informal and the process for registering your business straightforward.

Although the sixth-largest country in Europe, it is one of the few European countries that is not a member of the European Union, although it is a member of the European Economic Area. And while it might not be the first country a company considers when looking overseas, it should be at the top of the list.

Here are the answers to eight questions about doing business in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

What are the biggest differences between operating a business in Norway and operating in the United States?

Norway has a more informal business culture and shorter working days — on average, 30 hours per week. Colleagues, managers and even senior executives are typically addressed by their first names. Business and personal relations are kept separate, and there is usually little office small talk or open discrimination.

Norwegians typically value punctuality, consensus-driven decisions and honesty. They are independent minded and often do not accept decisions that are seen as unreasonable or seemingly unfair.

What does a business need to know about locating in Norway?

The Working Environment Act strongly protects the rights of employees, such as the right of a mother to 49 weeks of pregnancy leave. In addition, companies must register with the Brønnøysund Register Centre.

What is the employment outlook in Norway?

Norway’s unemployment rate is low when compared to that of other European countries. The average unemployment rate in the Eurozone is 11.6 percent, while Norway’s rate is about 3 percent. However, there is a large import of personnel from Sweden, the Baltic States, Germany, central Europe and East Asia.

Importing foreign workers to Norway is fairly uncomplicated. As a member country of the Schengen Agreement, visa holders can travel to Norway and 25 other European countries with a single visa. There are seven types of visas, depending on the type of worker: qualified workers or professionals needed in Norway, seasonal workers, au pairs, interns, guest workers, fish industry workers and European Union citizens.

What should businesses know about the Norwegian market?

The Norwegian krone has consistently risen in value, while the U.S. dollar and the euro have declined. Housing is in demand, and many properties are selling for well above appraisal prices. Apartment rents are also rising.

What industry sectors encourage foreign investment?

Oil and gas is a large industry in Norway. The country is the world’s second-largest gas exporter, and the petroleum sector accounts for nearly half of Norway’s exports and more than 30 percent of Norwegian state revenue.

Property development is also hot right now, as Norway’s housing market is strong and competitive.

Norway’s information and communications technology sector is also growing, and Norwegians are among the most connected people in the world. More than 90 percent of Norwegian households have Internet access, and 83 percent have broadband access.

There is also a lack of qualified personnel in the health care, engineering, construction, trade, restaurant and hotel industries.

What is the tax structure in Norway?

There is a 28 percent flat tax on business net profit. Employee tax is 14.1 percent. Income tax is 28 percent up to 456,000 kroner (about $79,000), with an additional 9 percent surtax on incomes between 456,000 kroner and 756,000 kroner (about $131,000). Beyond 756,000 kroner, there is a 12 percent surtax.

Norway has a national social security and health insurance system called the National Insurance Scheme. Taxes for the mandatory insurance coverage are 7.8 percent of payroll.

What are the trade regulations in Norway?

Trade regulations are generally the same as in the European Union. However, there are some additional regulations in media, fish farming and farming in general. For example, all fish caught in Norwegian waters must be taken to a local port first, regardless of the final port, in an effort to curb wasteful fish dumping.

What are the cultural differences between Norway and the United States?

As the most Northern European country, Norway’s environment is characterized by cold and snow. Norwegians have a close relationship with nature, and traditional Norwegian cuisine is characterized by raw food, including fish, reindeer, moose, deer and grouse. Norwegians participate in right of access, which means everyone has legal access to uncultivated land, even if it is private property.

Norwegians are direct in communication but tend to be reserved around strangers. Interrupting another person and pointing or waving an index finger is considered rude.

In addition, public education is free in Norway, even college education.

Tomm Amundsen, senior partner at Norway-based Leading Edge Alliance firm Weibull AS, contributed to this article, as did Going Global Inc., a company that provides career and employment information as well as career resources for 30 countries. For more information, contact Amundsen at tomm@weibull.no or visit www.goingglobal.com.