by Sandra Larriva
Banking in Norway is pretty easy...for Norwegians. If you are a foreign national, however, the process of finding the right bank and applying for an account can take a while, especially for those waiting for a Norwegian National Identity Number (fødselsnummer). An international credit card with no foreign transaction fees may do the trick for a month or two but you will, from day one, long for the power to Vipps, an action so intrinsic to Norwegian society that it’s actually been coined a verb (kind of like Googling).
“You’re a nobody in Norway until you can Vipps,” was a friend’s two cents on the topic.
Fintech entrepreneur and Revolut ambassador Sylwia Harewska shares the sentiment. When she moved to Norway, Harewska was “knocking on doors, begging banks to open an account,” an experience that motivated her to help over 200 people open their accounts and to develop a tool to help young immigrants in Norway buy their first home. The Poland native also writes a financial blog in Polish that will soon have an English counterpart.
For people who have a D number (aka “temporary identification number”) but no work contract, Harewska recommends BN Bank because it requires no additional documents and the wait time is two weeks (compared to 8 or even 10 weeks with some banks). The downside? They don’t have branches and you’ll need a personal number (the last 5 digits of your Norwegian National Identity Number or fødselsnummer) to get a debit card.
As a way around this, Harewska suggests joining Revolut and using the card they provide. Keep in mind, though, that Revolut currently only supports legal residents of the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland and Australia (31 countries in total). For a more global option, consider Transferwise (49 countries).
If you are looking for an all-in-one option, below are some of the requirements and wait times for a few of Norway’s largest and best-known banks. Please take it with a big grain of salt as a large percentage of the information I gathered on the banks’ websites contradicted what I heard from the banks’ customer service reps or through word of mouth. If you’ve had a different experience, don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments section.
At a branch and through their online chat I was told that a residence card is required, along with a work contract or proof of income. Their online form requires a fødselsnummer but reliable sources say that a D number is also accepted so you may want to test your luck (and your patience...the wait time is approximately 8 weeks).
Norway’s largest bank requires a D number and a residence card (the latter for non-EU/EEA citizens only) as well as one of the following:
Decision letter from NAV documenting regular social security benefits.
A document containing your Norwegian national identity number or D number, name, marital status and residential address if you are married to a DNB customer
A residence card is required, a work contract is preferred. Wait times range between 8 to 10 weeks. Swedish clients are prioritized.
To become a customer, fill out this online form. You will be asked for your 11-digit National ID Number, though reliable sources say that a D number is also accepted. The process can take about a week.
A fødselsnummer is required and you can apply online. Wait time is one week.
Their online application for foreign citizens without a BankID asks for a National Identity Number or D Number and a home address listed in the Norwegian National Registry, and lists the following documents as optional:
Copy of residence permit (for citizens outside the EU / EEA).
Employment contract/student identity card or other proof of income.
Tax withholding card for employees.
Decision on introductory program or settlement decision for refugees.
Wait time is one week. Keep in mind, though, that they may give you different information over the phone (i.e. that a residence permit is required). When in doubt, go by their website.