The Recreational Mariner's Guide

2. Norway

Rules and Regulations

Procedures for border crossings are covered by EU/EEA, Schengen, and national regulations, which has resulted in a complex situation that can be difficult even for those in authority to totally understand. 

Also, the regulations that apply to visitors (Immigration) and those that apply to visiting boats (Customs) are very different, and this can cause confusion for visiting mariners who don’t understand that there are two sets of regulations in force.

If you are not a citizen of an EU or Schengen country, we recommend that you consult your Norwegian Consulate to get information on the laws in force at the time you are planning to leave for Norway.

Customs

Customs regulations state that owners of pleasure craft do not need to present to Customs upon landing in Norway; however, we advise that you log the day of your arrival.

An exception is if you are carrying goods that need to be declared, including alcohol and tobacco greater than the quota allowed (the quotas are extremely limited and enforcement is strict). There is a Customs app where you can check the quotas allowed and even pay any duties owed.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

Upon leaving Norway you can apply to have VAT refunded for parts imported or purchased while in Norway, but this must be done in person at a Customs office.

Norway is not a member of the EU, hence a foreign boat, even if previously imported to another European country, is subject to Norwegian VAT. At present this is 25% of the boat’s value and technically may be charged if the boat is left behind in Norway for longer than 6 weeks. 

However, Customs has the power to allow a vessel to be stored in Norway for up to 24 months before it becomes eligible for VAT. Boat owners must apply for permission to leave their boat prior to leaving the vessel. At the end of the first year, boat owners can apply for permission to leave their boat in Norway for a second year.

If you plan to spend more than 6 months in one year away from home, even if you only spend part of that time in Norway, there may be VAT and other issues (i.e. it could cost you if you are deemed resident in Norway because you are deemed to not be resident in your home country).

Immigration

Norway has been a signatory to the Schengen Agreement since 2001. Most European countries are part of Schengen, including Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, but not the UK or the Republic of Ireland.

Svalbard is not included in the Schengen protocol. 

Norway is one of only four Schengen countries that are not also members of the EU.

If you are a citizen of a non-Schengen country, you are required to get a visa for travel in the Schengen countries prior to entry. There is a list of countries exempt from this visa requirement and, at the time of writing, the US, Canada, and the UK are exempt, among others.

The basic concept behind Schengen is that once you have formally cleared into one of the Schengen countries, you can then travel freely without having to clear into each country individually, for a total of 90 days in any 180-day period, after which you must leave the Schengen area. An online calculator is provided so you can determine when you are allowed to re-enter Schengen. (When tested for a citizen of Canada, the time until re-entry was around 3 months.)

A foreign boat entering Norwegian waters from offshore is formally crossing a Schengen outer border; therefore, you should plan to make landfall at an official Port of Entry. While boats registered in a Schengen country are generally not expected to register with the authorities, we suggest you plan landfall at an official Port of Entry and enquire.

We identify Ports of Entry on the map at the beginning of each Harbours and Anchorages chapter. There is also a list of Ports of Entry here, though it is out of date (Ports of Entry are listed in the far right column; the middle column is a list of Border Crossing Stations). Note that Immigration officers are only found at Border Crossing Stations; police officers fulfill that function at Ports of Entry.

All those entering Norway by boat are technically required to report to SafeSeaNet Norway 24 hours in advance of landfall, who will then contact the appropriate officials. But, in order to report, you must have an online account set up (which should be done prior to leaving for Norway) and have internet access (it appears at the time of writing that you may also need an agent). Of course, this may not be feasible, in which case, if you have cell phone coverage, you should contact the police regarding your intended landfall (Tel.: 02800).

If neither of the above options are possible, you should contact the authorities immediately upon landfall and enquire about formalities (Tel: 02800). The response seems to vary between regions. In some cases sailors have been asked to report to the nearest border crossing station when that is feasible, others have been asked to report to the local police station, and some have had a police patrol visit the boat. 

Special regulations apply to boats larger than 24 m in length or 50 gross tonnes in weight and State Vessels. Many large sailing instruction vessels have this later designation and this seems to trigger a more cautious approach from the authorities.

Norway has signed on to two new programs which will affect travellers to Europe.

  • Entry and Exit System (EES):
    • an automated system for registering non-EU nationals travelling for a short stay, each time they cross the external borders of a European country
    • implementation scheduled for late 2024
    • once implemented it will no longer be possible to have passports stamped by the police and you will have to seek out an official border crossing, most likely an airport, with the appropriate equipment
    • we have made enquiries to the Police and the Norwegian Coastal Administration and will update this information once we hear
  • European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS):
    • those non-EU citizens who don’t require a visa will need to get a travel authorization linked to their passport
    • implementation date unknown

Extending Your Stay

Non-EU Citizens

Non-EU citizens are not allowed to extend beyond the 90 days in a 180-day period allowed under Schengen rules.

EU Citizens

EU citizens who wish to stay in Norway for longer than 90 days are required to make a formal application, which can be completed online

Coastguard

Certificate of Competency

Norwegian skippers (born after 1980) of boats between 8 and 15 m in length are required to hold a Boating License. If the boat is between 15 and 24 m in length, Norwegian skippers are required to hold a Deck Officer Class 5 Pleasure Craft certificate. An alternative to this is an International Certificate of Competency (ICC).

For a visitor to Norway skippering their own boat less than 15 m in length, the certificate requirements are not set out in the law, though we are informed that the Norwegian Coastguard will follow the regulations of the country where the boat is registered (the flag-state principle).

Skippers of foreign boats between 15 and 24 m in length are required to have a Certificate of Competency. To date, the Coastguard has been satisfied with a licence from the boat’s country of origin as long as it “substantially satisf[ies] the requirements of the Norwegian boating license, and [is] issued in English or a Scandinavian language“.

A visitor wishing to charter a Norwegian boat must produce evidence of a comparable Certificate of Competency (in English or a Scandinavian language) to those discussed above, depending on the size of boat being chartered. 

Drones

We realize that getting an aerial shot of your boat in a harbour or anchorage is awesome, but do be aware that every visiting mariner is thinking the same thing. Which means that in popular harbours such as Henningsvær in Lofoten, there is hardly a day in the summer that some visitor isn’t flying a drone above the town. If we want to be welcomed by local residents, we need to be sensitive to the impact our presence and activities have on them.

It is necessary to register and pass an exam in order to fly a drone in Norway, even recreationally