Part 2: During the stay abroad
The Ministry has an agreement with the health telephone hotline Helsetelefonen (Norwegian only) (tel: +47 21 49 22 86), which offers medical advice 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Helsetelefonen is a low-threshold service that is easily available and provides simple, immediate advice and information on health, illness and treatment. The health telephone hotline answers all types of health-related questions.
You can also ring Helsetelefonen for general information and advice about health and illness, or to talk to a medical health worker about any health-related concerns.
The Ministry has an agreement with Europeiske Reiseforsikring on the provision of necessary medical transport to the nearest suitable treatment centre. The service is accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
What to do if you become seriously ill or are injured in an accident:
- Seek medical help from a local doctor/hospital. In the event of a serious illness or accident, the posted employee or family member concerned should seek medical help from a doctor or hospital in the area. NB: Europeiske’s alarm centre should be contacted if there is any uncertainty about the diagnosis or medical treatment.
- Guarantees and advances. The mission normally guarantees payment to the hospital and pays treatment costs upfront for both the posted employee and accompanying family members. The mission then submits a claim to the Norwegian Health Economics Administration (Helfo) for reimbursement of these expenses. Europeiske can guarantee payment to the hospital for two days, or up to three days if the person is admitted on a Friday or Saturday.
- Nearest suitable treatment centre. Europeiske’s alarm centre can assess whether the necessary treatment can be provided at the treatment centre where the patient is, or whether it is necessary to arrange transport to, and treatment at, another more suitable treatment centre. Transport to, and treatment in, Norway is only provided in exceptional cases. If treatment cannot be provided locally, the local doctor or Europeiske must confirm this in writing. This written confirmation is necessary in order for Helfo to reimburse travel expenses to another treatment centre or another country.
- Treatment in Norway. Members of the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme may choose to travel to Norway and have the cost of treatment covered in accordance with the National Insurance Act, but travel expenses to and from Norway are not covered.
- Medical transport services. Under the Ministry’s agreement with Europeiske Reiseforsikring, Europeiske’s alarm centre coordinates medical transport to the nearest suitable treatment centre. All transport must be cleared with the Ministry in advance.
- Europeiske’s alarm centre has an extensive database and an extensive international network. It evaluates treatment centres and arranges admissions and transport.
- Coordination. Europeiske’s alarm centre coordinates as necessary between the patient, the family abroad and in Norway, the hospital/doctor, the transport service and the Ministry.
- The Europeiske app gives direct telephone access to Europeiske’s alarm centre and the health telephone hotline Helsetelefonen. It can be downloaded from the App Store.
IMPORTANT TELEPHONE NUMBERS:
Health telephone hotline (Helsetelefonen): +47 21 49 22 86
Europeiske’s alarm centre: +47 21 49 50 00
Membership of the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme
- To be entitled to benefits, you must be a member of the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme. If you are resident in Norway, you are, as a general rule, a member of the National Insurance Scheme, but people staying outside Norway can also retain their membership under certain conditions.
- Posted employees are automatically compulsory members of the National Insurance Scheme during their stay abroad. Norwegian citizens (or citizens of other EEA countries) employed in the service of the Norwegian state are compulsory members of the National Insurance Scheme during their stay abroad, see section 2-5 of the National Insurance Act.
- Accompanying spouses and children who are dependent on a posted employee are also compulsory members of the National Insurance Scheme. The same applies to registered partners or cohabitants (couples who live together who have or have had children together, or who were previously married to each other). The spouse, registered partner or cohabitant must be a Norwegian citizen or citizen of an EEA country. You should notify NAV if you are receiving or will receive employment income during the stay abroad, as the amount of income you receive will affect whether you can be considered ‘dependent’ or not.
Accompanying spouses/cohabitants who are not Norwegian or EEA citizens
- An accompanying spouse/registered partner/cohabitant who is not a Norwegian or EEA citizen cannot have compulsory membership of the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme, but can apply for voluntary membership.
- In order to be entitled to voluntary membership, the spouse/registered partner/cohabitant must have been a member of the National Insurance Scheme for at least three of the preceding five calendar years, and he or she must also have close links to Norway.
- Accompanying spouses/registered partners/cohabitants and children under 18 years of age who are dependent on a posted employee are entitled to have some or all of their necessary health care expenses covered (regardless of whether they are members of the National Insurance Scheme), in accordance with chapter 5 of the National Insurance Act. This is an important right for spouses/registered partners/cohabitants who are not Norwegian or EEA citizens and who have not been members of the National Insurance Scheme for three of the previous five years, and are thus not entitled to voluntary membership.
- Au pairs who accompany the family abroad may also apply for voluntary membership of the National Insurance Scheme. The posted employee is then the official employer and must pay tax to the National Insurance Scheme.
Benefits under the National Insurance Scheme during a stay abroad – health services
Helfo (the Health Economics Administration) safeguards key health rights and refunds health care expenses that are covered by the National Insurance Act.
Helfo does not refund health care expenses that are regulated by legislation other than the National Insurance Act (for example expenses associated with health aids).
The overseas allowance granted under the Special Agreement on Allowances, Benefits and Remuneration in the Foreign Service is intended to cover higher living expenses connected with transfers to and service at a Norwegian diplomatic or consular mission, including health care expenses that are not covered by Helfo.
- If you are going to an EEA country, you need to get an E106 entitlement form (which confirms your healthcare rights) from Helfo before you travel. The application form is available on helsenorge.no. It should be sent together with the relevant documents to: Helfo, Postboks 2415, 3104 Tønsberg.
- The Ministry has signed a collective health insurance agreement with certain EEA countries, (as of 2017 these are: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the UK). The missions are responsible for enrolment in the insurance scheme. Membership is voluntary. The insurance premium paid by the Ministry is to be reported to the Norwegian tax authorities.
Applications for voluntary membership of the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme are dealt with by NAV.
Applications should be submitted well before your departure date.
NAV International telephone helpline: (+ 47) 21 07 37 00, open Monday to Friday, 08:00-15.30.
Outside the EEA and in certain EEA countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia), the National Insurance Scheme rules on extended subsidisation (utvidet stønad) apply. This means that expenses for necessary hospital stays and treatment are covered in full. Helfo covers 75 % of expenses for necessary:
- a) outpatient treatment and other medical care outside a hospital
- b) radiological examinations and treatment
- c) tests at medical laboratories
- d) psychological treatment
- e) physiotherapy
- f) dental care in connection with dental disease, but not orthodontic treatment.
In addition, the National Insurance Scheme covers travel expenses to the nearest suitable treatment centre. In cases where there is a documented need for the patient to be accompanied, the travel expenses for the accompanying person will also be covered. You must always contact Europeiske for advice on which hospital to go to. More information on the Ministry’s agreement with Europeiske is given in section 2.1 above.
If required, proof of membership of the National Insurance Scheme can be obtained from Helfo using the form on helsenorge.no.
Under the National Insurance Act, the employer is required to pay for treatment that is covered by the National Insurance Scheme and can then apply to Helfo for reimbursement afterwards. In practice, it is the missions that pay for treatment and then submit a claim to Helfo for reimbursement of medical expenses, for both posted employees and the accompanying spouse/cohabitant and children. It does not make any difference whether private or public health services are used.
Helfo is unable to indicate in advance whether a particular treatment is covered or whether the expenses will be reimbursed. Applications must be sent in at a later stage.
Families staying in the US can have their medical expenses reimbursed by the American insurance company Equian, which acts on behalf of Helfo. Missions are responsible for registering employees with Equian and for cancelling registrations.
Child benefit and cash-for-care benefit
- Child benefit is granted unless prevented by a bilateral social security agreement. Contact your local NAV office for more information.
- Both parents must be members of the National Insurance Scheme.
- If you are going to an EEA country and have questions about cash-for-care benefit, contact your local NAV office.
- Families living outside the EEA are not entitled to receive cash-for-care benefit.
- Both parents must have been in paid employment for six of the previous 10 months before the birth to receive parental benefit.
- The parents’ previous incomes must have been above a certain level.
- Mothers who are not entitled to parental benefit are entitled to a lump-sum grant.
- Fathers have an independent right to paternal leave.
- Fathers who wish to take leave for a longer period than the paternal quota may only do so if the mother is in paid employment or following a full-time officially approved educational programme. It is also a condition that the father is the one looking after the child.
- Entitlement to a pension larger than the minimum pension level under the National Insurance Scheme is based on income. Only those who have been in paid employment are entitled to a supplementary pension.
- Accompanying spouses/cohabitants may under certain conditions be granted pension points for child care. They must be members of the National Insurance Scheme and receiving child benefit for the child in question.
- If the accompanying spouse/cohabitant is in paid employment in the country of service, this could have consequences for his/her membership in the National Insurance Scheme. If the accompanying spouse/cohabitant is employed by a company whose headquarters is in Norway, he/she may under certain conditions be able to retain his/her membership and accrue Norwegian pension rights. If the accompanying spouse/cohabitant works for a foreign employer, he/she may be able to accrue pension rights in the country where he/she is working. It is up to the individual concerned to find out about this.
- Accompanying spouses/cohabitants who are members of the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund will be credited with up to four years’ pensionable earnings if they accompany a Foreign Service employee on a posting abroad (see also section 1.11 on leave for spouses/cohabitants from their own jobs).
The Ministry’s pension for accompanying spouses/cohabitants
- In 1999, the Ministry introduced a special pension scheme for accompanying spouses. As of 1 January 2017, the scheme also covers cohabitants. This applies to couples who live together and who have, or have had, children together, or who were previously married to each other.
- The accompanying spouse/cohabitant must have accompanied the Foreign Service employee on postings abroad for a period of at least 10 years. Full pension rights are accrued after 20 years.
- In cases where the accompanying spouse/cohabitant’s primary employment is as a member of mission staff and his/her annual salary exceeds the average National Insurance Scheme basic amount for that year, this period of service is not included when calculating pension rights.
- You do not have to be a Norwegian national or a member of the National Insurance Scheme to be entitled to the pension.
- The pension for accompanying spouses/cohabitants is not coordinated with any other type of pension.
- The pension is paid out from the month in which the accompanying spouse/cohabitant turns 67.
- There is no membership fee.
- Accompanying spouses/cohabitants who are entitled to the pension, should send an email to the Section for Recruitment and Personnel (SECT-RecruitmentAndPersonnel@mfa.no), in the calendar year before they turn 67. The email should include the following information: name of the missions concerned, length of time as accompanying spouse/cohabitant in months and years, any periods of absence from the place of service that exceed three months, and details of any work undertaken as a member of locally employed staff.
- The relevant legislation is available on lovdata.no – Norwegian only (Lov om ledsagerpensjon i utenrikstjenesten)
Loss or reduction of rights to benefits under the National Insurance Scheme on return to Norway
The right to unemployment benefit depends on certain conditions, including loss of employment income. Special rules for acquiring rights to benefits apply in the EEA. Most accompanying spouses/cohabitants will not be entitled to unemployment benefit.
- To be entitled to receive sickness benefit under the National Insurance Scheme, you must have had a pensionable employment income above a certain minimum level and been in employment for at least four weeks immediately prior to the date on the sick leave certificate. You should therefore be aware that you risk not being entitled to sickness benefit on your return to Norway.
- Accompanying spouses/cohabitants on leave from a position in the central government administration may have more rights. The same applies to those who have had Norwegian pensionable income in another country from employment in a Norwegian company whose headquarters are in Norway.
Work assessment allowance
Accompanying spouses/cohabitants who have reduced working capacity on their return to Norway and who fulfil the other conditions may be entitled to receive a work assessment allowance.
Accompanying spouses/cohabitants who on return to Norway have permanently reduced earning capacity due to illness or injury may, under certain conditions, be entitled to receive disability benefit under the National Insurance Scheme.
REIMBURSEMENT OF HEALTH EXPENSES DURING A STAY ABROAD
If you are going to an EEA country, you need to get an E106 entitlement form (which confirms your healthcare rights) from Helfo before you leave Norway in order to get any health expenses reimbursed. The application form is available on helsenorge.no. However, in certain EEA countries, you are entitled to extended subsidisation (utvidet stønad) under the National Insurance Scheme. Information about which countries this applies to is given under section 2.2 on page 17.
There are very limited opportunities for paid employment at the missions. The head of mission’s spouse/cohabitant is not permitted to take paid employment.
Under the EEA Agreement, all EEA nationals have the right to work within the EEA.
One of the objectives of the Ministry’s family policy is to help enable accompanying spouses/cohabitants who wish to do so to work during the stay abroad, both in EEA countries and outside the EEA. In this connection, Norway has entered into a number of bilateral agreements on work permits for accompanying family members.
As of 2017, agreements have been signed with Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, India, Israel (administrative scheme), Romania, South Africa (administrative scheme), Turkey, the UK and the US.
Accompanying spouses/cohabitants who have employment income during their stay abroad should be aware that this may affect their membership of the National Insurance Scheme. Accompanying spouses/cohabitants should always contact NAV (tel: + 47 21 07 37 00, opening hours: 08:00-15:30) if they are thinking of remaining in or seeking new paid employment.
Accompanying family members enjoy the same privileges and immunities as posted employees, as long as they are not nationals of the country of service. If a family member takes paid employment, these immunities and privileges do not normally apply when the family member concerned is engaged in work-related activities. However, you must obtain the Ministry’s consent to waive your privileges and immunities in connection with your job.
Posted employees and accompanying family members have a duty to respect the legislation and rules of both Norway and the country of service.
The privileges and immunities referred to here follow from the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. As the conventions set out, the purpose of these privileges and immunities is not to benefit individuals and their families, but to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of ‘diplomatic missions as representing States’ and of ‘consular posts on behalf of their respective States’. The privileges and immunities may only be waived with the consent of the sending state. If an accompanying family member behaves in a way that is incompatible with the posted employee’s diplomatic status, this could put the Ministry and the Norwegian authorities in a difficult position.
A posting abroad can entail both positive and negative challenges for the whole family. Settling in a new country, getting to know a new culture, meeting new people, being a long way from home – all of this can be exciting and interesting, but it can also be a difficult and lonely time.
Accompanying spouses/cohabitants will encounter alcohol at work-related functions and events during a posting abroad. It may be wise to plan how often/how much you intend to drink on different occasions, how many alcohol-free days you intend to have, etc. This applies both to the posted employee and to the accompanying spouse/cohabitant. Some people may turn to other substances or resort to other forms of addictive behaviour (computer games, gambling or other online activities) as a way of coping with what may be a very different life .
Early intervention reduces the risk of problems and/or dependency. Reporting a concern is a way of showing that you care. It also means that we, as the employer, can act quickly to help.
The Ministry has been working to prevent and alleviate problems associated with substance abuse and dependency for many years. As an accompanying spouse/cohabitant, you may well be the first to see that your spouse/partner could have problems related to substance abuse and dependency. In such cases, it is important and right to seek help if you are worried. You can for example go to the head of mission, who will then raise the matter with the employee in question. You can also contact the HSE adviser at the Ministry for advice and guidance (email: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +47 239 51156).
As an accompanying spouse/cohabitant with diplomatic status, it is important to remember that you too represent Norway and that a certain standard of behaviour is therefore expected of you. If you find yourself in a situation where you need help or guidance, it may be a good idea to contact your doctor in the first instance. If you are registered at an address in Norway while you are abroad, you can also contact your own doctor (GP) in Norway, who can refer you as appropriate.