Assisting international staff

At the new Service centre for International Mobility at UiB staff will be on hand to help non-Norwegian staff with relocation issues. The centre is now open.

Paul S. Amundsen

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When the University of Bergen (UiB) made its strategic plan for international relations, one of the goals was to improve conditions for international staff at the institution. On Wednesday 23 January the Service centre for International Mobility (SIM) officially opened. The centre will be open every weekday between 13 and 15.

– The centre makes our work directed at international staff more visible and more readily available, says Signe Knappskog, who is an adviser at UiB’s Department of Human Resources and is also in charge of UiB’s Researcher Mobility pages.

There are many challenges when people from different cultures arrive in Norway, and Knappskog hopes this centre will make it easier for both staff and their families to get the help they need upon arriving at UiB.

– The main task relates to immigration rule issues. The centre is a resource for the different institutes, departments, and faculties, who can contact us with questions or direct their incoming international staff members to get help with practical issues.

Non-academic community aid

And no problem is too small for Knappskog and her colleagues to deal with.

– We deal with the non-academic issues that our international staff members face. It can be rather mundane stuff, such as a quick translation of an invitation letter for an ultrasound examination during pregnancy or how to obtain a sticker for studded tires. You could say that our main task is to be some sort of community aid, she says.

– There are issues related to tax, like getting the correct tax card. Little things that need to be taken care of to make the transition to Norwegian everyday life as smooth as possible.

International growth

As UiB’s international involvement has grown, the number of non-Norwegian staff has been growing rapidly. According to Knappskog there are now more than 600 employees at UiB with other citizenships than Norwegian.

Knappskog and her colleagues have recently made a leaflet informing about the new Service centre, how to find it, and what kind of activities it offers. The leaflet is available both in print and digitally.

Knappskog points out that the centre is a unilateral initiative undertaken by UiB, and points towards Denmark as a model for how all of Norwegian society could deal with better integration of non-nationals arriving in the country to work.

In Copenhagen and three other cities, the Danish state offers facilities to get practical issues sorted quickly for foreign workers and Danish employers. The universities are a natural integrated part of this. In Norway there is no such thing, so we have to do this ourselves to attract foreign staff here, says Knappskog, who hopes that UiB’s initiative can provide a model for this to become a national feature in Norway in the not too distant future.

But for the time being, UiB’s Service centre for International Mobility will help the university’s foreign staff and guests with some of the everyday issues that they will face in Norwegian society.

The centre is part of the EURAXESS services network.