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Doubts or incorrect information about identity can result in rejection or a decision to revoke a permit. What are the assessments behind this?

Identity has become one of the most important topics in the immigration administration over the past ten years. Applicants also notice this. They are asked to submit identity documents and take age tests, language tests and DNA tests, and they are asked questions about their background, residence history and family relationships.
Identity has also been a topic in several high-profile individual cases and portfolios in recent years. Questions have been raised about the use of age testing in cases concerning unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. The media have also reported on the situation of adults who gave incorrect information about their citizenship when they arrived in Norway and have later had their permits revoked. Public debate has focused on how this has affected their children in particular.

Since the identity assessments carried out by the UDI and UNE have such serious consequences, there is reason to ask: Why is this so important? How do the UDI and UNE define ‘identity’? What does it take for the UDI and UNE to be sufficiently certain that an applicant's identity is correct? And what happens when the UDI and UNE are not certain about an applicant's identity?

A correct result depends on a correct identity

Identity assessments are primarily important because a correct result depends on a correct identity. In asylum cases, for example, the UDI and UNE cannot arrive at the correct result if they do not know which country and place an asylum seeker is from. If an applicant gives incorrect information or withholds information about his or her citizenship, the applicant could end up being granted a permit that he or she should never have had. In family immigration cases, the outcome of a case will also depend on the applicant actually having the relationship with the family member in Norway that he or she claims to have, whether as a spouse, fiancé(e), child or parent.
Identity assessments are also important because some types of permit can form the basis for travel documents. For example, refugees are entitled to be issued a travel document if they have substantiated their identity. And those who meet the conditions for Norwegian citizenship, will be issued a Norwegian passport. According to the preparatory works to the Norwegian Passport Act, the purpose of a passport is primarily to allow other states to verify the identity of foreign nationals. So when the Norwegian authorities issue travel documents and Norwegian passports, they are vouching for the identity of the persons concerned.

Another important reason why the UDI and UNE always assess a person's identity before granting a permit is that the authorities need to know who people staying in Norway are and where they are from. False identities can be used to commit serious crimes, and the immigration authorities play an important role in ensuring that this does not happen.
People cannot choose whether or not to provide correct information about their own identity when applying for a residence permit in Norway. On the contrary, the applicant is obliged to ‘assist in clarifying his or her identity’, in the words of the Immigration Act ( The law states that providing incorrect information about who you are when you apply for a residence permit in Norway is such a serious matter that you risk losing your permit.

You can find information about the revocation of residence permits at

Identity – definitions

But what is an identity? To put it briefly, identity consists of information and characteristics that make it possible to distinguish a person from others. Different countries can have different ways of identifying people. That is why it can vary what information and characteristics make up a person's identity. In any case, a person can only have one identity.

It is useful for the purpose of UNE’s assessments to distinguish between a person's formal identity and his or her sociocultural identity. They are both part of the concept of identity.

Formal identity

Information such as people's name, date of birth, nationality/citizenship and sex makes up what is called their formal identity. Passports and other identity documents usually contain this information. An important part of assessing someone's formal identity is deciding whether the information in the passport can be trusted. In such cases, we talk about a passport having low or high notoriety. A passport's notoriety depends on the procedures each country has in place for registering identity information and issuing passports, and on how widespread corruption is. For people from countries that issue passports with high notoriety, the formal identity will be the most important, and usually decisive, factor.

You can find more information about how we assess the notoriety of different types of identity documents on our pages about asylum cases from Iran, asylum cases from Iraq and asylum cases from Somalia.

Sociocultural identity

For persons who come from countries where a passport alone is not enough to prove their identity, the applicant's sociocultural identity will be very important to UNE's and UDI's identity assessments.

Sociocultural identity consists of information about things such as family relationships (clan), upbringing, language skills, education, work and financial situation, membership of a social group, local community, relationships to public and private institutions, ethnicity and political and religious affiliation. All these factors say something about who a person is, even if the information is not recorded in a passport or other documents. By sharing such information with the UDI and UNE, applicants can substantiate their sociocultural identity.

How UDI and UNE assess identity

The UDI and UNE primarily assess an applicant's identity on the basis of the information provided by the applicant. However, the UDI and UNE also have an independent duty to investigate. They have to make assessments and advise the applicant on how he or she can help to clarify his or her own identity. The UDI and UNE sometimes obtain information or carry out investigations to shed light on an applicant’s identity. Examples include analysing submitted identity documents (document examination), age testing, language testing, DNA testing, verifying information in the applicant’s home country or searching open sources on the internet.

In all cases where a residence permit is granted, the UDI and UNE must first determine whether the identity of the person in question has been substantiated or not.

Substantiated identity

This means that the applicant's information about his or her identity is probably correct. The applicant is deemed to have clarified his or her identity. Applicants can substantiate their identity by submitting documentation (formal identity), making a credible statement about their (sociocultural) identity, or through a combination of identity documents and statements. It is often important which country the applicant comes from. If an applicant comes from a country that issues identity documents with low notoriety, then the applicant’s statement about his or her own sociocultural identity will be a very important factor in the identity assessment. For applicants from countries that issue passports with high notoriety, the formal identity will usually be decisive. In all cases except asylum cases, applicants are required to submit a valid passport or other documents from their home country to document their (formal) identity.

Unsubstantiated identity

In some cases, the UDI and UNE will grant a permit even if the applicant's identity has not been substantiated. That means that the UDI and UNE believe that the applicant's information about who he or she is, is probably incorrect. This can happen if an applicant does not cooperate to clarify his or her identity or if the applicant has previously provided incorrect information about his or her identity. The reason why the identity has not been substantiated must always be stated in the decision. In some asylum cases, for example, UNE can conclude that the applicant’s citizenship has been substantiated, while other information about the identity has not been substantiated.

You can find more information about identity assessments in our professional guide prepared for case officers and decision-makers in UNE.

When we are unsure about an applicant's identity

In some cases, the UDI and UNE are not sure about the applicant’s true identity. What happens then? In many cases, the application will be rejected. The regulations clearly state that, in principle, an applicant’s identity must be clarified before a permit is granted. This applies to all types of cases.

However, two types of cases should be mentioned here: asylum cases and cases concerning residence on humanitarian grounds. There can be good reasons why an asylum seeker has not submitted identity documents. The UDI and UNE cannot ask an asylum seeker to contact the authorities in his or her home country if the asylum seeker risks persecution by these authorities. That is why the UDI and UNE have to consider on a case-by-case basis what the asylum seeker can reasonably be expected to do to clarify his or her own identity.

In cases concerning residence on humanitarian grounds, applicants usually have to submit documentation of their identity. Exceptions can be made in cases where the applicant has substantiated his or her identity in other ways and it is not possible for the applicant to obtain a passport with high notoriety. In very exceptional cases, the regulations allow for permits to be granted despite there being doubts about the applicant’s identity. This requires the humanitarian grounds to be especially strong, for example grounds relating to children or health-related reasons. In order to motivate the applicant to submit identity documents, what are known as limited permits will be granted in such cases. A limited permit does not give the holder the same rights as an ordinary permit, and it does not entitle people to family migration or a permanent residence permit. If the applicant submits identity documents at a later time, he or she will be granted an ordinary permit on humanitarian grounds with no such limitations.

Biometrics – an issue going forward

Identity will remain an important topic for the immigration administration in the time ahead. Biometrics is a key word in this context. Biometrics are measurable physical characteristics that are unique to a person, such as fingerprints or a person's face. In April 2021, the immigration authorities began to store biometric data in the form of facial photos and fingerprints when citizens of countries outside the EU and EEA apply for a residence permit in Norway. The purpose of this is to ensure better ID control of persons who apply for residence in Norway and to make it more difficult for people to use more than one identity.

Biometrics can only be used to tell us something about someone's identity after the person entered Norway, however. They do not tell us much about the person's identity in their home country, which is the very foundation on which UDI's and UNE’s decisions are based. Whether it is a question of citizenship, family relationships, religious affiliation or other information, identity can be crucial in determining whether an applicant is granted a residence permit in Norway or not.

Other resources relating to identity and identity assessments

You can find a number of resources relating to identity and identity assessment on the NID website. The Norwegian ID Centre (NID) is an expert body, independent in professional matters, whose function is to ensure that the ID work carried out by the police, immigration administration and other public bodies is of high quality.

In 2017, the Norwegian Supreme Court concluded that the Norwegian State was right to refuse to issue travel documents to three refugees because there was doubt about their identity. On pages 11 and 12, the judgment ( discusses in more detail the use of false identity documents internationally and the importance of only issuing travel documents to persons whose identity has been substantiated.

A Court of Appeal judgment from 2020 ( describes asylum seekers' duty to assist in clarifying their identity and the extent of this duty.