What is identity?

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The word ‘identity‘ comes from Latin ‘idem’ which means ‘the same’ Identity can be defined as the sum of information and features that in combination form a description of a person which distinguishes him/her from everyone else.

The content of the concept of identity

Identity as a concept can be elaborated and explained through three groups of identity characteristics:

  • Formal identity is established by the assignment of name date of birth
  • Biological identity refers to genetic origin which manifests itself in various ways, including the way we look. Neither formal nor biological identity will change over time.
  • Sociocultural identity refers to features that may change through life, like education, class or group affiliation, political affiliation, language, life style, etc.

In Norway citizens are assigned a national ID number, which is unique for every individual person. Other countries have similar ID numbers: Sweden uses a ’personal identity number’, Denmark has CPR Numbers, the UK uses National Insurance Number, USA has Social Security Number, etc. Some countries have prohibited the assignment of numbers that can be used for identifying individuals-. Among them are Germany, Australia and Canada. These countries assign different numbers for different purposes, like tax and health services.

Requirements for identity documentation on applying for residency in Norway


The work with clarifying identity begins with basic identity features. If these documents are not available, the need will be greater for different types of identity features that may contribute to clarifying the identity.

All applicants for residency in Norway are required to identify themselves with passport or another approved identity document. The identity will then be referred to as documented. The only exception ever made from this requirement is when acquisition of a passport is impossible or when the applicant cannot for security reasons contact his/her homeland’s authorities to acquire a passport (typically in cases of protection). Based on this investigation it may in exceptional cases be considered likely that it is correct. The identity will then be referred to as substantiated identity and be the basis of the following processing of the application.

More about identity

Documented identity


The main rule is that everybody residing in Norway shall have documented their identity, cf. Immigration Act Section 83, cf. Immigration Regulations Section 17-7 second paragraph.

The immigration administration will base its processing on the information supplied by the foreigner regarding his/her identity, if it is documented sith public documents of sufficiently high notoriety. On this background an assessment is made on whether the applicant’s identity will be regarded documented or substantiated.

In most cases a person will be able to document his identify with a valid travel document, The travel document contains relevant ID information like name, date of birth and nationality/citizenship. Sometimes the travel document also contains biometric data of the holder.

If the foreigner holds no travel document it may sometimes be sufficient that s/he documents his/her identity by means of other identity documents, like ID card and driving licence, provided they are acknowledged as ID documents..

Please refer to the following documents:

The topic of the regulation is requirements for documented and substantiated identity in cases pursuant to The Act of Norwegian Nationality.

The instruction describes how the identity of a person submitting applications in accordance with the Immigration Act must be documented or otherwise substantiated.

  • Internal Immigration Appeal Board guidelines dated 16 November 2011 regarding assessment and registration of identity – the consequences of non-documented ID information, etc.

Among the topics dealt with by the guidelines are the importance of the identity issue in the processing of a case and the importance of it when residency in Norway is granted.

Clarified identity


As a main rule, all people residing in Norway are required to have a documented identity, cf. the Immigration Act, sec. 83, cf. The Immigration Regulation, sec. 17-7 second paragraph.

The concept of ‘clarified identity’ is in particular used in the Act of Norwegian nationality. Documented or clarified identity is a prerequisite for the acquisition of citizenship, cf. The Act on Norwegian nationality sec 7 first paragraph letter a and Regulations on the acquisition and loss of Norwegian Nationality sec. 1-1 and 1-2. In cases where exceptions from this requirement has been made, the standard of proof is ordinary preponderance of evidence.

More about the assessments can be found in Regulations regarding the assessment of identity in cases pursuant to The Act of Norwegian nationality given by the Ministry of Labor and Social Inclusion.


Substantiated identity


The main rule is that everybody residing in Norway shall have documented their identity, cf. The Immigration Act Section 83, cf. Immigration Regulations Section 17-7 second paragraph.

Basically the immigration administration founds its decisions on the information supplied by the foreigner if it can be confirmed by passport or other acknowledged documents. Based on this an assessment is made regarding whether the applicant’s identity should be considered as documented or substantiated.

Substantiated identity means that following an assessment of all elements of the case is ordinary preponderance of evidence in favour of the applicant having stated his/her correct identity. Elements that may support the stated identity may be things like a language test, age estimation, knowledge about the stated homeland/home place/traditions, the result of a DNA test and credibility in general.

The Directorate of Immigration (UDI) and the Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) always decide whether the applicant’s identity has been documented, substantiated or not substantiated when a permit is granted, because this conclusion regarding the identity is important for the decision regarding what kind of recidency permit is granted. In some cases a limited residency permit may be granted even if the applicant has not substantiated his/her identity.

NPIS is responsible for enforcing a final rejection in asylum cases along with coordinating and assuring the quality of the transport of all foreigners residing illegally in Norway. A substantiated identity is not sufficient for a carrying out of a transport out of the country. As a main rule the identity must be clarified and the person must be accepted by the authorities of the home country or another country.

Read more about routines regarding identity assessment in different parts of  the immigration authorities: