Those who have never heard of Svalbard may indeed wonder where it is in the world. The very name conjures up a distant destination of majestic views and ancient origins and you will find Svalbard in the northern most regions of Norway, an archipelago that leads into the Arctic. It is the midway point between the North Pole and Europe and has its administrative centre in the settlement of Longyearbyen.

Originally used as a whaling base as far back as the 17th century, Svalbard became home to a thriving mining community in the 20th century and became a part of the Kingdom of Norway in 1925 thanks to the Svalbard Act. It established Svalbard as a demilitarised and a free economic zone where the independent settlements are not connected by road, but instead are reached by snowmobile, boat or aircraft.

This beautiful archipelago is subject to an Arctic climate due to its location so far north and is subject to a long polar night but an equally long period of midnight sun during the warmer summer months. The landscape is home to polar bears, herds of wild reindeer and a wealth of seabirds. The area is home to seven national parks and two thirds of the archipelagoare divided into twenty three separate nature reserves, making this a unique and beautiful habitat for plant and animal life.

A large percentage of the landscape is covered in glacial ice which covers more than sixty percent of the landmass and many of the islands have a series of mountains and breathtakingly beautiful fjords. Svalbard is not part of the Schengen area, under which the rest of the Norwegian mainland falls and so is subject to different laws with regards to immigration and so forth.

Due to the fact that most transportation links pass via Norway, a foreign traveller will undoubtedly need a Schengen Visa in any eventuality, though it is not required in Svalbard. This beautiful, stark landscape presents very demanding climatic conditions and to the individual who is considering moving to Svalbard, they should take into account that housing is scarce and that work can be difficult to find.

This does not mean that you should rule out the possibility of living and working in this area, only that you should plan carefully, ensuring that you have a residence to move to and a certain means of employment arranged before you take the step of emigrating. Bear in mind that living expenses in this part of the world are quite costly and that your application for immigration might be rejected if you cannot prove that you have adequate means of financial support.

The largest settlement is Longyearbyen, one of the most northerly settlements in the world, located at 78 degrees North and winter temperatures regularly fall to -30 degrees Celcius with summer highs reaching a maximum of 10 degrees Celcius. In the winter months the landscape does not see the sun from late October until the first week or two in March the following year. Darkness is total from the middle of November to mid February the landscape is in total darkness.

Polar bears are rife in the area and residents are advised to carry a weapon for protection when venturing beyond the settlement. Svalbard is not subject to the Norwegian Immigration Act due to the Svalbard Treaty, which grants the archipelago sovereignty according to International law. Foreign visitors do not require a visa, residency or work permit to work and live in Svalbard, however if they wish to enter the Schengen area at any time they will have need of a Schengen Visa.

Though you do not require any documentation to live and work in Svalbard the Governor can reject your residency if you are unable to secure adequate transportation and do not have the means of supporting yourself financially, so it is wise to ensure that you have steady employment and housing secured before making the move to this region.

You should keep in mind that Norwegian is the main spoken language and that the only employment agency in Norway, an agency named NAV, only advertises posts in Norwegian. Fluency in the language is advisable if you wish to find steady employment. In Svalbard most of the accommodation is owned by the various companies or different institutions who provide employment and these provide housing for their employees.

This poses some difficulty for the unemployed individual as purchasing property privately in Svalbard is almost impossible as most of the land is owned by the State. The few privately owned residences can be purchased or leased at exorbitant prices. The Governor of Svalbard is able to provide foreigners who are interested in moving to the region with reliable information regarding aspects of Norwegian immigration legislation.

The settlement of Longyearbyen boasts the largest community, consisting of 2753 residents as recorded in a survey in 2009. The area is recorded as one of the safest on the planet with almost no reports of criminal activity from year to year. The settlement boasts several museums, a bus transportation system, a primary and secondary school, a university, a library, a bank and several hotels. There is also a cultural centre, a cinema complex, a library and well-equipped sports centre with a swimming pool for communal use.

The settlement has its own weekly newspaper, the Svalbardposten and most of the community works outside of Longyearbyen, employed at Sveagruva where they work in the local mining company run by Store Norske. Alternatively a small Russian settlement exists at Barentsburg with a small community of roughly 20 people living at the settlement of Pyramiden, which is company owned by Arktikugol, a coal mining operation.

Here you will find a hotel, a library and a school, a farm and a greenhouse, as well as a swimming pool and a community centre. There is also a souvenir shop and tourists can take day long hiking trips to surrounding areas, including Longyearbyen. You may be surprised to discover that Pyramiden boasts the most northerly location for a Lenin statue in the world!


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