The basic conditions regarding the granting of Icelandic citizenship are stated in Articles 8 and 9, and Article 9a of the Icelandic Nationality Act.
The following text is a detailed introduction of the basic conditions of citizenship. A summary and a checklist, stating the accompanying documents that must be submitted with an application for proving that an applicant meets the conditions, are published herein for every category of applications.
The basic conditions are divided into residence conditions and special conditions.
The granting of Icelandic citizenship is based, among other things, on a condition regarding the length of residence in Iceland. When the length of residence is stated the focus is continued residence and lawful stay during the last year prior to an application being submitted. Permanent residence refers to the domicile according to the act thereon, and the length of domicile is thus based on the formal registration of domicile by Registers Iceland. The applicant must have had permanent residence in Iceland at the time of submission of the application and when the decision is made. The Directorate of Immigration is authorized to request an applicant’s passport if deemed as necessary.
Note that applications for Icelandic citizenship are not accepted until the residence conditions have been met, unless a request is made for an application being submitted to the Icelandic parliament, Althingi.
The following rules apply to the length of residence (see Article 8, para 1, items 1-7):
- General condition: Domicile in Iceland for seven (7) years.
- Marriage or confirmed cohabitation: Domicile in Iceland for four (4) years from the date of marriage or confirmation of cohabitation with an Icelandic citizen who has held citizenship for at least five (5) years.
- Cohabitation: Domicile in Iceland for five (5) years from the date of registration of cohabitation with an Icelandic citizen who has held citizenship for at least five (5) years.
- Child of an Icelandic citizen: Domicile in Iceland for two (2) years and a parent who has held citizenship for at least five (5) years.
- A citizen of a Nordic country: Domicile in Iceland for four (4) years.
- A refugee or an individual who holds a residence permit on humanitarian grounds: Domicile in Iceland for five (5) years after the applicant received a refugee status or residence permit on humanitarian grounds.
- An individual who has no citizenship, cf. the provisions of the Act on Foreigners: Domicile in Iceland for five (5) years.
- A former Icelandic citizen: Domicile in Iceland for one (1) year. The applicant has lost his/her Icelandic citizenship through application and granting of a foreign citizenship.
Exemptions from the condition on uninterrupted residence (Article 8, para 2).
An exemption from the condition on continued residence may be granted. An exemption refers to stay by an applicant in Iceland being discontinued for a total of up to one (1) year during the period of time he/she must meet, cf. para 1, however, up to two (2) years, because of periodic work or for uncontrollable reasons, for example, his/her illness or that of a close relative. An exemption may be granted if the stay has been discontinued for as long as three (3) years because of studies abroad.
The total stay of an applicant in Iceland, however, must always meet the relevant time requirement even though an exemption has been granted. An applicant who deems him-/herself as falling under the exemption must submit data in support of this.
Example: An applicant intends to submit an application for citizenship on grounds of seven (7) years stay in Iceland. After six (6) years of stay in Iceland the applicant spends one (1) year working abroad and then moves in the continuation to Iceland. Notwithstanding him/her initially having been registered as domiciled in Iceland seven (7) years prior, the applicant has not met the time requirement as he/she has only stayed in Iceland for six (6) years. The relevant individual must stay in Iceland for one (1) more year as a seven-year (7) stay in Iceland is obligatory.
An applicant’s stay abroad because of a spouse’s work or that of a custodian parent who is an Icelandic citizen, who works abroad representing Iceland or is an employee of an international institution of which Iceland is a member; also falls under the aforementioned provisions on exemptions.
If an applicant does not stay longer abroad than 90 days total per every 12 months period the stay is nevertheless considered as continued stay. If continued stay abroad exceeds 90 days the entire number is deducted from the period of residence.
Note that an interruption of stay that does not fall under a provision of exemption results in the deadline beginning to count again. All accumulation of rights that occurred prior to moving out of Iceland does not count.
Unlimited residence permit and other residence permits (Article 8, para 3)
It is conditional that an applicant has an unlimited residence permit (previously permit of stay), issued by the UTL or that the applicant is exempt from the duty of having a residence permit, according to the Act on Foreigners.
Note that if an applicant’s residence permit expires during the application period or this being foreseeable, the applicant should renew his/her residence permit even though an application for Icelandic citizenship has been submitted.
The applicant shall prove in a satisfactory manner his/her identity by presenting a confirmed copy of a certified birth certificate and a copy of his/her passport. Copies of certain ID papers may replace a copy of a passport. Further information on such ID is contained HERE.
The Directorate of Immigration is authorized to deviate from the conditions regarding the submission of data from the home state or previous state of stay if the circumstances of the applicant are unusual or strong reasonable grounds recommend this. The authorization for exemption is intended for applicants who, due to their circumstances, find it impossible to obtain satisfactory ID data. Examples of this are refugees who have received international protection on the grounds of persecution by the authorities of their home states or refugees from war-torn areas where there is no infrastructure. In order for an exemption being applicable the applicant must meet the other conditions of law for being granted citizenship.
The applicant must have passed an Icelandic language test as provided for by Regulation 1129/2008. The Directorate of Education prepares the exams and goes through the results, whereas the Mímir-símenntun language school holds the exams. The Icelandic language test is held twice per year.
Exemptions from the Icelandic language test
The Directorate of Immigration is authorized to allow an applicant for Icelandic citizenship an exemption from the requirement of passing a test in the Icelandic language if it is deemed as unfair for such a requirement being made of the applicant cf. Regulation no. 1129/2008. This may apply, for example, in the following instances:
- The applicant is 65 years of age and has been domiciled in Iceland over the last seven (7) years prior to submitting an application.
- The applicant can confirm with a medical certificate that he/she is unable to undergo a test for serious physical or mental reasons.
- The applicant is attending an Icelandic primary school or is younger than the primary-school age.
- The applicant can confirm with the relevant certificate from an Icelandic school that he/she has competence that equals the requirements made. See the requirements in Article 4 of the regulation HERE.
An applicant who considers him-/herself as having met the exemption conditions must submit data in confirmation thereof, for example, a medical certificate or a school certificate.
Unsuccessful distraint measures, bankruptcy proceedings or default tax payments (Article 9, para 1, item 4)
If the applicant has been subject to financial attachment over the last three (3) years, his/her estate has been in bankruptcy proceedings or he/she has been default in tax payments, this prevents the granting of Icelandic citizenship. The Directorate of Immigration is authorized to obtain information in confirmation of this. The applicant shall present a statement from the relevant collector of the National Treasury to the effect that the applicant is free of debt with the National Treasury. Further information on the statement is available in the checklist of the relevant application.
The applicant must illustrate his/her ability of maintenance in Iceland and that he/she has not received maintenance payments from a municipality over the last three (3) years. The applicant is furthermore obligated to illustrate his/her maintenance in Iceland having been in a lawful manner. The Directorate of Immigration is authorized to obtain tax-return forms and other data from the tax authorities in confirmation of this.
The applicant shall prove that he/she meets the conditions on maintenance by submitting data on his/her maintenance, a maintenance certificate, from all the municipalities where he/she has lived over the last three (3) years and confirmed copies of his/her tax-return forms for the last three (3) years. Further information about the aforementioned accompanying documents is contained in the checklist of the relevant application.
Amount of support
The Directorate of Immigration bases the minimum amount of subsistence on the minimum financial support criteria in Reykjavik. The amounts are based on income before taxation.
- Individual, ISK 212,694 per month.
- Couple, ISK 340,320 per month. Note that in the instance of cohabitation the support criterion for individuals applies.
Special maintenance is not calculated for children; hence the aforementioned criterion remains unchanged even though there is a child/children in the household.
Who must demonstrate maintenance?
All applicants for Icelandic citizenship must demonstrate independent maintenance except in the following instances:
- Children under the age of 18 who are provided for by a parent or custodian living in Iceland.
- A student at the age of 18-20 who lives with a parent or custodian. Note that the maintenance criteria here is 50% of the minimum maintenance for individual persons, i.e. ISK 103,855 per month in addition to own maintenance which the parent or custodian must have for own use and that of his/her other family members.
- The spouse of an Icelander or a foreign citizen. Because of the maintenance duty between married couples as stipulated in the Act on Marriage no. 31/1993, it suffices that one party to the marriage demonstrates sufficient maintenance for both. Note that cohabitation does not equal marriage in this respect, as there is no maintenance duty between cohabiters; hence the applicant must demonstrate independent maintenance if he/she is in cohabitation.
- Relatives (i.e. parent, grandfather, grandmother, great grandfather, great grandmother) who are older than 67 and are being provided for by their child/children in Iceland.
How to demonstrate satisfactory maintenance
Demonstrating that the maintenance is reliable and satisfactory can be done as stated below. Focusing on more than one factor is permitted, i.e. both earned income and own funds:
Earned income or income from independent endeavors:
The applicant illustrates earned income by presenting a pay-as-you-earn tax form or issued invoices, stamped by the tax authorities. The applicant may also submit an original version of an employment contract. If the applicant is under the maintenance of another individual the relevant person is furthermore permitted to present the aforementioned data of that person.
Payslips for the last three (3) months
The applicant submits his/her payslips. Printouts from an online bank are satisfactory; otherwise a confirmation by the employer is required. The pay-as-you-earn tax must have been paid on the wages. The Directorate of Immigration examines the tax register in order to see whether the aforementioned tax has been paid. If the applicant is under the maintenance of another individual, said individual must present the payslips for the last three (3) months that must meet the same conditions as listed herein.
Reliable regular maintenance payments
Such payments can be payments by the Social Insurance Administration because of disability, unemployment payments, lease revenues and grants received by the applicant, for example because of research. This is not a complete list of the payments that may apply.
Sufficient own capital for maintenance
The bank balance of an applicant or a provider in Iceland or abroad, which is in an internationally acknowledged currency and can be changed into a currency that is registered with the Central Bank of Iceland, and can be withdrawn and used for maintenance. An overview by a bank showing the amount of balance must be confirmed by the bank and be in original format. Information about the registration of currency is obtainable with the Central Bank of Iceland, Seðlabanki Íslands. A printout of the overview of the balance of an online bank is not a sufficient confirmation.
Student grants or study loans
If an applicant has received a grant for study or a study loan, such payments are deemed as satisfactory maintenance provided they reach the required minimum amount. A study loan or study grant must be in an internationally acknowledged currency that can be changed into a currency that is registered with the Central Bank of Iceland. A confirmation must be submitted on the loan payments from the appropriate lending institution and a confirmation of a grant from the grantor as applicable.
The following is not considered as satisfactory maintenance
Payments in the form of social assistance by the state or a municipality are not reliable maintenance. Maintenance by a third party in other instances than stated above is not reliable maintenance. Assets other than bank balances are not considered as reliable maintenance (for example real estate) and dividend from undertakings, interest payments or other payments that are not reliably available or when they become available for being paid, are not reliable maintenance.
An applicant has not been subject in Iceland or abroad to fines or imprisonment sentences or who has unfinished business in the judicial system where he/she is suspected or accused of criminal conduct according to Icelandic law.
The applicant must present a criminal record certificate from all states where he/she has stayed since the age of 15 (legal competence in Iceland). If an applicant has resided in three states, for example, he/she must present a criminal record certificate of all said states. Different rules may apply to the issuance of criminal record certificates, depending on the states. If there is any doubt about the format of a criminal record certificate the Directorate of Immigration must be contacted.
An applicant who has resided in the United States or Canada must present his/her criminal record certificate with a fingerprint registration.
The criminal record certificate must be certified, either with an apostille certification or double confirmation by the foreign ministry of the home states and the embassy of said state in Iceland, or by the nearest embassy. .
The Directorate of Immigration is authorized to deviate from the condition regarding the presentation of data from a home state or a previous state of stay if the applicant’s circumstances are unusual or extensive grounds of fairness recommend it. The authorization on exemption is intended for applicants who cannot at all, due to their circumstances, obtain a satisfactory criminal record certificate. Examples of this are refugees who have been granted international protection on grounds of persecution by the authorities of their home state or refugees from war-torn areas that lack infrastructure. In order for an exemption applying, the applicant must meet the other conditions of law for being granted citizenship.
The UTL requests a criminal record certificate and comments by the police.
The comments are more detailed than a criminal record certificate as they contain all the fines and penalties of an individual. The comments are used to assess whether an applicant meets the conditions with respect to the waiting period, whether the applicant has unfinished business in the judicial system, the total amount of fines and whether fines have been paid in full or served in a different manner.
Waiting period regarding offences
The Directorate of Immigration is authorized to grant a citizenship after a certain deadline (waiting period) if a fine has been paid in full or the penalty has been served in a different manner, and other information about the applicant does not oppose it. The length of the deadline is different, depending on the amount of fine or the length of an imprisonment sentence.
If an applicant has been fined the waiting period is as follows, effective from the time of offence:
- There is no waiting period if the applicant has received a fine less than ISK 80,000.
- If the amount of the fine is ISK 80,000 to 200,000, one (1) year must have passed from the time the offence was committed.
- If the amount of the fine is ISK 200,001 – 300,000, two (2) years must have passed from the time the offence was committed.
- If the fine amounts to ISK 300,001 – 1,000,000, three (3) years must have passed from the time the offence was committed.
- If the fine is higher than ISK 1,000,000, five (5) years must have passed from the time the offence was committed.
If an applicant has received an imprisonment sentence, the waiting period is as follows effective from the time the sentence was served or the granting of parole:
- Imprisonment sentence of up to 60 days, the waiting period is six (6) years.
- Imprisonment sentence of up to six (6) months, the waiting period is eight (8) years.
- Imprisonment sentence of up to one (1) year, the waiting period is nine (9) years.
- Imprisonment sentence of up to two (2) years, the waiting period is 10 years.
- Imprisonment sentence of up to five (5) years, the waiting period is 12 years.
- Imprisonment sentence of up to 10 years, the waiting period is 14 years.
- Imprisonment sentence of more than 10 years, the waiting period is 25 years.
- Suspended sentence, the waiting period is three (3) years effective from the end of the suspension period.
- Determination of penalty suspended, the waiting period is two (2) years from the end of the suspension period.
- Determination of indictment postponed suspended, the waiting period is one (1) year from the end of the suspension period.
- If an applicant has been sentenced to protective security, the waiting period is 14 years effective from the end of the protective-security period.
When it is deemed that penalty has been served with remand custody, the period is calculated as effective from the point when the relevant person is released. When a part of a sentence is suspended, the waiting period begins at the end of the serving of the sentence and is based on the length of the non-suspended part of the sentence. This means that the length of the waiting period is based on the part of the sentence that is not suspended if two (2) months of a three-month (3) sentence are suspended, meaning that the waiting period is based on imprisonment penalty for up to 60 days even though the relevant individual has in fact received a heavier sentence.
Repeated offence – when an applicant has committed more than one (1) offence
If an applicant has only received a penalty of fine and the total amount of the fine is lower than ISK 200,000, granting Icelandic citizenship is permissible if other information about the applicant does not oppose this, provided at least one (1) year having passed from the time the latest offence was committed.
If an applicant has committed more than one offence and the sentence is not only fines or the total amount of fines exceeds ISK 200,001, the waiting period is calculated effectively from the time of the latest offence or a sentence having been served, however, including a waiting period applicable to every single offence committed before or the remainder being a part of the waiting period that has passed.
If an applicant has unfinished business in the judicial system, the Directorate of Immigration is not authorized to grant citizenship and the application is denied. If an applicant requests his/her application being reopened for new processing when his/her case has been completed in the judicial system a new application must be presented together with payment and the required data.
The Icelandic parliament, Althingi, is authorized according to law to grant Icelandic citizenship. If the applicant does not meet the conditions for the granting of Icelandic citizenship as provided for by Act no. 100/1952, he/she may request the application being submitted to Althingi.
A special application form is available for requests on parliamentary processing of applications. The applicant must provide general information about him-/herself in the application form, including information about his/her family situation and must state detailed arguments regarding the request to Althingi for being allowed an exemption from the Act on Citizens. In addition to the argumentation, the applicant is free to present a more detailed report on the reasons for the request for an exemption. Information about the relevant attachment data is contained with each category of application. If an applicant has previously submitted an application for Icelandic citizenship the said accompanying documents need not to be submitted again.
Note that a processing fee must be paid for all applications that are requested to be submitted to Althing. This also applies to applications that were previously denied by the Directorate of Immigration.