🇮🇸 Immigrant-dependent Iceland proposes easier immigration rules

By Elías Thorsson - March 16, 2023
PM Jakobsdóttir explains the the steps that her government hopes will lead to better immigration (📸: Stjórnarráð Íslands)

By Elías Thorsson

REYKJAVÍK — ICELAND WILL implement a new system for processing work permits for people from outside the European Economic Area, according to that country’s prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir. The goal of the four-point plan unveilled last week is to make the country a more attractive destination for foreign workers.

The measure, according to Ms Jakobsdóttir, is necessary because Iceland lags well behind  its peers when it comes to attracting foreign workers and helping immigrants integrate. The current application process is bureaucratic and subject to arbitrary decision making,

Iceland’s economy is heavily dependent on foreign labour; according to figures from Hagstofa Íslands, the office of statistics, 16% of people living in Iceland in 2022 were not born there. The vast majority of foreigners were from the EEA (which, in addition to Iceland, is comprised of the countries of the EU, Liechtenstein and Norway) but it can be difficult for people from the rest of the world to obtain working papers.

In addition to easing some of the rules for citizens countries outside the EEA and making it easier to apply, the government’s proposal calls for establishing a system to forecast future demand for foreign workers and establishing visa agreements with more countries.

Ms Jakobsdóttir reckoned the plan will be beneficial to both the labor market and applicants themselves.

“These changes mark a great shift in the labor market,” she said. “Ahead lies a lot of work and dialogue with relevant actors in the economy, but the government’s vision is clear. The system must be more fair, transparent and efficient to people from outside the EEA.”

During the past decade, Iceland’s population grew about 15%, adding an additional 56,440 people. Around 60% of the increase was due to immigration.


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This article has been fact-checked by Arctic Business Journal and Polar Research and Policy Initiative, with the support of the EMIF managed by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

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