Icelandic nationality law


Icelandic nationality law
Coat of arms of Iceland.svg

Icelandic nationality law is based upon the principles of Jus sanguinis. In other words, descent from an Icelandic parent is the primary method of acquiring Icelandic citizenship. Birth in Iceland to foreign parents does not in itself confer Icelandic citizenship.

Icelandic law changed on 1 July 2003 to remove restrictions on dual citizenship. Former Icelandic citizens who lost Icelandic citizenship before this date had until 1 July 2007 to reclaim Icelandic citizenship.

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Birth in Iceland

In general, birth in Iceland does not confer Icelandic citizenship.

Descent from an Icelandic parent

A person acquires Icelandic citizenship at birth if:

  • the mother is an Icelandic citizen; or
  • the father is an Icelandic citizen and married to the mother (except in cases where the couple were separated at the time the child was conceived).

Children born of a non-Icelandic mother and an unmarried Icelandic father may acquire Icelandic citizenship:

  • if the child is born in Iceland and the father is deemed the "father" for the purposes of the (Icelandic) Children Act.
  • if the child is born outside Iceland and an application for citizenship is made before it turns 18

Prior to 1 July 1982, acquisition of Icelandic citizenship from an Icelandic mother was restricted. Those born to an Icelandic mother and a foreign father between 1 July 1964 and 30 June 1982 may be permitted to apply for Icelandic citizenship by declaration.

Naturalisation as an Icelandic citizen

A person may be naturalised as an Icelandic citizen after seven years' residence in Iceland. There are various concessions to the residence requirement:

  • a reduction to four years for a citizen of another Nordic Council country
  • where a person is married to (or in a recognised union with) an Icelandic citizen, the residence requirement is reduced to three years. The Icelandic spouse must have held citizenship for five years, and the marriage must have subsisted for four years.
  • persons in a recognised cohabitation with an Icelandic citizen, the residence period is five years, subject to the same criteria as for spouses
  • a reduction to two years for the child of an Icelandic citizen, provided the parent has held Icelandic citizenship for five years
  • one year's residence is required for former Icelandic citizens
  • the residence requirement for recognised refugees is 5 years
  • a person born in Iceland and not holding any other citizenship may be granted citizenship after three years' residence.

Applicants are expected to be of good character and capable of supporting themselves in Iceland.

Since 1 July 2003, applicants are not expected to renounce any foreign citizenship they may hold.

Declaration of Icelandic citizenship

In some circumstances, persons are able to become Icelandic citizens by declaration. This is a simpler process than naturalisation:

  • a person resident in Iceland since age 11 (age 13 if stateless) who is aged between 18 and 20
  • a former Icelandic citizen who acquired Icelandic citizenship at birth and who was resident in Iceland until age 18, upon 2 years residence in Iceland
  • a citizen of a Nordic Council state (other than by naturalisation) who has been resident in Iceland for 7 years
  • a former Icelandic citizen who has since loss of Icelandic citizenship, been a citizen of another Nordic Council state. The applicant must be resident in Iceland.

Persons not eligible for Icelandic citizenship by declaration may still be eligible for naturalisation.

Icelandic citizenship by adoption

A person adopted by Icelandic citizens normally acquires Icelandic citizenship on that basis, if aged under 12. Where the adoption takes place outside Iceland, an application for citizenship is required.

Icelandic citizenship by law

Each year a number of people petition Alþingi to acquire Icelandic citizenship by law. This is usually done if a person doesn't qualify for acquiring citizenship in any other way. One notable example of this process was the controversial chess champion Bobby Fischer.

Loss of Icelandic citizenship

Icelandic citizenship used to be able to be lost by acquisition of another citizenship and it can in some circumstances be lost as a result of residence outside Iceland:

Acquisition of another citizenship

An Icelandic citizen who naturalised in another country before 1 July 2003 in general lost Icelandic citizenship automatically. The facility to resume citizenship by declaration was available until 1 July 2007.

Residence overseas

An Icelandic citizen born outside Iceland is liable to lose Icelandic citizenship upon turning age 22 unless:

  • he or she has taken up residence in Iceland before that time; or
  • an application is made to retain Icelandic citizenship (renunciation of foreign citizenship is not required).

An Icelandic citizen who holds no other nationality cannot lose Icelandic citizenship on this basis.

Dual citizenship

With effect from 1 July 2003 there are no restrictions on Icelandic citizens holding dual citizenship. Prior to that date, dual citizenship was only permitted in limited circumstances (such as where another citizenship was acquired alongside Icelandic citizenship at birth).

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