Big Changes To The Law On Foreigners In Store

29.6.2012
Words by Paul Fontaine
The Ministry of the Interior will be making sweeping changes to the law on foreigners, pertaining to both immigrants and refugees alike.

Halla Gunnarsdóttir, the chairperson of the committee which put together the bill and the assistant to Minister of the Interior Ögmundur Jónasson, announced the bill formally yesterday, the ministry reports. It is expected to be submitted to parliament this fall.

Some of the proposed changes to the law focused on practical matters. For example, if the bill should pass, a single law on foreigners will be under the administration of the Ministry of the Interior. As it is now, work permits are administered by the Ministry of Welfare, while the Ministry of the Interior takes care of residence permits.

However, other changes make advances that could come as a relief to many foreigners in Iceland. Those who receive residence permits, for example, will receive a work permit automatically. Top priority will also be given to allowing foreigners in Iceland to bring their families to live with them.

Greater changes have also been proposed with regard to asylum seekers. Should the bill pass, coming to Iceland with falsified papers will no longer be a criminally punishable offence. The first interview for seeking asylum will be conducted at the Directorate of Immigration; not at the police station, as is the case now. Also, refugees will be allowed to decide where in Iceland they will live, without it affecting what level of service they receive. The bill proposes furthermore that child refugees be given special treatment.

The committee report in its entirety can be read here (.pdf file).

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