From Iceland — Now What?

Now What?

Published November 9, 2016

Now What?
Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

The world woke up this morning to the news that Donald J. Trump is the new President of the United States, that both houses of Congress are now Republican majorities, and that the vacant seat on the Supreme Court will be filled by a person nominated by Trump and approved by the Republican-majority Senate. It is pretty much a perfect shitstorm of bigotry, misogyny and authoritarianism and, if you’re an American who’s less than happy with this result, you might be tempted to move away from the country, or renounce your citizenship if you’re already overseas. If that describes you, and Iceland is your target home, there’s some things you should consider.


Immigrating to Iceland is not very cut and dry. Our immigration laws have a three tier system that divides “regular” immigrants into three categories: Scandinavians, Europeans, and everyone else. As an American, you are in the Everyone Else bin. This means you can’t just fly on over here and look for a job and a place to live: you need to have a job and a registered address waiting for you before you arrive. To do this, naturally, you need contacts in Iceland. By law, an Icelandic employer can’t hire you unless they can prove they could find no local to do the job you’re looking for. Fortunately, the tourism industry is booming, and there are more job openings than there are Icelanders willing to do these jobs, so that’s one possible way in.

I do not recommend trying to move here by applying for asylum. Whatever your arguments may be for why an American could contend they are fleeing persecution in their home country, Iceland is not a country that errs on the side of caution when it comes to asylum seekers. Your application will be rejected, and you will be deported.

Renouncing your citizenship:

This one is tricky. If you live abroad and want to renounce your US citizenship over these elections, there is a process for doing so, but it comes with a lot of snags. The first one is the price: $2,350, to be exact. This is prohibitively expensive for a great many Americans living abroad. The second one is, unless you have another nationality, renouncing your citizenship will render you stateless, leaving you vulnerable to being treated the exact same way other stateless people are treated. Even if you do have another nationality, it might end up making little practical difference to you to renounce your US citizenship unless military conscription is re-instated, and you could achieve the same effect by simply never returning to the US. If that’s not an option for you, or if you have no other nationality, renouncing your citizenship could cause more problems than it solves.

Stay/go home and fight:

This is an argument you will hear a lot from your non-American friends: you will be more helpful to turning America around if you organise and fight in your home country. There is a lot to this argument. If you’re an ally of people of colour, of Muslims, of the queer community, and of marginalised people in general, then you should have in mind that these folks are going to need allies more than ever now. You would do well to take this time to organise your communities, your workplaces and your schools, and to take part in collective, direct action.

However, for many Americans abroad, moving back home is not going to be an option. You might have already started a family overseas, or be otherwise fully invested in your new home. This doesn’t mean you can’t be an ally for the people in America who will be facing persecution in Trump’s America; there is still plenty you can do, whether in the forms of financial assistance, distribution of information, or other forms of support. And this brings us to the final point.

Fight fascism in your own backyard:

Say you’re an American who’s essentially stuck overseas. You’re doing what you can to support allies back home, but what about what’s happening where you are? Are there forces of xenophobia, intolerance and bigotry who are in power or on their way there? Chances are, there are – the far right is on the rise across vast swaths of the earth. If you oppose Trump for everything that he stands for, it would be politically and morally consistent for you to fight local politicians who share his ideology.

We would make a huge mistake to think that Trump is a purely American phenomenon, and that his brand of hatred is something unique to the United States. You can and should fight his ideas, wherever they appear, and that’s something you can do in your adopted home. You might not have been able to stop Trump, but you can sure as hell stop his ideas from gaining ground where you live. Whether for patriotic motivations of demonstrating that Americans are really a freedom-loving people, or just because it’s the right thing to do, fighting fascism at home -wherever that home may be – is your duty.

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