From Iceland — Reactions to Flaw in Immigration Law

Reactions to Flaw in Immigration Law

Published December 18, 2009

Yesterday, the Grapevine reported that a woman from Thailand was recently denied a permanent residence permit by the Directorate of Immigration on the grounds that she does not demonstrate an ability to support herself. The woman in question works full time at the state hospital’s laundry, on top of a part-time job elsewhere. Vísir spoke to a few persons related to the issue and got their impressions.
Gylfi Arnbjörnsson, the president of the Icelandic Confederation of Labor Unions, believes that this is a flaw in immigration law that puts stricter demands on foreigners than it does on Icelanders. He believes the office of immigration should calculate what the lowest possible living wage in Iceland is, after taxes, and make that the limit.
Vilhjálmur Birgisson, chairman of the Akranes Trade Union, found the news heartening that the Directorate of Immigration has more or less stated that it’s impossible to live off of the lowest wage in Iceland.
Guðrún Hlín Adolfsdóttir, an employee representative who has worked with numerous foreigners, said that she has offered help to immigrant staff with social matters, such as filing for rent assistance, but many immigrants are scared to file for the service, out of fear they will be considered too poor to live in Iceland.
By law, newcomers to Iceland from outside of Europe must work at a job that the Directorate of Immigrations deems pays enough to support them. During this time, they are issued temporary residence permits through their employers. After four years, they can apply for a permanent residence permit.
Katrín Theodórsdóttir, a lawyer for the woman who was denied the permanent residence permit, told Vísir that she finds the matter strange, and wonders what kind of message the Directorate of Immigration is sending to low income people.
“The message from the Directorate of Immigration seems to be that it’s not enough for a foreigner to work a full time job at a public institution in order to support yourself and a child,” adding that it seems many Icelanders are fully capable of being able to do exactly that.

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