Published April 2, 2015
An American citizen who divorced her Icelandic ex-husband now faces deportation for “not having enough ties to the country”. “My life is here, and there is nothing for me in the US,” she told us.
In September 2011, American citizen Amanda Wood married an Icelandic man in Iceland. However, he did not register her as his spouse in Iceland, and the couple moved to Norway in December 2011. Shortly thereafter, he began to abuse her.
“He started abusing me not long after we were married, and by that time, the friends that I had had in the US no longer communicated with me,” Amanda told the Grapevine. “They had become his friends and my family had also turned against me because of him. While we lived in Norway, I tried to register there but every time I needed paperwork from his employer to verify address, income, etc. he would start with destroying the papers.”
Having nowhere to turn in Norway, she moved with him to Iceland in October 2012, staying first with his family. When he went back to Norway for a job in February 2013, she moved out and stayed with friends. Upon his return in April 2013, the abuse started again. She would file for divorce two months later.
Amanda went first to the Women’s Shelter. They told her that while she was welcome to stay, there was little they could do to help her, as she had no official registration number (kennitala). They recommended instead that she go back to him, and document the abuse she would endure in order to build a case against him.
Police proved to be especially unhelpful in this case. Despite pressing charges, no restraining order was issued against her abuser. When he attempted to leave the country, police temporarily blocked him from leaving. However, despite giving a 3-hour interview on the abuse she had endured at his hands, police ultimately allowed him to leave Iceland. He currently resides in the UK.
Turning to the Directorate of Immigration for help, she discovered that he was registered as a resident of Norway, not Iceland, and had in fact not been registered as an Icelandic resident for 7 years. As such, this left her vulnerable to deportation, even if the grounds for divorcing him were domestic abuse: if an Icelandic citizen is not registered in Iceland, then his/her spouse cannot legally register, either, and has none of the rights afforded to Icelandic residents.
The Directorate encouraged Amanda to file for a work permit, told she would be filing for an exception to the law that normally requires non-Schengen residents to not be in Iceland when applying for a work permit. She submitted all required paperwork, with the help of a prospective employer. It was not until a year later, in February 2014, that was told her request had been denied, as she “lacked significant ties to Iceland”, and that she had 30 days to leave the country. An appeal was made, and nearly another year passed before she was told that the appeal was denied. Grapevine has a copy of this ruling, confirming the denial of appeal.
Amanda is currently still living in Iceland, in a new relationship and within a new circles of friends.
“The government has made me feel as though this is all my fault,” she told the Grapevine. “I understand that the easiest thing for me to do would be to return to the US and file to stay here. This is not an option for me though, as upon returning to the US I will, literally, be homeless. My friends and everyone who has been supportive to me through this whole case are in Iceland. My life is here. There is nothing for me in the US. I just want to work, pay my taxes, and live in Iceland. I’m not hurting anyone by being here.”