Directorate of Immigration Broke the Law by Withholding Citizenship Applications Skip to content
parliament Alþingi
Photo: Golli. The opening of Iceland’s Parliament in 2017.

Directorate of Immigration Broke the Law by Withholding Citizenship Applications

Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL) broke the law when it failed to hand over citizenship applications to Iceland’s Parliament last month, according to a legal opinion received by the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee, RÚV reports. MPs criticised the Minister of Justice for his handling of the issue in Alþingi yesterday. One MP urged the Speaker of Parliament to follow up on the issue and ensure the documents were delivered to Alþingi by the end of the week.

Along with the standard process of applying for citizenship through the Directorate of Immigration, Icelandic law permits Alþingi to grant citizenship by decree, which it normally does twice a year. Unlike the standard process, the Alþingi route is open to applicants who do not meet the conditions for the granting of Icelandic citizenship. Applicants who take this route must submit detailed arguments as to why Alþingi should grant them an exemption from these requirements.

Last December, Parliament could not process the applications submitted, as it never received the necessary application data from ÚTL. Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson, who oversees ÚTL, defended the decision, stating that those who apply for citizenship via Alþingi should not get to “jump the line” ahead of others.

MP Helga Vala Helgadóttir of the Social-Democratic Alliance stated that she was pleased that Alþingi’s legal office had taken a clear stance on Alþingi’s side in the issue. She added that this stance raised the question of how the Speaker of Alþingi would follow up on the matter, and asked whether the Parliament would receive the necessary documents before the end of the week.

Helga Vala stated that she had heard ÚTL had rejected one of the applications in the group as the applicant had reached the age of 18 in the period of nearly one year that had passed since the application was submitted, without a ruling from ÚTL. As a result, the basis of the application was no longer valid in the case.

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