Iceland-Born Man Denied Icelandic Citizenship Skip to content

Iceland-Born Man Denied Icelandic Citizenship

Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration has rejected an application for citizenship for Eggert Einer Nielson and his family, despite Eggert having been born in Reykjavík in 1957 to an Icelandic mother and a Danish father, Vísir reports. Eggert lived in Iceland until he was seven years old, when he moved to the US. He then spent summers in the country throughout his childhood and has lived in the West Fjords since 2010.

“This is a failure,” he said. “My mother’s Icelandic. My grandmother, too—I visited her every year for 28 years in a row when I was younger. I’ve long since had roots here.”

As explained in an interview with RÚV, when Eggert was born, Icelandic law only permitted children to be given citizenship based on their paternity. Therefore, Eggert was deemed to be a Danish citizen, and later received American citizenship when he moved to the US. He applied for Icelandic citizenship last year, on the grounds that Icelandic mothers didn’t receive the right to give their own children citizenship until 1982.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “The reason I got [for the rejection of my citizenship application] was that I was born before 1960, but women didn’t get [citizenship] rights for their children until after 1960.”

Eggert and his family—wife Michelle Lyn Nielson and children Eggert Thomas Nielson and Briana Lyn Russell—decided to move to Iceland in 2010, living first in the village of Súðavík and then in Ísafjörður. They’ve forged strong bonds in the West Fjords community. Eight years ago, for instance, Eggert launched the annual International Blueberry Festival, an event that brings people together to pick berries, hold baking competitions, and listen to local music. The family also works in the community, with Michelle working as a guide and son Eggert working as a cook at the hospital in Ísafjörður.

Eggert is a music teacher: “I teach here in Súðavík and hired a lawyer to assist me…I have to submit paperwork for a residence permit to the Directorate of Immigration in June every year.” The fact that Eggert doesn’t have his teaching schedule until the fall has caused problems with his reapplication every year. “It’s like they aren’t listening to my situation. I can’t provide this information in July—I don’t get it until September.”

He believes that because of the complications with his work schedule, the Directorate of Immigration put him in the system as residing in the United States. He only found out about this in November, however, after spending five days in the hospital. “When I was discharged, I received a bill for ISK 340,000 [$3,366] and they said that I wasn’t registered here in the country. I work at the school and am still paying taxes,” he said. “I didn’t pay the bill because it’s absurd.”

Eggert has put his house in Ísafjörður up for sale and will have to leave the country if he isn’t able to successfully appeal the Directorate of Immigration’s decision. “If I’m not welcome here, then I’ll have to go back to the United States.”

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