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Foreign Nationals

Issues of immigration and foreign nationals in Iceland are primarily the responsibility of two ministries and a number of public agencies.

The Ministry of Justice handles tasks concerning applicants for international protection, border control, Schengen co-operation etc.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for immigration and refugees once they have been granted international protection in Iceland.

The principal objective of the Act on Foreign Nationals, No. 80/2016, is to ensure humanitarian and effective handling of matters concerning foreign nationals in Iceland by the authorities. The Act on Foreign Nationals clarifies the legal status and ensures legal certainty in dealing with foreign nationals arriving in or departing from Iceland, applying for a residence permit or residing in Iceland. Different rules apply to the arrival and stay of persons in Iceland depending upon the purpose of their stay and whether they come from an EEA state or other country. As a general rule, foreign nationals require a work and residence permit in order to work in Iceland.

The Directorate of Immigration is responsible for granting residence permits, visas and Icelandic citizenship and processing applications for international protection which are submitted to the Directorate or the police. Appeals based on the Act on Foreign Nationals shall be directed to the Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board. The Board's decisions are published.

The Immigrant Affairs Act, No. 116/2012, is aimed at promoting the active participation of all persons in society regardless of their nationality or origin. This objective is to be achieved in part by integrating the interests of immigrants into public policy formulation, administration and services, with broad-based co-operation and increased education and communication of information to the public on immigration matters.

The Minister responsible for immigration and refugees appoints a six-person Immigration Council to advise him/her professionally on drafting immigration policy and on encouraging co-ordination and consultation between ministries, local authorities and other areas of public administration, and undertake other tasks. The Minister presents a resolution to the Icelandic parliament Althingi proposing a four-year action programme for immigrants' issues, after having received the comments of other ministries, agencies, the Multicultural and Information Centre and the Immigration Council.

The Multicultural and Information Centre is a special agency operating under the Immigrant Affairs Act and working towards its objectives. The agency has the fundamental role of facilitating communications between individuals of different backgrounds, and to enhance the services provided to foreign citizens residing in Iceland and to those interested in moving to Iceland. The Multicultural Centre offers assistance and counsel through phone in Icelandic, English, Polish, Serbian/Croatian, Thai, Spanish, Lithuanian and Russian.

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