How much money is enough money to live in Iceland?

visasIcelanders, and people all over the world, have often asked whether those on low wages really earn enough to properly support themselves and their families. Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration has now unwittingly answered the question.

A Thai lady, Tipphawan Laopha, has had her application for an Icelandic residence permit turned down by the country’s Directorate of Immigration because she is not financially able to support herself. This comes despite the fact she is in full-time employment and has been since arriving in Iceland four years ago. Furthermore, she is employed in the public sector, in the laundry room at a public hospital.

Laopha came to Iceland to be reunited with her family and got a job at a hospital. She has worked there ever since, as well as other part time jobs, and has paid all due taxes, which are much higher on second jobs than on primary employment.

The Directorate of Immigration decision that the woman cannot support herself comes following the year-old decision to start assessing applicants’ income after taxes. The incomes of Icelandic citizens are, on the other hand, always assessed before tax for all government purposes.

This strange quirk effectively means that her wages would legally be considered sufficient for an Icelandic citizen to support themselves, but not for a foreigner.

Laopha has been working in Iceland on a work permit held by her employer; but after four years, non-EEA foreigners are entitled to apply for residency permits, which are issued to the individual and not to employers.

Lawyer Katrin Theodorsdottir, working on Laopha’s behalf, says the situation is bizarre and asks what message the Directorate of Immigration is sending out to all low-paid workers in Iceland.

“The message from the Directorate of Immigration is that it is simply not enough for a foreigner to work legally full-time in order to support themselves and their children,” the lawyer told Visir.is.

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