It came with the mail last Tuesday, in a plain white A4 envelope that looked like it contained yet another annual pay slip for the upcoming tax season.
The cover letter inside, dated 26 February, was just one sentence in Icelandic: “It is hereby announced, in accordance with Paragraph 1, Article 7 of Law 100 (1952) and with Article 5 of Law 81 (2007), that you have been granted Icelandic citizenship.”
The enclosed certificate repeated this proclamation and was personalized with my name and kennitala (ID number). The certificate was signed by Björn Bjarnason, Minister of Justice, and Fanney Óskarsdóttir, Lawyer.
So that’s it. I’m an Icelander.
To an outside observer, I don’t look any different with my new nationality. I own more fleece tops than high heels and still wear my sky blue ski jacket on the way to dinner parties. I rarely use the subjunctive case and I almost always decline the word “cow” incorrectly. And if Iceland and Canada ever compete in sporting events, I admit that I still cheer for the Cancuks. I only applied for citizenship last August for pragmatic reasons and because I wanted to strengthen my ties to the country I have moved to for the long-term.
Despite my primarily bureaucratic motivations for getting citizenship—eligibility to vote, easier to travel to and from the country—I’m pretty tickled. That formally worded announcement of my success stirred something in me, some feeling of acceptance by my adopted home, that I hadn’t expected by just filling in a few forms and paying an ISK 10,000 (USD 146, EUR 95) administration fee.
Not that I was required to jump through many hoops to become an Íslendingur. I did not need to take any tests about fishing limits or lines from the Sagas. I swore no oath to the Icelandic state or its representatives. I only needed copies of my identity documents, proof that I live in Iceland and hadn’t been supported by the social welfare system for the past three years, and proof that I know some Icelandic. Finally, I was required to supply statements from two Icelandic citizens (any two not related to me would do). The statements were meant to describe, among other things, “what job the applicant holds and how he is coping in the job and Icelandic society in general and how his knowledge of Icelandic is.” One wonders if it is possible to fail the application based on a poor statement.
In the old days I would have had to change my first name, perhaps to Elísa or Elísabet or something that fits the Icelandic Naming Committee’s rules. Or I could have chosen to become someone completely different, say Svanfrídur Reid or Halldís Reid. But those rules are no more.
Now I still get to be me: lots of fleece, limited vocabulary – and a brand new bright blue passport.
ER – [email protected]