Effects of Policy Changes on Thai Migration to Iceland

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Abstract

In this study, I use ethnographic, survey and Icelandic government data to examine the nexus of recent migration policy changes in Iceland and the increased use of marriage as a migration strategy. In the early 1980s, Thai women began coming to Iceland to either marry Icelandic men or “try out” a potential relationship with an Icelander before marriage. During that time, Iceland approved work permits for foreigners regardless of country of origin, allowing many Thais to immigrate independent of marriage. By 2006, however, Iceland's membership in the European Economic Area was making it almost impossible for Thais and other non-European migrants to secure a work permit. There has been an increase in marriage-based migrations among non-European migrants to Iceland compared to all other types of legal migration since 2006. Iceland's policy changes may have stemmed the flow of non-European labourers, but may also have opened the door to increased fraudulent marriages and abuse of foreign women by Icelandic husbands. These policy changes have only occurred in the past 5–7 years, and it remains for future research to investigate adjustments made by both Icelanders and Thais in response to the newest laws.

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