The process of moving to Iceland is remarkably straightforward. You know what you need to get a permit because the Icelandic immigration directorate, Útlendingastofnun, has created checklists for all kinds of contingencies. You’re an EU citizen? There’s a checklist for that. US citizen? Got you covered. Student? Worker? Spouse? Child? Athlete? Au pair? Refugee?
The first alien visitors to Earth will probably have a checklist, too.
Arranging travel is easy: if you’re going to Iceland you’re almost certainly going to fly to Keflavik International Airport, probably via Icelandair. After all …
Once I decided to go, the pieces all fell into place so smoothly that when I finally hit a roadblock it was something of a shock. The fact that it was the part I least expected would be a problem made it more so.
Útlendingastofnun requires Americans to provide an FBI background check showing they don’t have a criminal record. My time in the courtroom has all been as a lawyer or a judge, and I expected my papers would come through very quickly. As soon as I got my admission letter from Reykjavik University, I went to the Las Vegas Metro police station near where I work to get fingerprinted, and I sent my record request directly to the FBI. Then I waited.
By mid-March, I was nervous. I’m bringing my cat and he has to go into quarantine. The quarantine station only accepts new arrivals three days per month, and the summer schedule meant getting to Iceland four weeks before the start of classes. You’re not allowed to visit as a tourist while your student permit is pending, so I had to get the FBI check done first … and get it certified by the US State Department, and send it to Iceland, and have it processed by Útlendingastofnun. All those things take time, all of it out of my control. I hate that.
In late March I went to the FBI website to find out what I could about the delay. Sure enough, there was a banner announcing
On September 7, 2014, CJIS installed a new IT system. As a result of this installation, we are experiencing delays in processing. Please be assured that each issue is being identified and resolved as quickly as possible, but at this time anticipated processing time for an Identity History Summary is approximately 12-14 weeks. Allow additional time for mail delivery.
Well, then. Based on the date I submitted my request, my FBI clearance should be done in mid-May … maybe, assuming I filled out the form correctly. Add a couple of weeks for certification, a week or so for paperwork to get to Iceland, a month for Útlendingastofnun to review my application … and oh look, there goes my flight and I’m still waiting.
Okay, time for plan B.
There are about a dozen private businesses called “channelers” approved by the FBI to process your background request — for a fee. The FBI signs off on their work just as if it was done by the FBI. I picked a channeler called Telos ID that promised a report in days rather than weeks. The $50 USD charge seemed reasonable, if they could make good on their promise.
They did. I got new fingerprint cards made, prepared a new application, and paid Telos ID for my report on March 21. The FBI issued my report in three days. I paid a little extra for FedEx shipping and had the report by the end of the week. After that, I sent the report to the State Department, then sent the entire package to Útlendingastofnun, and then —
I got my residence permit in mid-May. The day after that, I got an FBI report from my original request. It looked exactly the same as the one I got from the channeler. The difference was it took 99 days to get it, and the one from the channeler took just 6.
If you’re moving from the US to Iceland, beware the background check. If you’re running out of time, a channeler can work miracles.
Images by: 20th Century Fox Films (Alan Rickman, Die Hard, 1988); Útlendingastofnun; Karen Pease. Thanks to my friend and colleague Walt Cannon for suggesting this post.