Alþingi is the national parliament of Iceland. It is the oldest surviving parliament in the world, founded in 930 at Þingvellir approximately 45 kilometres from Reykjavík. In 1844 it was moved to Reykjavík and has been there since.
The Icelandic constitution clearly defines that Iceland is a parliamentary representative democratic republic. Althingi our parliament is the cornerstone of this democracy. Every fourth year, the electors choose, by secret ballot, 63 representatives to sit in parliament. There can however be elections other than every fourth year if a dissolution of parliament occurs calling for a general election.
The 63 members of parliament jointly hold legislative powers, and also fiscal powers, i.e. the power to make decisions on public spending and taxation.
It is important that the general populace to have access to information regarding decisions made in parliament, and how they are made, as the electorate and their representatives are responsible for the maintenance of rights and democracy in action. Decisions made in parliament have an impact upon the daily lives of all inhabitants of Iceland.
Ministries, headed by ruling coalition government ministers, are responsible for the implementation of the legislative power. Ministries are the highest level of administration and under the direction of the minister for each area of society and combined the ministries form the executive branch. The scope of work, names and even the existence of ministries may change according to the government’s policy.
Under each ministry are various government agencies which are both independent and semi-independent. These agencies are responsible for implementing policy, carrying out oversight, protecting and preserving citizens rights, and providing services in accordance with legislation.
There are no Icelandic military forces, and never have been, no army, navy or air force. In Iceland policing affairs are carried out by the Police, the Coast Guard, and the Customs.
The role of the police in Iceland is to protect and serve the public. Police in Iceland work to prevent violence and crime and investigate and solve cases of criminal offences. The public is obliged to obey instructions issued by the police. Failure to do so may result in a fine or imprisonment.
Police affairs in Iceland are the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and are administered by the Office of the National Commissioner of the Police (Embætti ríkislögreglustjóra) on behalf of the ministry. The organisation is divided into nine districts, the largest being the Reykjavik Metropolitan Police (Lögreglan á höfuðborgarsvæðinu) which is responsible for the Capital Region. Find the nearest district to you here.
Policemen in Iceland are not armed except with a small baton or nightstick. However, the Reykjavik police force do have a special squadron trained in the use of firearms and in operations against armed individuals or extreme situations where public safety could be in jeopardy.
In Iceland, the police enjoy a high level of trust from residents, and people may safely approach the police if they believe that they have been the victim of an offence or violence.
If you need assistance from the police, call 112 or utilize the chat box found on this website.
You can also report offences or contact the police through this website here.
Directorate of immigration
The Icelandic Directorate of Immigration is a government agency that operates under the Ministry of Justice. The primary task of the Directorate is issuing residence permits. The Directorate handles all applications for residence permits, whether those are permits in conjunction with a work permit, or e.g. family reunification, student permits, au pair permits, visas and requests for asylum. Other than this the Directorate is involved in many projects having to do with matters concerning foreigners and cooperates on many levels with other organizations.
Directorate of labour
The Directorate of Labour bears overall responsibility for public labour exchanges and handles day-to-day operations of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, the Maternity and Paternity Leave Fund, the Wage Guarantee Fund and many other projects connected with the labour market.
The Directorate attends to a range of responsibilities including the registration of job-seekers and the calculation and payment of unemployment benefit.
In addition to its headquarters in Reykjavík, the Directorate has eight regional offices around the country which give job-seekers and employers professional assistance with employment searches and staff engagements. To contact the Directorate of Labour click here.