Right to interpretation

  • As an immigrant you may need the assistance of  interpreters.​
  • Immigrants have a right to get an interpreter for health care, when dealing with the police and in court.​
  • The institution in question should pay for the interpreter. ​
  • You need to ask for an interpreter yourself with notice. Don’t be afraid to say you need the service. It’s your right. ​
  • Interpreters might be needed on other occasions as well, e.g. when dealing with things related to  schools and various service centers. ​

Under legislation on patient rights, patients who do not speak Icelandic are entitled to interpretation of information on their state of health, planned treatments and other possible remedies. If you need an interpreter, you should indicate this when you make an appointment with a doctor at a health clinic or hospital. The clinic or hospital in question will decide whether or not it will pay for the interpreter’s services.


Those who do not speak Icelandic or who have not achieved fluency in the language are entitled, according to law, to free interpretation in court cases.


In many cases, an interpreter is hired to interpret communications with municipal social services, trade unions, the police and in companies.


The assistance of interpreters is often obtained in nursery schools and primary schools, e.g. for parent interviews. The institution in question is generally responsible for booking an interpreter and paying for the service. The same applies when social services require the interpretation of communications.


Interpreters are not always free of charge for the individual, and it is therefore a good idea to check the policy of each institution or company as regards payment for interpretation. When requesting the services of an interpreter, the language of the person in question must be stated, as it is not always sufficient to indicate the country of origin.


Individuals are entitled to refuse the services of an interpreter.


Interpreters are bound to confidentiality in their work.


People living in unmarried cohabitation have no maintenance obligations towards each other and are not each other’s legal heirs. The cohabitation can be registered at Þjóðskrá, the national register.


Whether cohabitation is registered or not may affect the rights of the people concerned. When cohabitation is registered, the parties in many ways acquire a clearer status before the law than those whose cohabitation is not registered. They do not, however, enjoy the same rights as married couples.


The social rights of cohabiting partners are often dependent on whether or not they have children, how long they have been cohabiting and whether or not their cohabitation is registered in the national register.


Either spouse can obtain a divorce, whether or not the other spouse agrees to a divorce. The first step is usually to authorise a legal separation, followed by a divorce after one year. A divorce may, however, be authorised after six months if both spouses agree on applying for a divorce at that point.


If a spouse is found to have committed adultery or has been physically or sexually violent towards their spouse or their children living at home, an immediate divorce may be requested.


Information on custody, legal aid visitation rights can be found in the brochure Your rights – Important information for foreign women in Iceland

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