Please note that this press release was modified 19 April 2023.

According to the 2021 census, the number of immigrants in Iceland was 52,541 or 14.6% of the total population. In the last census, taken on December 31, 2011, immigrants totaled 24,398 or 7.7% of the population. The number of immigrants has thus doubled since the 2011 census, while the overall increase in the population of Iceland was 13.8% in the period.

Today, Statistics Iceland publishes results on inhabitants’ background from the Icelandic census 1 January 2021. This is the second release in the thematic series of the census.

The main findings are:

  • The number of immigrants in Iceland was 52,541 on census day, 14.6% of the country's population.
  • Over a century ago, 710 persons were born abroad or 0.75% of the population.
  • The highest proportion of immigrants was in the Southwest region around 23% while the lowest was in the North West, 8% and North East regions, 8,4%.
  • Among Minor Statistical Output Areas, the highest proportions of immigrants were in Reykjanesbær and Breiðholt.
  • The highest proportion of immigrants in the total population was between the ages of 30 and 39 (29.3%).
  • Poles were the most populous immigrant group in Iceland (18,950).
  • The majority of immigrants from the Nordic countries and Asia had stayed in Iceland for more than a decade.

Immigrants are those who immigrated to the country, were born abroad and have parents and grandparents, all of whom were born abroad. The descendants of immigrants born in Iceland and those who have one foreign parent and immigrated to the country are included in the domestic population.

There are no data on immigrants in the oldest censuses but information on those born abroad is available in censuses dating back to 1855. However, these include largely children of Icelandic students born abroad. The same applies to newer censuses, although the percentage is lower. The proportion of people born abroad was very low in the older censuses. Just over a century ago, in 1920, a total of 710 persons were born abroad, or 0.75% of the population while a comparable proportion was 17.7% in 2021.

Proportion of immigrants no longer highest in the Westfjords
The 2011 census had the highest proportion of immigrants in the Westfjords (10.8%) and the second highest in the Southwest region (10.5%). In 2021 the highest proportion was in the Southwest region (23%) and the second highest in the Westfjords (16.9%). The number of immigrants increased in all regions of the country between censuses, mostly in the Southwest (182%), which also had the largest increase in the total population between censuses (29%). The lowest proportional increase of immigrants by region was in the Westfjords (59.2%), where the overall population increased by 1.7% between censuses.

Lowest proportion of immigrants in minor areas in Kópavogur and Garðabær
The proportion of immigrants was highest in Minor Statistical Output Areas belonging to Reykjanesbær (54% and 48.1%), and in an MSOA in Breidholt in Reykjavík (48.3%).

The lowest proportion of immigrants was within one minor area in Kópavogur (3.1%) and an area in Garðabær (3.7%). The proportion was also low within an area in Grafarvogur in Reykjavík (4.0%) as well as in a few areas in Akureyri.

Nine out of ten immigrants aged 18-66
Among the immigrant population, 90.2% were aged 18-66. In comparison, the proportion of this age group in the total population was 64.2%.

According to ten-year age groups, the highest proportion of immigrants in the total population was aged 30-39 years old or 29.3% (15,303 people). The highest proportion of immigrant descendants born in Iceland was in the category 0-9 years old or 8.9% (3,921 children). The proportion of immigrant descendants born in Iceland is negligible when it comes to the population over thirty years of age.

More than than a third of immigrants from Poland
The immigrants in the 2021 census were largely from Poland, a total of 18,950 people (36.1% of immigrants). In the 2011 census, there were 8,769 immigrants from Poland (35.9% of immigrants). Poles who had emigrated to Iceland had therefore increased by 116% between censuses but their proportion of the total number of immigrants was similar. The next largest increases were in the number of people from Lithuania, the Philippines and Romania. The highest proportional increase among immigrants was in the number of Romanians or 825%.

Immigrants from the Nordic countries and Asia had stayed the longest
Of the 1,260 immigrants who came from the other Nordic countries, 42.0% (529 people) had stayed in Iceland for more than a decade. The second highest proportion of immigrants who had lived in the country for more than 10 years were people born in Asia (41.3% of Asian immigrants).

Highest proportion of immigrants with Icelandic citizenship from Serbia and Viet Nam
Of the immigrants who had stayed in Iceland for seven years or more, the highest proportion of people with Icelandic citizenship were those born in Serbia (93%) of countries of birth with 200 or more immigrants. This was followed by immigrants from Viet Nam (87%) and the Philippines (82%). Of the immigrants from Poland who had stayed for seven years or more, 23% had Icelandic citizenship. It is possible to apply for Icelandic citizenship after having resided in Iceland for seven years.

Statistics from the census are being released in stages by theme on a monthly basis by mid-year 2023. The next release, on education, will be published in January.


Statistical Series – Population and housing census 1 January 2021 (published 14 November 2022)

Earlier releases from the 2021 census

Further Information

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