There have been several different migratory movements of Poles to Iceland. The earliest on record occurred at the turn of the 19th century after Poland lost its statehood. However, for much of the Cold War period most of the Polish population was restricted in their ability to travel outside of communist Poland at all.
More recently in 2004, an influx occurred after Poland joined the European Union, thereby easing restrictions on Polish citizens' eligibility to work in other European Economic Area states. As of 1 January 2017, there were 13,795 Polish people living in Iceland. Although small compared to the size of migrant groups in other countries, that makes them the biggest minority ethnic group in Iceland. As of 2010, they represented 37% of migrants in Iceland. In 2006, Iceland's construction industry boomed and Polish workers were increasingly hired to fulfill work demands. Within a year, the number of Polish migrants in the country increased by 81%. Poland also joined Iceland in the Schengen Zone in 2007. As a consequence of these changes, Poles do not need work or resident permits to live and work in Iceland. The global financial crisis of 2008 incited further immigration to Iceland.
The demographic is largely endogamous and insular. Poles in Iceland typically speak Polish, watch Polish television, continue to practice Catholicism and have opened Polish restaurants. A study conducted in 2012 suggested that most Poles in the country used the English language more often than Icelandic in their daily lives, found English more useful and often learned it before learning Icelandic. While some commentary has found that, despite their difficulty assimilating, Poles have not often been met with much xenophobia in Iceland, academic research has found that Eastern European migrants in Iceland do experience significant racism and xenophobia.