Can I Live in Iceland and Work Remotely?

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A mountain in the Icelandic Highlands easily accessible for remote workers

Remote work for many of us used to be an alien concept. It was something that your super-intelligent software developer friend did that you didn’t really understand. It was something that your cousin did from Thailand for a big multinational corporation where he got paid in Euros and lived like a king. 

Remote work used to be this mythical thing that a handful of people had access to, but this has dramatically changed across the globe in the last year or so. 

The positives that have come out of the pandemic include us realising that, yes, there were indeed meetings that could have been emails. We also understand now that working from home or working remotely isn’t such a crazy concept. 

Work remotely from an apartment room in a city skyscraper

Most businesses across the world have now experienced remote work. We now understand that there are new possibilities for us as employees regarding where we actually perform our work activities.

Last summer, when the French borders were closed, a record number of local workers rented summer apartments in the south of the country. They couldn’t take international vacations. Instead, they chose to work remotely by the sea where the weather was warm, and an Aperol spritz was waiting for them on a terrace at the end of the day. 

An incredible sunset on Iceland's west coast

You might not be aware of it, but this kind of remote work can also extend to an international scene change. Like for instance, if you’ve always wanted to visit one of the most fascinating nations on the planet, Iceland.

Iceland is a favourite tourist destination for many, but it can also be a temporary home for you if you have the ability to work remotely and would enjoy up to 6 months living here. 

The government of Iceland has a special visa in place to address precisely this kind of stay. It’s called the Long-Term Visa for Remote Workers.

So what is this visa? How do you get it? Why should you choose to work remotely in Iceland? Read on to discover it all.

What is the Long-Term Visa for Remote Workers?

A blue American passport on a wooden bench

It’s a special visa that allows the holder to stay in Iceland for up to 180 days while working remotely. People who can receive a long-term visa for remote work are delivering their work to a company that operates outside of Iceland. 

Those who receive this special visa are not allowed to work for any Icelandic businesses during their stay.

How Do I Qualify for the Long-Term Visa?

A phone resting on some papers for a remote working setup

To qualify for the long-term visa, you must be from a country outside the EU/EEA/EFTA. Countries like the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Australia all fall into this category.

Your country of citizenship must also not require a visa for travel to Iceland. The directorate of immigration has a complete list of these countries.

You cannot have been issued a long-term visa in the last 12 months by the Icelandic government. The purpose of your stay must be to work remotely from Iceland. 

The directorate of immigration also states that you must not intend to remain living in Iceland after the long-term visa ends.

A selection of currencies notes

There is a financial disclosure you must submit. You have to show that your monthly income is the equivalent of ISK 1,000,000 or ISK 1,300,000 if you are also applying for a spouse or partner who will be living with you.

If you have read the above criteria and think that all of these points describe you perfectly, you can apply.

How To Apply For the Long-Term Visa

Vestrahorn mountain in Iceland under a blue sky available to remote workers

The first step is to pay the processing fee, which isn’t that expensive compared to the processing fees of other countries at around ISK 7000 (approximately USD 55 or 40 GBP).

You must pay this fee before submitting your application. Proof of payment must be submitted with your application, so make sure to get that information at the time.

Hvitserkur rock arch in North Iceland on an overcast day

Then you should begin the application process; you can do so by downloading and filling out the form provided by the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration. 

If you are applying for other people like a spouse or children, a form needs to be filled out for each of them.

Ensure you have all the supporting documentation required, and then the application must be submitted in paper form. This can either be done in person (there is a dropbox at the lobby of the directorate of immigration) or by mail.

Natural hot springs in Iceland available to explore by remote workers in Iceland

Once you have completed all this, if you have fulfilled all that is necessary, you will be notified by the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration of your success. 

You won’t receive your visa until you are in Iceland. Once you arrive, you will need to let the immigration department know by contacting them at utl@utl.is, and they will issue you with your visa.

If you are already in Iceland when your visa is approved, you will be permitted to work remotely in the country for 180 days, minus the number of days since you arrived.

What Are the Advantages of Working Remotely in Iceland?

Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik with the sun reflecting off of the glass windows

This honestly is a bit of a no-brainer. 

Can you imagine what it would be like to finish work at the end of the week, then go for a glacier hike on the weekend? 

The possibilities are literally endless. There’s always so much to see and do in Iceland that you will never run out of things to add to your bucket list. 

Iceland’s internet is currently the second-fastest in the world, so you can be sure that there will never be a problem checking in with your team via zoom. Sending and receiving large files is super easy. The internet is pretty consistent throughout most populated areas in the country. 

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in south Iceland during twilight

Even small country towns in Iceland have faster internet than a lot of other nations. This might explain why two-thirds of the Icelandic population have Netflix accounts.

The general attitude towards work in Iceland is a bit more relaxed. That’s not to say that Icelanders don’t work hard; on the contrary, they are known as incredibly hard-working people. Culturally, Icelanders value the importance of your non-work time being for you. 

If you decide to base yourself in the capital of Reykjavík, it’s very easy to get around without the need for a car. The city has a decent bus system, and once you’re in the downtown area, most things are within walking distance. 

An panoramic view of Reykjavik from Hallgrímskirkja church which remote working allows people to explore

Iceland is also an incredibly safe country to be for a foreigner. Most adults speak a decent level of English, so everyday things like shopping for groceries or ordering a meal in a restaurant have a minimal hassle regarding a language barrier.

Where Are the Best Places to Work Remotely From in Iceland?

Seljalandsfoss waterfall in South Iceland under a sunset

The answer to this question really depends on what you are hoping to get out of your time in the land of fire and ice when you’re not working. 

As I said before, the internet in Iceland is pretty reliable in most parts of the country, so you’re only really limited to places with a good connection – and that leaves a lot of options.

If you would like to be close to festivals, restaurants, nightlife and amenities like a mall and cinemas, Reykjavík might be the best spot for you to base yourself. 

An Orca swimming through the water in Iceland

If you have access to a car, you can also make plenty of trips from here. From Reykjavík, it’s only a 2-hour drive to Vík on the South Coast, a 5-hour drive to the capital of the North, Akureyri, and only a couple of hours to the entry to the Westfjords

Another option might be that you divide your time throughout your stay, spending a bit of time in each of the four corners of Iceland. You could click away at your keyboard throughout the week and take in all the sites on the weekend.

As long as you have an internet connection, the country is literally just waiting for you to discover it.

Why is Working Remotely Good For Your Mental Health?

Yellow balloons with smiley faces on them

We can all agree that maintaining good mental health is beneficial for both employees and employers. Good mental health is also cost-effective for everyone. The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2030, the annual cost of mental illness will surpass $6 trillion.

Working remotely instantly cuts down on a few things. Commuting time to and from work is almost non-existent. Businesses that allow their workers to operate from home have also reported significant reductions in sick days and increased productivity.

The ring road on Iceland's South Coast under a pink sky

The most significant mental health benefit to an employee who works remotely is the chance to create a fun and exciting work/life balance. 

Many of us work to earn money to enjoy experiences like travelling, absorbing another culture, or taking in an adventure. If you can work remotely, you could be making money while being in a place where you could experience all of those things in your own time. 

You no longer have to use your annual leave to be able to set off on your dream vacation to Iceland. If you’re already here, you can digest your adventure when you’re done working and on weekends. 

Why Should I Consider Remote Working in Iceland?

Seljalandsfoss waterfall in Iceland during summer

Iceland really is the perfect getaway destination. If you could choose to base yourself here for a more extended period, you would be sure to have an unforgettable time.

Iceland is ideally placed between the USA and mainland Europe making it pretty easy to get to from many places in the Northern Hemisphere. 

The quality of life in Iceland rates very high on the international stage, and the natural attractions available are second to none.

Imagine clocking off work on a Friday afternoon, and the second you close your laptop, you have an entire list of opportunities in your own figurative back yard. 

Geldingadalur volcano in Iceland's Reykjanes peninsula which remote workers can explore

You could spend the weekend visiting volcanoes. You could take a weekend trip to the South Coast and go glacier hiking. You could catch a quick flight to the North and take in the gentle giants of the sea with a whale watching tour. You could even start work a bit later and stay up late for a chance to see the northern lights.

The best reason to pick Iceland as a destination for remote work is that whatever you choose to do in your downtime, you will have a once in a lifetime experience not available anywhere else on Earth.

Conclusion

Icelandic Horse in the snow in amidst Iceland's rugged nature

The nature and scope of our geographical location are no longer controlled in the same way as it was before when it comes to our work. For many, as long as we have a connection to the web, we can do a lot of our day to day tasks from pretty much anywhere.

If you can choose to do your work wherever you want, the real question is, ‘Why would you choose to do it on your couch in your pyjamas?’

If you can do it, remotely working from Iceland could give you the chance to make one of the most naturally beautiful and culturally enriching countries on the planet into your office.

If you would like more information about the long-term visa or would love to know more about working in Iceland, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.

ABOUT SWAPP AGENCY

Swapp Agency is an innovative recruitment firm in Reykjavik that focuses on helping people find jobs and companies to fill their openings in Iceland.

Swapp offers a range of services to their clients in operational supports.

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