Specialist ín Iceland

The Perks of Being a Foreign Specialist in Iceland

Many of us have spent years ‘getting good’ at our careers. We studied, we got internships, we worked our way up, we learned more. Perhaps we even started all over again and completely changed sectors. Once you have finally reached that point where you know what you’re doing and how well you compare against your contemporaries, it’s safe to say you have got a certain level of expertise. Most people who reach this level might just be comfortable where they are, satisfied with their job security and the perks that come along with it. However, did you know that you could use this level of expertise to venture further and maybe even spend some time thriving as a specialist in Iceland?

There’s a whole list of perks when you’re a foreign specialist in Iceland, so read on to find out all about them.

What is a Foreign Specialist?

A finger pointing up against a yellow painted background

A foreign specialist has a certain level of expertise in a specific industry or field and might be able to provide this expertise to another country. 

Due to the small population of Iceland, there are quite a few areas within the Icelandic economy that are in need of specialists. While there are efforts to train more Icelanders in these specialities, it makes sense to also encourage specialists to bring their skillsets to Iceland’s shores. 

To put it in simple terms, a foreign specialist knows how to do something to a level that very few people in Iceland can match; or has more experience in something than an Icelander. 

Who Is Considered a Foreign Specialist in Iceland?

A pair of glasses resting on a notebook

To be considered a Foreign Specialist in Iceland, a person needs to have an expert level of knowledge in something essential to a specific business or enterprise. They need to be able to demonstrate this expert knowledge by having a university-level education, artistic, industrial or technical training that is recognised in Iceland.

For example, imagine an Icelandic company was going to commence a large-scale project, building under-sea tunnels to connect many of the fjords around the island. 

A project on this scale might need engineers with a particular level of expertise. Even though there are engineers in Iceland, there might not be many who possess the knowledge and skill required to complete the project on time.

If you, as a foreigner, happen to be precisely the kind of engineer they need, you are considered a foreign specialist in Iceland.

Many people typically think of doctors, engineers, academics and scientists when talking about foreign specialists, but there is no limit to which sector it applies to. If there is a need for someone with your skills, and that person cannot be found in Iceland, you’re a foreign specialist.

What Are the Benefits For Foreign Specialists in Iceland?

A foreign specialist in Iceland in a suit on the phone by an office window

What’s in it for you? This is ultimately one of the most important questions to ask yourself if you consider uprooting your life for a job in another country. If you happen to be an expert at something, chances are you already have job opportunities in your home country.

Obviously, there needs to be a good reason to leave your home behind for a time and go work in another country. 

It can be as simple as just wanting a scene change. Perhaps you are seeking better opportunities or even the ability to earn more money than you would in your home country.

There are several benefits to taking on a position as a foreign specialist in Iceland. Many of them are listed below.

Foreign Specialist Income Tax Discount 

A tax discount symbolised with a retail shop sale item offer

I don’t think there’s a person on the planet who doesn’t think the words’ Income Tax Discount’ sound like sweet music to the ears. 

As an incentive for foreign specialists who move to Iceland, they can apply for a 25% tax discount. If successful, this will mean that only 75% of your income will be taxed for the first three years of your tenure in Iceland. 

Senior Job Opportunities

A lady in a black dress holding a cup which says like a boss

Lots of people considering coming to Iceland might opt for a job swap. Coming to Iceland as a foreign specialist though, can allow you to attain a more senior position within a company than if you were to stay in your country of origin. 

The fact that you are a sought after expert literally means less competition for positions you are suited for. 

You could quite easily come to Iceland, and after a short time, progress to a position that it would take a decade to land in a country like the United Kingdom or the United States of America.

Less Business Competition 

A series of men running a race in the olympics

Although Iceland is famous for boasting the most things per capita (most gyms, happiest people, most Nobel Prize Winners), the Icelandic market is generally less saturated than many other markets in the world. 

Iceland is a place where if you have an idea or a skillset, you can actually watch it thrive without being crushed by competition in its infancy. This also means that there are fewer companies competing for business resources against each other. 

You can witness projects taking off at a speed you never imagined because it’s much easier to connect with business partners or find the proper connections at the right time.

Iceland’s Growing Gig Economy

Specialist Iceland

Iceland is currently experiencing a growth spurt in its gig economy. In this free market system, freelance workers are hired for short term contracts. 

If you come to Iceland as a foreign specialist, this means that within your industry, you could make great use of a system like this to get some tremendous short-term wins without having to hire full-time employees. 

This can also mean that it’s entirely possible for you to take on a few side projects, which will completely level up your earning potential. Word travels fast around an island, and if you’re good at what you do, you can be in high demand very quickly.

Remote Working

two dogs on a screen looking in opposing directions

In the past year, we learned that the traditional work structure of being in an office for 8 plus hours a day doesn’t have to be followed to get the most out of ourselves, our businesses, and our employees. 

Remote workers now make up a larger portion of the economy than ever before. The ability to work remotely is becoming an option within many companies. This means that if you come to Iceland as a foreign specialist, it’s entirely possible that you could return home occasionally and continue working.

This can also mean that as a business professional, you can outsource parts of a project or business entirely to be more cost-effective.

Iceland also has an exceptional internet network, so the ability to do some domestic travelling and stay connected with the office is an absolute possibility.

Geographic Location 

Specialist Iceland

Iceland is uniquely placed between mainland Europe, the United Kingdom and North America. It’s a popular stopover destination for many business travellers between continents, and it’s easy to see why.

Reykjavík International Airport is just 3 hours from Charles de Gaul in Paris and Heathrow in London. It’s just over 5 hours to JFK in New York and just 8 hours to Vancouver in Canada. 

Iceland is a great place to base yourself for international business; if you have to travel for work, you will also understand that the ‘door to door’ element can be the most exhausting and time-consuming part. 

The security and customs screening in Iceland’s airport is incredibly fast due to the smaller population and effective processes. So when you touchdown, you’ll be unwinding in front of Netflix in no time at all.

Iceland’s Incredible Nature

Seljalandsfoss waterfall on the south coast of Iceland

This is a no-brainer. If you had the choice between working in a crowded city, surrounded by noise and smog, or working in one of the most intrinsically beautiful locations on the planet, which one would you pick?

Even spending some time working in Iceland on a project or short-term contract will provide you with enough opportunities to soak up the incredible nature to last a lifetime. 

Volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers, ice caves, lava fields, the Northern Lights; all of this is just waiting to be discovered in Iceland. Another incredible benefit of working in Iceland as a foreign specialist is the Icelandic work week. The typical work week in Iceland is currently 37.5 hours

The Icelandic attitude is typically geared towards trying to have a decent work/life balance. Typically, weekends and evenings are your time and shouldn’t be taken up by work. 

Moving to Iceland as a foreign specialist might not just be great for your bank account, memories, and life experience; it could also positively affect your quality of life.

How Do I Apply For the Foreign Specialist Income Tax Discount?

A phone on top of a pile of work for a remote worker

To apply for the foreign specialist income tax discount, you will need to gather all the necessary information and evidence to be submitted. 

This will include things like evidence of your expertise, a contract with a business or enterprise in Iceland and proof of residency. The complete list of requirements can be found here.

You need to submit your application no later than three months after your contract has begun in Iceland. A committee will then look over the information and make a decision based on your evidence.

How Can I move to Iceland as a Foreign Specialist?

Specialist Iceland

The simplest and easiest way to do this is to utilise the services of a company like ours. We know how the process works, can connect you with employers and assess everything you will need to enter the Icelandic job market as a foreign specialist. 

The main benefit of using a company like the Swapp Agency is that it takes a lot of the hassle and confusion out of the process to make it more seamless and worry-free. 

The steps you should follow to move to Iceland as a foreign specialist are listed below.

Find a Job

A magnifying glass on a laptop keyboard to symbolise looking for a job

This is the most essential item to the list to kick things off. If you have a job lined up, the entire process can begin. There are many different ways to look for work in Iceland, but it is helpful to have a point of contact within the country who can actively seek out businesses or industries that are in need of your particular expertise. 

Apply for a Work Visa

two passports and visas for foreign specialists entering Iceland

It is essential to do this as soon as possible. The process can take some time, and it is worth making sure you have all the necessary paperwork ready to go. Depending on where you come from, there may also be specific rules or recent changes, like for instance if you are planning on moving to Iceland from the UK.

You can find more information on how to apply for a work visa here

Move to Iceland

Specialist Iceland

This might seem like an obvious step that didn’t need to be added to the list, but there are some elements to it you might not have thought of. 

Things like making sure you can still have access to your foreign bank account when you arrive, making sure your phone will work, checking if you are allowed to drive on your license; all are important and often overlooked throughout the process.

It can also help to start making contacts in Iceland through social networks. This can be a valuable step towards finding a place to actually live when you arrive.

Iceland has a small population, and having a few friends on the ground can go a very long way.

Apply For a Kennitala

An example of an Icelandic kennitala
Photo: Visindavefur.is

A Kennitala is the ID number all people legally residing in Iceland have. Icelanders are given it at birth, and foreigners need to apply for it when they arrive.

To get one, you will need proof of ID, proof of residence and a contract from your employer. The application is through Registers Iceland and it is usually recommended you begin the process in person.

Apply For the Foreign Tax Discount 

Specialist Iceland

If you would like to apply for the 25% foreign specialist tax discount, you must submit your application within three months of your contract’s start date.

This step is once again something we can help with as we know the entire process and what you will need to do to meet the committee’s requirements.


The hard work you have put into your career may have opened some excellent doors for you, but in global terms, there’s so much more it could get you. 

Considering a stint as a foreign specialist in Iceland not only provides you with opportunities for professional, financial and personal growth, it also looks great on your CV in the future. Plus, you never know; you might end up finding a new permanent home you hadn’t ever considered before.