Visiting Iceland is a long-standing dream for a lot of people. They long for the experience of standing on a black sand beach, looking into the Atlantic Ocean. They wonder what it would be like to stand on the top of a glacier or see an active volcano in real life. Many are able to make this dream a reality, but some go even further and manage to secure employment in the land of fire and ice.
Iceland is not an alien world that is closed off to foreigners. On the contrary, it has its own business culture, a thriving gig economy and a population of people who are both welcoming and excited about the prospect of foreign workers and experts moving there to enhance and strengthen the local economy.
You may have dreamed of working in Iceland, and technically all you need to make that dream a reality is an Iceland work visa. But what is an Iceland work visa? How can you get one? Are there different kinds? Read on to find out all this and more.
What is an Iceland Work Visa?
An Iceland work visa is a permit issued by the Icelandic government. It grants the holder the right to work in Iceland.
People with a work visa in Iceland are also offered the same rights and protections as any other legally employed person.
How Can I Get an Iceland Work Visa?
There is only one way to get an Iceland work visa: apply through the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration.
All residence and work permits are issued from the Directorate, and they have the final say on approvals.
If you are going to apply for a work visa in Iceland, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the requirements, costs and waiting times you may be looking at.
Iceland Work Visa Requirements
Anyone applying for a work visa in Iceland must be over the age of 18. Usually, you must also have already secured employment and have a signed contract. In addition, applicants need to show that they are able to provide for themselves throughout their stay in Iceland; this is in relation to income, savings and payment that will be received for work.
You must also have valid health insurance. Temporary residents and new residents to Iceland are not covered by the national health system; they need to have private cover for the first six months of their stay.
You must have a valid passport that will not expire until at least 90 days after the period of your residence permit, and you cannot have served a criminal sentence in another country in the last five years.
Once you have all the information you need, you can apply through the Directorate of Immigration. Keep in mind that depending on where you are coming from, the Directorate might ask for some of your documents to be officially translated into either English or Icelandic.
In the case of showing that you have the means to provide for yourself, often a simple bank statement is enough, but it needs to be recent.
The typical processing time for work visa applications in Iceland is about 90 days. This usually means the application is processed within three months of all the supporting documentation being received.
If for some reason, the Department of Immigration feels that a document is not adequate, the processing time will take longer. Therefore, it’s advisable to get your application in as early as you can, provided you have secured work in Iceland.
Like most governmental processes, there is a fee to apply for an Icelandic work visa. The amount payable is dependent on which particular visa you are applying for. In most cases, the fee isn’t more than 15,000ISK (€102). However, if you need your application to be expedited because of a work situation, there is an extra fee you can pay to make this happen. At the time of writing this blog, the fee is 45,000ISK (€307).
To expedite a visa application, you must fit into specific categories stipulated by the Directorate of immigration.
How Much Does an Iceland Work Visa Cost?
The total cost of getting a work visa in Iceland depends on where you are coming from, what you are planning to do and how soon you need it.
As stated earlier, there are processing fees for each application. Still, it’s also essential to factor in that you will need 6 months of private health insurance. You may also need to pay for documents to be produced or copied in your country of origin.
Some applicants will need to undergo a medical check-up within two weeks of their arrival in Iceland. There may also be some costs associated with this.
When looking at the total cost of a work visa, the best advice is to plan ahead and make sure you have checked precisely which category you fit in and calculate the costs associated with it.
For most applicants, it isn’t a very expensive process.
What Are the Main Work Permit Categories in Iceland?
There are a number of different work permits you can apply for if you are looking to move to Iceland.
Below are the main work permits that foreigners can apply for.
If you’re still unsure which category you fall under, don’t hesitate to contact us. Foreign workers are a speciality of Swapp Agency; we know exactly how the system works and can also connect skilled workers and companies.
Temporary Work Permit For a Job that Requires Expert Knowledge
The temporary work permit for a job that requires expert knowledge was created to address gaps in the job market.
Iceland is a highly educated nation, but it can be challenging to find experts in specific fields because of its small population.
If you have a specific level of expert knowledge, and it can be proven that no Icelander is able to provide that level of service, you might qualify for this visa. The length of this visa is normally determined by the lifespan of a project or on the terms of an employment contract.
Temporary Work Permits Due to Labour Shortages
Sometimes when micro-nations like Iceland experience a boom in a specific sector, they can find it hard to keep up with the demand for services. This has happened a few times in the last 20 years in Iceland, mainly in the tourism and construction industries.
Recipients of this visa are granted the right to reside in Iceland, provided their contract is not terminated. In addition, the nature of their work must be within an industry with a recognised labour shortage.
Temporary Work Permits For Athletes
Iceland takes its sport very seriously. For this reason, there is a special temporary work visa for athletes of a certain level. In this category, the aim is to encourage high-level athletes to move to Iceland and strengthen the Icelandic position on the world’s stage.
Athletes in team sports usually fit into this category. Sports like football, basketball and handball all have foreigners on temporary work visas in Iceland. The applicant must have a contract with a sports club that is a member of the National Olympic Sports Association of Iceland.
Temporary permit based on family reunion
Although this is not specifically a work visa, it is another option for some who are wanting to spend some time in Iceland. This permit is designed to keep families together.
The main applicants for this are foreigners who have an Icelandic spouse or partner.
When applying for this visa, it is essential to know that you are not allowed to work unless you have specifically been given permission to do so by the Directorate of Immigration.
Temporary work permits for students
Iceland has some top-rated universities and courses, and students come from all over the world to study here. The Icelandic government also understands that many students cannot afford to not work while studying, so this visa addresses that.
To obtain and keep this permit, the applicant must be enrolled in an Icelandic university.
In addition, their attendance must be exemplary, and they cannot continue to work if their studies cease or are completed.
Temporary Work Permit for Specialised Employees Based on a Service Contract
Foreign workers might be able to get a temporary work permit if they will be employed by a company that doesn’t have its base of operation in Iceland. This is if the relationship between the two parties is under a service contract.
This can also work if there is an international collaboration for scientific, scholarly or educational work.
Temporary Work Permits Granted for Special Reasons
A temporary work permit can be granted by the Directorate of Immigration and the Directorate of labour in exceptional circumstances.
The prerequisites for this are hard to define because this kind of work permit is typically assessed on a case-by-case basis and usually involves extenuating circumstances.
Do Employers Cover the Cost of Iceland Work Visas?
Employers are allowed to cover the cost of work visas. Still, it’s not something you should expect unless it has been explicitly discussed.
In the eyes of the Icelandic government, just as it is with taxes, the submission and payment for a work visa is entirely the responsibility of the individual.
In some situations, especially when a foreign employee is a specialist or expert, some companies will offer to pay the cost of a work visa and even assist with the paperwork. Some companies will even engage the services of places like Swapp agency to help them process paperwork and get everything on track.
Iceland Work Visas For US Citizens
To get a work visa in Iceland as a US citizen, you need to have secured a work contract.
In addition, because the US is outside of the EU/EEA, you will need to fill a gap in the Icelandic job market (shortage of labour) or be a specialist (expert) or athlete.
In these cases, most often, the institution that will employ you will need to make some declarations stating why they need to hire you, the terms of your contract, and the length of time you will be required to be in Iceland.
Iceland Work Visas for UK Citizens
UK citizens used to enjoy the same freedom of movement that EU citizens did when it came to working.
However, after December 31st 2020, the UK is no longer part of the EU/EEA. This means that UK citizens wishing to apply for a work visa in Iceland need to go via a similar route to US citizens.
There are several new rules regarding UK citizens living in Iceland after Brexit. But, for now, those who were already in the country before December 2020 have been ‘grandfathered in’ – meaning that they will enjoy the same rights they had before, as long as their legal domicile remains as Iceland.
Iceland Work Visas for EU/EEA Citizens
This is the most simple of all the moves in this list.
People who are citizens of another EU/EEA country have complete freedom of movement in Iceland. You are allowed to come to Iceland and reside, but if you intend to work, you must apply for an Icelandic ID or Kennitala.
To apply for a kennitala, you need to fill out a form and take it in person to Registers Iceland’s offices. You will need to show that you have 3 months worth of living expenses available to you to accompany your application.
It can take a couple of months to process this, so it’s advisable to do it as soon as you arrive if you intend to stay for longer than 3 months.
Can I Get a Work Visa After Studying in Iceland?
If you are from a non-EU/EEA country and complete your university studies in Iceland, it might be possible for you to renew your visa.
The renewal of this can be extended for up to 6 months from the day of your graduation. This period of time is designed to help you look for a job in your field of expertise in Iceland.
If you manage to find a job in this timeframe, you will then need to apply for a new work visa, choosing one that matches the situation of your new employment.
What Are Iceland Working Holiday Visas?
Working holiday based residents permits are a kind of visa that allows the holder temporary residence and working rights in Iceland. This is set up under special relations between Iceland and other countries.
Currently, the only country Iceland has this relationship with is Japan.
So, for now, the only people who can benefit from this program are Japanese citizens between 18 and 26 years old at the time of their application.
Iceland can be a great destination to spend some time working, and it’s not just a pipe dream; it can be a reality.
Every single day people just like you make the trip over to this tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean to soak up the culture, experience the natural wonders and spend some time gaining life experiences that can’t be found anywhere on Earth.
Getting an Iceland work permit can be a straightforward process if you plan effectively and do your research. So if you’ve decided you’re Iceland bound, good luck and remember, you can always contact Swapp Agency for advice.