Migrating to Iceland

Obtaining WorkImmigrating

Working in Iceland for short or long periods can be a
great way to discover the country, it’s culture and get to know the
people.  It’s also a good way to decide wether you want to settle down and
become an Icelandic citizen.  Obtaining a work permit can either be easy or
very hard depending on your situation.

Iceland is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA).  All nationals
/ passport holders of EEA member countries do not require permits to work in
Iceland.  The EEA countries are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Eire, Finland,
France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg,
Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Detailed Information for EEA
nationals wanting to work in Iceland are available from the Directorate
of Labour
.  You can also see more information here.

Other foreign nationals must obtain a work permit and a residence
permit.  According to Icelandic foreigner work permit laws,  a work
permit can only be applied for by an Icelandic employer on behalf of a foreign
national or by the foreign national himself.  The Icelandic employer can
obtain three kinds of permits:

  • Time limited work permit to employ a foreign national for a particular
    role for a predefined time period.
  • Short term work permit to employ foreign workers, one or more for a short
    period and dependant upon special conditions.
  • Work permit to employ a young person (17 – 30 years of age) as “Au

A foreign national (Outside the EEA) can apply for three types of work

  • Unrestricted work permit which allows the foreign national to work in
    Iceland unconditionally. This is for foreigners who have already obtained
    work permits and worked in Iceland for three years or more.
  • Business permit, which allows the foreigner to be self employed or operate
    a business.
  • Student work permit for foreign nationals studying in Icelandic education

The key criteria for issuing work permits to foreign nationals are; The expertise
and or skills required for the role are not available in Iceland, There is a
shortage in the labour market which can’t be met with local labour force or
other special circumstances, such as family relations (Spouse is an Icelandic
national) or other humanitarian reasons.  In the main, in order to obtain a
work permit you must have work.  It is therefore the employer who usually
applies for the work permit.  The best approach is therefore to look for
work in Iceland through the net or friends and/or relatives.  Once you have
found work and the employer is willing to apply for the permits, you have to
wait and hope for the best.  To give you an idea of what is involved, we
have translated one of the application process charts made available on the
Directorate of Labour
website.  This process chart outlines the process
which an employer can expect when applying for a time limited work permit for a
foreigner.  See here.

Almost all of the Icelandic recruitment agencies web sites are in
Icelandic.  You could try to send them E-mail or use the free web
translation service at Intertran.
It may help you get the gist of things.  I’ve highlighted the ones which
are in English.

Atvinnumiðstöðin Job.is
Ísgen Mannval
Liðsauki Mönnun
– Man2Man á Íslandi
Mannafl Ráðningarþjónustan
on Icelandic Farms
Another List of


Immigrating to Iceland

Iceland doesn’t have any special immigration programs.  The only way to
become an Icelandic immigrant is to apply for refugee status under the UN
Convention or apply for work and obtain work and residence permits.  Once
you have resided and worked in Iceland for 3 years or more, you can apply for
the unlimited, unrestricted work permit.

The general rule for foreigners is that once you have resided in Iceland for
7 years or more, you can apply for Icelandic Citizenship.  There are
exceptions to this rule, which cover children born in Iceland, children where
one parent is Icelandic, foreigners who are married to Icelandic spouses,
citizens of the other Scandinavian countries and refugees.  The Icelandic Citizenships Laws in English can be viewed here.
If you require further information or would like to enquire, you can contact the
Directorate of
on their E-mail address of utl@utl.is.

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