It’s extremely difficult to visit Iceland and not fall in love with the place. If you’re dreaming of moving here, be sure to do some research before jetting! Moving to Iceland isn’t as easy as you may think, but this step-by-step guide will help you figure out how spend the rest of your days in natural hot springs.
How to get an Icelandic Residence Permit:
1. Figure out which residence permit you’re eligible for.
There are essentially four ways that one can move to Iceland. They are listed on the Directorate of Immigration website, where you can find a wealth of information pertaining to any part of this process.
First things first — decide on which applicant category you fall into, and then make the appropriate application. You can move to Iceland if you:
- Have family in Iceland (i.e. a spouse or parent)
- Have a job
- Are a university student
- Are an EU/EEA citizen. Since Europe allows freedom of movement of its citizens, all you’d need to do if you’re from another EU/EEA country is register your residence in Iceland with the
Realistically, it is not easy to move to Iceland if you are from outside the EA/EEU if you don’t fall into any of the above categories. If you’re still hell-bent on moving here, however, focus on contacting potential employers, but keep in mind that jobs must be secured prior to obtaining a residence permit — that means getting a work contract.
The good news is, Iceland’s tourism industry is booming, and so if you want to work in a hotel, guesthouse, or restaurant, there are many opportunities. Your best bet would be to look during the high season (the summer). Another good option for foreigners is farm work — there are many opportunities in the countryside. The following websites are good resources for a job search:
Of course, another viable option is to fall in love with and Icelander and get married (you CAN get married in Iceland without a residence permit). But that’s another story.
2. Start getting your documents together.
Whichever category you fall under, there are a number of basic required documents that you must collect before you apply for a residence permit.
- Complete the application form.This means printed, hand-signed, and photocopied when necessary. There are a few different application forms depending on what category you fall into (i.e. fill out the D-207 if you’re applying on the basis of employment in Iceland). The applicatio itself is fairly straightforward, and contains a checklist at the end that you must use to confirm that everything has been included. Find out more on types of residence permit applications here.
- You must prove your identity with a valid passport or authentic ID.A photocopy works just fine, but be sure that your passport does not expire for at least two years. The immigration authorities will reject your application if your passport does not have much time until expiry.
- Meet the requirements for support.In Iceland, the minimum financial requirement is ISK 180,550 per month for an individual (or roughly $1,900 USD), and ISK 270,825 per month ($2,800 USD) if you’re a couple. Keep in mind that if you’re applying as a spouse, marriage law states that their income is sufficient to support you. You’ll be required to prove that you have this support, and there are a couple ways to go about this. The easiest is to show an employment contract (if you’re moving on the basis of a job), pay slips from the last three months from either you or your spouse, or a study grant (if you’re a student).
- Have a health insurance policy in Iceland.You must purchase a short-term, private health insurance policy in order to apply for a residence permit. The plan must cover, at minimum, ISK 2,000,000 (about $20,000 USD). This will keep you covered during the time between arriving to Iceland on a new permit, and when the National Health Insurance scheme automatically kicks in — which is about six months after the start date on your residence card. Sjóvá is an Icelandic insurance company that sells short-term plans.
- Have a place of residence in Iceland.If you’re joining family, you can use their place of residence on your application. If you’re coming on your own as a student or as an employee, you must speak with your employer or residence department to secure a place of residence prior to making your application. Some good websites you can use to browse housing options:
- Submit a criminal record certificate.All applicants must submit a criminal record certificate from all the countries they have lived in for the last five years. It goes without saying that this certificate must be clean. This is a required part of the immigration process, and probably the most annoying of them. You’ll need to go to your local police station in your home country to get fingerprinted, submit the fingerprints to the highest appropriate authority, and wait for the results to arrive in the mail. In the US, this means the FBI or an FBI-Approved Channeler. The good news is, the FBI website clearly details the process step-by-step. My recommendation: use an FBI-Approved Channeler — things happen much quicker if you go that route.
- Meet the special requirements for the kind of residence permit applied for. Keep in mind that each residence permit has its own set of specific supporting documents in addition to the basic requirement. A residence permit applied for because of marriage, for instance, requires a certified copy of one’s marriage certificate. If you’re enrolled in university as a student, you must present your letter of acceptance. These specific requirements are also listed on the immigration website.
Important note: If any of your application materials are in a language other than English (or one of the Scandinavian languages), they must be accompanied by a translation completed by an authorized translator. Additionally, it’s a general requirement that supporting documents should be in their original format. A criminal record certificate, for example, needs to be an original (not a copy). Exceptions to this rule are a number of certificates (birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.) — these may be submitted as confirmed copies. To get a document confirmed if you’re a US citizen, you must submit it to the US Department of State. Further instructions on this process can be found here.
Applications must be printed, hand-signed, and submitted in person if the applicant is in Iceland. If the applicant is outside Iceland, it can be sent by mail with the payment receipt enclosed. The fee for applying is 6.000 ISK ($60 USD) and the processing time can take up to 90 days.
You can call the Directorate of Immigration to check on the status of your application on Mondays 9:00 – 2:00, Tuesday to Thursday 10:00 – 2:00, or Fridays 9:00 – 12:00. Hot tip: greet them by saying “Góðan Daginn” and they’ll know you’re serious!
Once you submit your application, it’s time to play the waiting game. Applicants are allowed to be in Iceland while their application is being processed, but will be granted entry as a tourist (with your passport stamped as such). Keep in mind that you are only allowed up to 90 days in the Schengen Area if you are from outside the EU/EEA, and so there’s a chance you’ll have to leave Iceland before your residence permit is granted if it takes longer than 90 days to process.
5. When you get your residence permit, rejoice and buy your one-way ticket!
Your result will arrive in the mail. It will be in Icelandic (Google translate!) and contain a very important number: your kennitala. This is essentially the equivalent of a social security number, and it’s extremely important. At this point, you may buy your plane ticket (if you’re outside Iceland), and when you arrive at Keflavík Airport, present the immigration official at the checkpoint with your kennitala and/or your letter from the Directorate of Immigration. You should already be in the system.
From there, you’re free to enjoy your new life. Sign up for an Icelandic class, meet the locals, and immerse yourself in your new home. But don’t forget — you’ll need to renew your residence permit yearly until you qualify for a permanent residence permit or Icelandic citizenship!