Iceland is a modern European nation, ranked one of the safest places to live and offering everything found in other developed countries. English speakers are in demand in the health and social care, tourism, teaching, retail, and wholesale industries. As Iceland has an ageing population, immigrants with special skill sets or who can meet the requirements for ‘labour shortage’ positions are particularly welcome. Icelanders are enthusiastic and welcoming of expatriates and experts.
So, wanting to work in Iceland – how do you make it happen? Some countries’ nationals enjoy the freedom of movement to live and work there without the need for an entry visa or work permits, such as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens, as they are members of the Schengen area. Citizens of the Schengen area, upon the production of a Schengen ID card, are allowed unlimited stays to live and work in Iceland, while other countries on the visa-exemption list can stay for 90-days in any 180-day period without a visa. However, they require other documentation to work in Iceland. Those Third Country Nationals (TCNs) not visa-exempt also require an entry visa (C-Visa).
As of the end of 2022, a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) visa waiver should be applied for, online, for those who are ‘visa-exempt’ at the present time, to monitor visitors travelling within the Schengen area. Border controls are taken very seriously, and mistakes should not be made by individuals or companies over immigration documentation and visa/permit compliance.
The Icelandic authorities, such as the Directorate of Immigration and the Directorate of Labor, determine who requires documentation, and for what activities. They are also responsible for implementing and enforcing the rules as well as for processing and issuing work and residence permits.
The law covering foreign nationals is The Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act and it is up to each individual or company to make sure they follow official requirements to avoid fines or terms of imprisonment. The first step is to check whether or not a visa or permit is required. This depends on the nationality, the purpose and the duration of stay.
What is an Entry Visa?
An Entry Visa is a stamp or a document required to be able to enter a country legally.
What is a Work Permit?
These are required to perform paid employment in Iceland and are closely associated with residence permits.
Members of the EFTA/EEA areas do not require a work permit to work or a residence permit to stay in Iceland, but they need to register with Registers Iceland for a National ID number.
Third Country Nationals (TCNs) need a work permit, residence permit and entry visa if not visa-exempt. Work permits come under the auspices of the Directorate of Immigration and are then passed on to the Directorate of Labour which processes and issues the work permit. It is the prospective employer who has to apply for permission to employ a non-EEA/EFTA citizen.
Generally, Temporary Work Permits are granted the first time of applying for short-term contracts, for specific work/projects and for specific employers.
Unlimited Work Permits can be applied for if foreign nationals have lived in Iceland for three successive years or have a Residence Permit under the Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act or have been granted a temporary work permit on a previous occasion.
For Expert Knowledge Work and Residence Permit
Labour Shortage Work and Residence Permit
Applications for Work Permits and Residence Permits come under the auspices of the Directorate of Immigration, which checks the suitability of persons who wish to reside in Iceland and approves the Residence Permit. The application for the Work Permit is then passed on to the Directorate of Labour which satisfies themselves that all the documentation is correct and that the rules and regulations regarding The Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act have been followed. For instance, the employer has tried to find an employee in Iceland (or EEA/EFTA), and the relevant trade union has been sent a request for their opinion regarding the employment of a foreigner.
Contact the local embassy, consulate or authorized Visa Application Center for the correct process and complete list of documents. This is where the employee applies for the Residence Permit, or it can be posted directly to the Directorate of Immigration at Dalvegur 18, 201 Kopavogur, Iceland.
Applicants should check the following:
Documents for Residence Permit and Work Permit:
When the work permit and residence permit have been approved, applicants that require a visa to enter Iceland collect it from the relevant local consulate or embassy in their home country or appointed Visa Application Center. Employees must enter Iceland to be photographed, have their biometrics taken, and undergo a medical examination to receive their Residence Card.
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