Hiring a Foreign Expert

Hiring a foreign expert to work at an Icelandic company

The Work in Iceland website aims to provide companies and individuals with the necessary information for a smooth relocation process for foreign experts wishing to work in Iceland.

Please note that if your potential employee qualifies as a foreign expert, they may be applicable for:

  • A tax discount: Deduction from the income of foreign experts.
  • Expedited application processing that ensures that your application will be processed within 30 days (providing that the application is sufficiently filled out and all required information and supporting documentation has been submitted) instead of the standard 90-180 days. It costs ISK 45,000 . Please note that only work and residence permits on the grounds of expert knowledge can be expedited. Permits for spouses and family members will be processed within the regular processing periods.
  • Factsheet about expedited applications.

See also the relevant information on Working in Iceland and Living in Iceland.

The rules regarding immigration, residency and work permits differ depending on the nationality of the applicant. It is very easy for Nordic nationals to move to Iceland for work, rather easy for Europeans to relocate to Iceland and difficult for foreign citizens that come from countries outside of the EEA, EFTA and Faroe Islands to live and work in Iceland.

Read more about registering in Iceland, and applying for an Icelandic ID number (kennitala).

If your potential employee is not an EEA, EFTA and Faroese citizen, please note that your company will handle most of the paperwork with The Directorate of Immigration (Útlendingastofnun) and The Directorate of Labour (Vinnumálastofnun). It is essential that the person responsible for handling the permit application within your company responds quickly to all emails and requests for further information and documentation as this can greatly affect the length of the application processing period.

The application process for a residency and work permit

The rules regarding immigration are not set to judge the applicant personally but the job for which the permit is applied for and the three points below must be proven:

1. That the job itself is necessary for your company.

  • When you fill out the form Application for a Limited Work Permit, pay special attention to the box “Ástæður fyrir ráðningu / Reason for engagement” since your answer here will determine whether The Directorate of Labour considers this job to be essential to your company’s business. The field on the application form for which to place your answer is quite small but feel free to attach a letter alongside this application in order to further support your case.

2. That the applicant possesses relevant skills and qualifications that the company is unable to find in the EU/EEA.

  • To prove this, you must show that you have advertised the job unsuccessfully in Iceland on The Directorate of Labour’s website as well as in Europe, on the EURES job portal, and that the company was unable to fill this position before hiring this specialist. Please note that The Directorate of Labour may in some circumstances waive this obligation.
  • Regarding the advertisement itself, it must not be tailored directly to the applicant, all requirements must be truly necessary for the job at hand.
  • The necessary expertise for this job must be stated in the advertisement.
  • In order to prove that this candidate is the best specialist for this job, they must possess the relevant academic qualifications. Please include all university and/or other diplomas which confirm the candidate’s qualifications in the application. If the job requires a legal professional title (lögverndað starfsheiti), they must validate their degree with the relevant Icelandic authority.
  • Their qualifications must be unique, if many Icelandic, EEA, EFTA or Faroese nationals have the same degree as the applicant, and can be found in the local labour market, it will be more difficult to prove that they are the best fit for the job.
  • In this process, relevant experience can replace academic certifications but this requires at least seven years of experience and is determined on a case-by-case basis.
  • A CV is not enough to prove relevant experience, you should include the CV but also support it with relevant documents.

3. That the employee’s wages conform to Icelandic collective agreements and are in line with other workers in the domestic market in similar positions receive.

  • To prove this, an employment contract must accompany the application. The contract must specify which pension fund the obligatory contributions will be paid into and the relevant labour union’s collective agreement (kjarasamningur) applies (or which union if there is no applicable collective agreement for this position).
  • If your company does not have a standard contract template, please feel free to use the contract template provided by the Directorate of Labour.
  • The relevant labour union must confirm in section IV of the application form that the terms and conditions of employment are in line with those of other workers in similar jobs. Please make sure to obtain their confirmation before submitting your application as failure to do so will prolong processing periods.
  • Information regarding collective agreements, wage-tables and their pay-scale groups (launatafla can be ffound at the relevant labour union websites.