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Residence Permit

Residence permit

If you are a citizen from a state outside the European Economic Area (EEA), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) or the Faroe Islands, you required to obtain a residence permit and a work permit to be able to work in Iceland.

You must obtain a residence permit before arrival to Iceland. Your employer should apply for this permit on your behalf. They must prove that this job is necessary to the company and that you are the best fit for the job.

The Directorate of Immigration (Útlendingastofnun) handles residence permit applications in Iceland.

The four categories of residence permits related to work permits:

  1. Qualified professionals. (Experts).
  2. Athletes.
  3. Temporary shortage of employees.
  4. Collaboration permit: Temporary service for a specific job for an employer that does not have an office in Iceland. (Icelandic: Dvalarleyfi fyrir sérhæfða starfsmenn á grundvelli samstarfs- eða þjónustusamnings).

Find out further information on the website of the Directorate of Labour.

 The process to obtain a residence permit

  1. Find a job and sign a contract with your potential employer.
  2. The Directorate of Immigration (Útlendingastofnun) will issue a residence permit based on employment if all requirements are met.
    i) The processing time for a general application is up to 180 days but it is possible to apply for an expedited application for qualified professionals which will be processed within 30 days provided all supporting documents have been submitted. This only applies to the professional him- or herself, applications for family members may take a longer time to process.
    ii) For more details on the requirements for a residence permit, please visit this site.
  3. When the Directorate of Immigration has completed the processing of the residence permit application, they will forward the work permit application to The Directorate of Labour (Vinnumálastofnun) which will review the application and issue the work permit if all conditions are met. They may contact your employer if any documents are missing or anything in your application is unclear and request further information or documents.

You will be notified when The Directorate of Labour contacts your employer and promptly responding to requests for further information generally shortens the time it takes to process your application. The rule of thumb here is to rather provide more information than less so if you are unsure if a certain document is relevant or not, include a copy just in case. It is also a good idea to include a statement from your former employer that can vouch for you as an expert.

In some cases, the company which is sponsoring the work permit must prove that the applicant is essential to the company and that they are unable to find an employee with similar education, experience and expertise who already has access to the Icelandic labour market as a citizen of an EEA, EFTA or Faroese state. Therefore, it is a good idea to include information regarding all qualifications you possess, both academic and from various seminars and courses.

Find out further information and documentation you will be required to submit at the Directorate of Labour.

Bascic requirements

To obtain a residence permit, you must fulfill certain basic requirements such as a valid passport, health insurance, no criminal record and having a minimum amount of secure income each month.

If you are granted the permit, you must show up in person within a week from arrival in Iceland to be photographed at the Directorate of Immigration or a district-commissioner’s office if you are outside of the Reykjavik metropolitan area.

There are also detailed requirements depending on which residence permit you are applying for.

Generally, the first work permit is issued for one year, and if there have been no problems regarding wages or taxes, the permit may be renewed for two years.

After living in Iceland continuously for four years, you can apply for a permanent residence permit in Iceland, providing certain conditions are met. If you are a citizen of the EEA, EFTA or Faroe Islands but your closest family member is not, they will be required to obtain a residence permit in order to live in Iceland.

Rules to keep in mind

  • You may not begin working until your work permit has been granted.
  • Your work permit is specific to your employer. If wish to work for another employer, you must apply for a new work permit and have it granted before commencing work with your new employer.
  • You may not stay in another country for longer than three months in every twelve month period.
  • You must renew your work permit in a timely manner  and applications must be submitted at least a month before your current permit expires, you may continue to work while your renewal application is being processed, provided that your application was submitted at least one month before your current permit expires. If you are not granted a new visa in time, you must not work without a visa until your new visa has been issued.  

Cost of applying for a residence permit

The processing fees for all applications can be found here.

Useful Information

The telephone hours for inquiries regarding residence permits, visas and Icelandic citizenship applications at the Directorate of Immigration are between 9 - 14 AM GMT Monday to Thursday and 9 - 12 AM on Fridays. The phone number is +354-444-0900. All general questions can also be sent by e-mail.