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How to move to Iceland

Iceland, also known as The Land of Fire and Ice, accepts thousands of immigrants from Europe and America each year. It's no surprise since the country is blessed with breathtaking waterfalls, spectacular glaciers, plenty of hiking paths and natural springs that attract nature lovers from every corner of the world. Scenery isn't the only thing Iceland offers. The area of Reykjavik is known for its vibrant art scene and night life.

The highest number of immigrants to enter Iceland in a single year was 13,000. That was in 2007. Since then, the number of immigrants has decreased; however, Iceland remains a popular country, particularly for those living in Europe. It is easier for a European to immigrate to Iceland than it is a Westerner.

Steps to move to Iceland:

European Economic Area or European Free Trade Association (EEA/EPTA) citizens are required to do very little legwork to become a citizen of Iceland. There is no special permit required for them to work or live in Iceland. The only requirements are that you register, apply for a kennitala, and show proof that you can support yourself and any dependents. The average income in Iceland is 163,635 Icelandic Króna (ISK) or 245,453 ISK per couple.

If you are not a citizen of the EEA/EPTA, immigrating to Iceland is more challenging, but it's worth the time and effort required. You can become a citizen of Iceland in one of three ways:

  1. Marry an Icelander.
  2. Attend a university in Iceland. Students are granted a residence permit and sometimes a limited work permit. You will still have to prove that you can support yourself while going to school.
  3. Acquire a work permit. This requires that your skills be in demand.

For more details about immigration requirements, go to the Directorate of Immigration’s website at

Visiting Iceland

Those interested in applying for citizenship often start by visiting Iceland on a 90-day tourist visa. This gives them time to look for work, become a student, or find a native to marry. It's also an excellent opportunity for you to get to know the country and ways of its people.

Finding Work in Iceland

Having a specialized skill is helpful when looking for work in Iceland. The country has employment rules which favor Iceland natives and EU citizens. However, doctors and computer programmers from anywhere in the world is always in demand.

All work permit applicants must have a sponsor. This is generally the company who hired you and has looked at your credentials and verified status in your home country. This process can take weeks, and many companies are not willing to wait while the paperwork is approved. It puts potential citizens at a disadvantage.

Professionals are expected to know the Icelandic language. The restaurants and hotels are often looking for seasonal workers, and they do not always require that you know Icelandic. These types of jobs are plentiful in the summer. There are also opportunities to work on farms in rural Iceland.

Moving to Iceland on a Student Visa

This is the easiest way for someone without a specialized skill or a Icelandic spouse to move to the country. University applications must be submitted no later than February of each year. You can expect to receive an acceptance or rejection letter from the university of your choice in March or April. Once you have an acceptance letter, you will apply for a student permit through the Directorate of Immigration.

Applying for a student visa requires one to submit a bank statement and a background check by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. This student visa is valid for six month and requires that you reapply each semester, unless you are working on a doctorate degree.

The Kennitala

The National Register's Kennitala is Iceland's way of identifying and tracking its citizens. It's similar to a Social Security card in the United States. It is a 10-digit number that includes the individual's date of birth. A Kennitala is required to open a bank account, work, seek medical attention or even borrow a book from the library.

Iceland uses the data collected by the National Register to track the country's population, ethnic diversity, economic status, health and education level of citizens and those with visiting on work or student permits. The data collected through Kennitalas eliminates the need for a census.

The National Register shows that 93 percent of those living in Iceland are citizens. One tenth of those with a Kennitala were born outside of Iceland. If immigration continues at the current pace, Iceland is anticipating that 15 percent of the country will be immigrants by 2030.

Here are some other interesting facts released by the National Register.

--Ninety-nine percent of the population lives in urban areas. An amazing 60 percent live near the country's capital of Reykjavik.

-- The state church is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland. In 2016, over 71 percent of citizens belonged to the church. A small number of citizens belong to the Roman Catholic Church and the Ásatrúarfélagið. Nineteen percent are not affiliated with any religion.

Iceland's Weather

Iceland is near the Arctic Circle, so summer days and winter nights are long. The temperature is rarely above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Visitors should tour the country in the summer. The countryside is beautiful and the roads easy to traverse. Many shops close during the winter months as well. However, those visiting Iceland in the winter will enjoy a fantastic view of the Northern Lights. It's important to be prepared for significant changes in the weather, regardless of when you visit. Dressing in layers is recommended, and always bring a jacket.

Living in Iceland

It's expensive to live in Iceland, compared to other countries. A room averages 80,000 ISK. Housing prices are not regulated. The high cost of living in Iceland is attributed to high taxes and the need to import most consumer goods. Fresh fruits and vegetables are scarce in Iceland. Neither cash nor checks are widely accepted. Cards are recommended. Most shops close around 6 p.m.

Transportation in Iceland

For those living in Reykjavik, it is not necessary to own a car. City buses are available. Many residents bike or walk the city streets. Those living outside the cities and in suburbs, like Garðabær or Kópavogur, may require personal transportation.