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Iceland – Work Permits and Working Legally

Necessity of Work Permits for Expats in Iceland

Working legally in Iceland as an expat often requires obtaining a work permit, depending on the individual’s nationality and the nature of the work. In this article, we will explore the necessity of work permits for expats, who is responsible for the application, exemptions, types of work permits, eligibility criteria, application procedures, required documents, costs, and reliable sources of information for working legally in Iceland.

Who Submits a Work Permit Application

In Iceland, the responsibility for submitting a work permit application depends on the specific circumstances of the expat worker and the employer. Generally, the work permit application can be initiated by either the expat worker or their prospective Icelandic employer. Here are some common scenarios:

  • expat Initiates Application: If an expat wishes to work in Iceland and has secured a job offer or employment opportunity, they may initiate the work permit application process themselves. In this case, they are responsible for compiling the necessary documentation and submitting the application.
  • Employer Initiates Application: Icelandic employers looking to hire expat workers can also initiate the work permit application process. In this scenario, the employer is responsible for submitting the application and ensuring that the expat meets the necessary requirements.

The specific procedures and requirements may vary depending on whether the expat or the employer initiates the application, so it’s essential to understand the regulations that apply to your situation.

Exemptions from Work Permits

While work permits are generally required for expats working in Iceland, there are certain exemptions and special categories of workers who may not need a work permit. Some common exemptions include:

  • Nordic Nationals: Citizens of Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland) have a special status in Iceland and may work and reside in Iceland without a work permit.
  • EEA and EFTA Nationals: Citizens of European Economic Area (EEA) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries may have the right to work in Iceland without a work permit under certain conditions.
  • Specialist Workers: Highly skilled or specialized workers who are needed in specific fields may be eligible for work permits with simplified procedures.
  • Students: International students studying in Iceland may be allowed to work part-time during their studies without a separate work permit.

It’s crucial for expats to verify their eligibility for exemptions and understand the specific requirements that apply to their situation.

Types of Work Permits for Expats in Iceland

Iceland offers various types of work permits and residence permits for expats, depending on factors such as the duration of employment, qualifications, and the nature of the work. The main categories of work permits include:


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  • Temporary Work Permit: This permit is suitable for expats seeking temporary employment in Iceland. It is typically tied to a specific job and employer.
  • Renewable Work Permit: expats with ongoing employment in Iceland may apply for renewable work permits, which allow them to work for the same employer over an extended period.
  • Permanent Residence and Work Permit: For expats planning to reside and work in Iceland permanently, a permanent residence and work permit may be an option.

Each type of permit has its own eligibility criteria and requirements, and the specific documentation needed may vary. expats should consult the Directorate of Immigration of Iceland or seek legal advice to determine the most suitable permit for their situation.

Procedure to Apply for a Work Permit in Iceland

The process of obtaining a work permit in Iceland typically involves the following steps:

  1. Job Offer: expats must secure a job offer or employment opportunity from an Icelandic employer before applying for a work permit.
  2. Employer’s Role: If the employer initiates the application, they must compile the required documentation and submit the application to the Directorate of Immigration.
  3. expat’s Role: If the expat initiates the application, they are responsible for submitting the work permit application along with the necessary documents to the Directorate of Immigration.
  4. Processing Time: The processing time for work permits can vary based on factors such as the type of permit, the applicant’s nationality, and individual circumstances. Applicants should check with the Directorate of Immigration for estimated processing times.
  5. Interview or Appointment: In some cases, expat applicants may be required to attend an interview or appointment as part of the evaluation process.

It’s essential to start the application process well in advance of the intended work start date to allow for sufficient processing time.

Documents Required for a Work Permit Application in Iceland

The specific documents required for a work permit application in Iceland can vary based on the type of permit and individual circumstances. However, some common documents typically include:

  • Completed application form
  • Passport or travel document with a minimum validity period
  • Job offer letter or employment contract from an Icelandic employer
  • Proof of accommodation in Iceland
  • Proof of health insurance coverage
  • Medical certificate (if required)
  • Criminal record certificate
  • Proof of payment of administrative fees

Expats should consult the Directorate of Immigration of Iceland or the relevant Icelandic consulate or embassy in their home country for a comprehensive list of required documents based on their specific situation.

Costs Involved in Applying for a Work Permit in Iceland

The cost of applying for a work permit in Iceland can vary depending on the type of permit, processing times, and other factors. Some common costs and fees associated with the application process may include:

  • Application fee
  • Residence permit fee (if applicable)
  • Administrative fees
  • Legal consultation fees (if sought)
  • Translation and notarization fees for documents (if required)

Expats and their employers should budget for these expenses and confirm the specific fees associated with their application type and circumstances with the Directorate of Immigration of Iceland.

Where to Find Reliable Information on Working Legally in Iceland

Expats and employers seeking reliable information on working legally in Iceland can refer to the following sources:

  • Directorate of Immigration of Iceland: The official website of the Directorate of Immigration provides comprehensive information on work permits, residence permits, and immigration procedures in Iceland.
  • Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland: The ministry’s website offers resources and guidance for foreign nationals working in Iceland, as well as information on diplomatic missions.
  • Legal Experts and Immigration Consultants: Employing the services of legal experts or immigration consultants experienced in Icelandic immigration laws and procedures can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the application process.

It is essential to rely on official government sources and reputable legal professionals for accurate and up-to-date information on working legally in Iceland.


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