Find A Job
This northern European nation, like other countries in Scandinavia, has a reputation for progressive politics and it is an appealing choice for more adventurous expats seeking employment. The advantages are that you will have an interesting and unusual working environment; disadvantages include possible difficulty in finding work, since Iceland is a small nation with few urban centers. However, employment experts suggest that the country will need an increased number of foreign workers in the next decade, due to labor shortages. We will look at some of your employment options below.
If you are a member of an EU, EEA or EFTA nation, you will not need a work or residence permit for the first 3 months of your visit: after that, you will need to formalize your position by registering your address and applying for a tax card with the National Registry, the central body who deal with residence and work issues. You will then be issued with a ‘kennitala’ – your multipurpose ID number.
If you are not a member of the above group of states, you will have a different status and must apply to the Directorate of Immigration in addition to the Directorate of Labour: the latter will need to issue you with a work permit before you can legally take up employment. You can also apply for a working holiday visa if your employment is likely to be of a shorter duration.
You will need to apply for both before travelling to Iceland, and note that the country prioritizes Icelandic and EU/EEA/EFTA citizens for employment purposes, unless you possess specific professional skills which an Icelandic or EU/EEA employee cannot replicate.
If you already have employment lined up, once you have been granted a work permit, you can apply for a D-visa.
The Directorates may also issue temporary work permits, known as a ‘shortage of laborers’ permit, in order to plug particular skills gaps, which can only be renewed once. This is worth applying for if you are only looking for temporary employment.
It would be helpful for you to speak basic Icelandic: although the majority of the population have English language skills, some local companies operate primarily in Icelandic. It depends whether you are working for an international company or a local one.
Otherwise, Iceland has a wide range of employment opportunities, including the technical sector, engineering, media, and finance and business sectors.
The biggest industrial sector consists of aluminium smelting: there are 3 main sites for this and Iceland is one of the top aluminium producers globally. Fishing also constitutes a sizeable percentage (11%) of the country’s GDP, but this is more likely to be staffed by local employees: fishing is a traditional Icelandic employer. Tourism also comprises a large section of Iceland’s economy.
The maximum working hours in Iceland are set at 48 hours: however, this includes overtime (which may be repaid in time in lieu or in pay) and a more typical working week consists of 40 hours. Business hours are typically 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and in summer, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Iceland does not have a minimum wage, but average monthly wages are in the region of €5000 per month. An average hourly wage is currently 1,525 ISK (around €11). Social security and pension payments will be deducted from your gross pay by your employer.
You will have 24 days of paid leave per year, plus 13 public holidays. Most Icelanders take leave in July and August.
You are entitled to a 35 minute break every 8 hours, and an 11 hour break every 24 hours.
Maternity leave has recently been overhauled and now consists of 3 months’ leave for each parent, which they cannot transfer between them, and an additional 3 months which they can split. This can start 1 month before the birth of the child. You will be paid maternity pay if you have been continuously employed for 6 months before the birth of the child and you can also transfer your entitlement between EEA nations. Payments will be up to 80% of your salary.
As above, your spouse will be able to work if they are a member of a reciprocal nation state, but if they are from a country outside the EU/EEA, then they will need to apply for a separate visa: they will not be able to work simply as your dependent.
It is common to make speculative applications to companies – however, note that you must apply for work permits, if applicable, before you land.
Websites and personal networking are recommended by expats as the best ways of finding work in Iceland, and recruitment agencies (ráðningarþjónustur) if you are in a particular specialized industry. The local press also features job vacancies.
Applying For A Job
A single page CV/resume is acceptable: it is suggested that you send this via email with a short covering letter. It is also acceptable to make a follow-up email/phone call if you do not hear back.
Iceland has legislation against discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, religion/belief, disability, diminished work ability, age, sexual orientation and gender identity, biological gender characteristics and gender expression. It is a liberal, highly progressive country and you should, ideally, not encounter questions at interview which run counter to the law. Interviews in Iceland can be quite informal and may not take place in the workplace.
Qualifications And Training
You will have an advantage if you are a member of a specialist profession and your employer is able to show that you can do a job that a local Icelander will not be able to do.
Apply For A Visa/Permit
Iceland is a fascinating country that appeals to both tourists and potential expats. It is a member of the Schengen Agreement, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA), despite not being a member of the European Union (EU).
Whether or not you will need a visa to visit Iceland will depend on your nationality. If you are from a member state of the EU, EEA or EFTA, you are allowed to stay in the country for three months, without a visa. As noted above, Iceland is not itself a member of the EU, but it has bilateral agreements with the EU. It is also a member of the Nordic Passport Union.
As Iceland is a member of the Schengen Area, US citizens may enter for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. However, they will need to show evidence of sufficient funds, and they will need proof that they have booked a return ticket.
If you plan to visit only Iceland, you will need to apply at your local Icelandic consulate/embassy. If you plan to visit multiple Schengen countries, you will need to apply for your Schengen visa (a short-term entry visa, applicable to the countries in the Schengen zone) at the embassy of the country that is your primary destination.
In order to apply for a Schengen visa, you will need:
• A completed application form
• Two passport-format photos
• Your passport (which should have at least three months’ – though it is recommended that you have six months’ – validity beyond your planned date of departure from the Schengen area)
• Copies of any previous visas
• Travel insurance (including medical coverage), with confirmation of a minimum of €30,000 coverage within Iceland and the entire Schengen Area
• A cover letter stating the purpose of your visit to Iceland, as well as your itinerary
• Proof of civil status (for example, your marriage certificate and your children’s birth certificates)
• Your flight itinerary
• The address of your accommodation, including hotels
• Proof that you are able to support yourself financially for the duration of your stay (for example, a recent statement from your bank for the last three months that shows funds of at least €50 per day spent in Iceland, or traveller’s cheques, or proof of sponsorship)
You may need further documentation, depending on your status. If you are employed, you may need to supply:
• A contract of employment
• A letter of leave from your employer
• A bank statement for the last six months
• An income tax return
• Your business license (if you are self-employed)
If you are a student, you will need to include your certificate of enrolment at the relevant educational institution.
If you are retired, you will need a statement of your pension for the last six months.
A Schengen visa is a short-stay visa. If you plan to remain in Iceland for longer than three months, you will need a long-term visa, which will permit you to remain in the country for up to 180 days. You will not be able to extend your stay for more than 180 days. You can apply only once every 12 months for an Iceland long-term visa.
The Iceland long-stay visa also grants you the right to travel within the Schengen Area. However, note that if you come into the country on a long-term visa, you will not be able to legally work.
Schengen visas cost €80.
For a long-term visa, the cost is also around €80. You will also need to pay a visa processing fee of 11,000 ISK (US$87).
For most forms of residence permit, the cost is 15,000 ISK (US$119).
The visa processing time takes on average 14 days. You can obtain your visa through an expedited visa processing service if you pay an additional fee.
The Icelandic authorities advise that you should apply for your visa at least three weeks before you travel.
If you are a member of an EU, EEA or EFTA nation, you will not need a work or residence permit for the first three months of your visit. After that, you will need to formalise your position by registering your address and applying for a tax card with the National Registry, the central body who deal with residence and work issues. You will then be issued with a kennitala – your multipurpose ID number.
If you are not a member of the above group of states, you will have a different status, and must therefore apply to the Directorate of Immigration in addition to the Directorate of Labour. The latter will need to issue you with a work permit before you can legally take up employment.
You can also apply for a working holiday visa if your employment is likely to be for a shorter duration. You will need to apply for both before travelling to Iceland, and note that the country prioritises Icelandic and EU/EEA/EFTA citizens for employment purposes, unless you possess specific professional skills which an Icelandic or EU/EEA employee cannot replicate.
Get Health Insurance
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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Rent Or Buy Property
It has long been the case in Iceland that residents are expected to own property rather than rent. This, naturally, makes rentals difficult to find, particularly for newcomers such as students and expats. The lack of rental properties available is, of course, reflected in their prices, which continue to rise year on year. Reykjavik, in particular, is becoming an increasingly popular place to relocate. As of April 2020, monthly rental prices for the capital are as follows:
• One-bedroom apartment (city centre): 197, 517.24 KR (£1,102.15)
• One-bedroom apartment (outside centre): 161,538.46 KR (£901.38)
• Three-bedroom apartment (city centre): 319,300.00 KR (£1,781.69)
• Three-bedroom apartment (outside centre): 264,296.30 KR (£1,474.51)
Though prices may vary, rent is on average 34.86% higher, across all areas of Iceland, than in the United Kingdom.
Details of properties to rent can be found in local newspapers and advertisements. It is also possible to advertise yourself as an individual or family looking for a place to rent. The Morgunblaðið newspaper’s website is one of the most popular places to find rental properties in Iceland.
Rental agreements can be short- or long-term. Typically, a long-term lease lasts for 12 months. Short-term rentals can vary in length from one week to six months, and are far easier to find than long-term solutions. Whereas long-term rental properties in Iceland are mostly filled by locals and expats, short-term lets are primarily occupied by tourists, so competition may still be fierce during high season.
If you are already working in Iceland, check with your employer before signing a rental agreement, as some will assist with rental costs for immigrants. Either way, insist the contract is translated into English (or your native language) before signing, to ensure you are making a fully informed decision. A translation fee may be applicable, but it is still a service well worth taking advantage of.
Your rental agreement must be in writing, and the tenant should be clear on the notice periods stated for both the tenant and landlord. It would also be wise to ask your landlord about the process for renewing the contract when it expires, particularly if you rely on living in a specific area for work and/or school(s) and need the stability of a long-term lease. There must be a witness present when you and your landlord sign the contract, and the document then needs to be registered with the District Commissioner’s office.
Security deposits are customary and, as in the UK, they will only be returned in full subject to the discretion of the landlord. Any late payment of rent, or damage to the property, will be considered by the landlord when you vacate, and this will affect how much of your deposit is returned to you. The deposit is usually equal to one month’s rent and payable upfront and in cash.
Due to the rental market being so fast-moving, most properties are furnished, including with white goods, furniture, and even smaller items such as kitchen utensils. With so many short-term rentals occupied by tourists, the assumption is that a tenant is likely not to arrive with furnishings. Therefore, unfurnished properties are ordinarily reserved for people buying property.
Buying property remains a popular choice for locals and expats in Iceland. It offers significantly more security than renting and, due to the government’s historical propensity for selling off social housing, there is more opportunity to buy a property than to rent one. The cost of buying property in Reykjavik, as of April 2020, is:
• Per square metre in the city centre: 612,540.34 KR (£3,421.65)
• Per square metre outside the city centre: 461,246.88 KR (£2,576.53)
The easiest way for an immigrant to buy a house is through an estate agent. The fees accrued for the use of an estate agent during a house sale is around 3% of the value of the property. Other associated costs are administration fees, registration fees, and stamp duty. Additionally, mortgage lenders charge upwards of 0.5% of the amount borrowed, and you will need to pay VAT.
Properties for sale are listed online, on estate agent websites, and in newspapers. One of the most popular estate agents in Reykjavik is AS Fasteignasala, with its English-speaking staff and high number of listings.
The first step to buying a property in Iceland, as an expat, is to get proof of your eligibility. If you are from a country that is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), you may buy property in the country providing you have a valid EEA residency permit or are an EEA citizen who lives and works in Iceland. Individuals from countries outside of the EEA must seek permission from the Minister of Justice to purchase property.
Once your eligibility has been confirmed and you have a suitable property in mind, the estate agent must check the data information service (Landskra Fasteigna) to ascertain whether there are any obligations or charges associated with the property.
The fee for this is 550 KR online, or 1000 KR in person. Next, they will draw up a contract for the seller to sign, once the conditions of sale and price have been agreed. The price must be paid in full at the time of signing.
The conditions of the registration of the agreement are as follows:
1. The name of the property must be listed as it is legally registered with the relevant authorities
2. The reference number of the property and the land must be included in the agreement
3. The planning and building societies must have described the property in the agreement
4. The building and land number must be listed with reference to its plots
The new registration of the title of the deeds happens at the Magistrate’s office, once all fees are paid and contracts are signed. This process costs 0.4% of the property valuation, plus 1,350 KR.
The overall process is straightforward and, once you have proved your eligibility to purchase property in Iceland, it’s no more difficult for expats to buy a home than it is for locals.
Move Your Belongings
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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Register For Healthcare
QUICK LINK: Iceland health insurance
If you have information which you feel is useful for the Police in Iceland there is a special number you call to contact the Reykjavík police Tel. +354-569-9020. This number is separate from emergency services numbers. The number to call in Iceland for emergency assistance in the form of police, fire and ambulance services plus rescue services is 112.
Although the number is free to call from any phone or mobile, ambulances require payment due to the lack of paramedics and vehicles so anyone using them must pay in full unless they have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Foreigners from EU/EEA countries will pay the same as an Icelandic resident if they have their EHIC.
Expect to pay in full if you do not have a card or are a native from a country outside of the EU/EAA. Healthcare is administered by the Ministry of Welfare and is paid for by service fees of 15% and taxes of 85%. Iceland operates a Universal Healthcare system in which all residents of legal status have their healthcare paid for by this system. Foreigners who have been resident in Iceland over 6 months regardless of their nationality are entitled to access to this state supplied health care. The standard of healthcare is notably high in Iceland with English being spoken to a high level by many staff. Whilst services are still of a high standard outside of the centre and other cities they are far less prevalent. Be aware if you are traveling far across the country of where the nearest medical centre or hospital is. There is no private healthcare in Iceland.
Healthcare in Iceland can be compartmentalised within four services.
Healthcare clinics (heilsugæslur) are a popular route for locals in Iceland as their prices are lower than going to the hospital. Nurses and qualified practitioners are on duty every day. Such clinics are not places for accident or medical emergencies these should go to the hospital. Local health clinics began opening in the 1970’s and have instilled a policy of patients going to these clinics whether they have a pre booked appointment or not. If you need an appointment do book, but if not you can go and wait to be seen. Here is a link to the Healthcare Centres in Reykjavik.
Teaching Hospitals(kennslusjúkrahús) and University Hospitals(háskólasjúkrahús) and community hospitals are the 3 types of hospitals found in Iceland. Sjúkrahúsið á Akureyri, (Akureyri Hospital) is a teaching hospital which is located in Akureyri and is both specialised and generalised. The National University Hospital of Iceland (LSH) in Reykjavik is by the name a University hospital and is both specialised and general. Most famous is the National University Hospital of Iceland (LSH) in Reykjavik which is a specialised and general hospital. To attend a hospital you must have a medical emergency, or be referred by a doctor. In community hospitals there are emergency wards (Slysadeild) which are open 24 hours a day. Specialised hospitals carry out surgery and give medical care to disease and specific disabilities
Health institutions/centres (heilbrigðisstofnanir) These are district run centres and some are conjoined with local hospitals. These are in charge of home care, child health care, general practice and preventative medicine. Such centres regularly have visits from specialists such as paediatricians, opticians and ear nose and throat specialists. Healthcare centres come in three categories, the first contains nurses, two doctors and administrative staff. The second contains one nurse and doctor and the last has a visiting doctor and nurse or midwife.
Insurance when visiting and or moving to Iceland is very much recommended. If you are not from EU/EAA countries and do not have a EHIC then for your first 6 months in Iceland you are advised to have medical insurance cover in case anything goes wrong. If you do not you can face large medical bills and if you need to return to your birth country, you will need to pay for a flight home when it could be covered with insurance. If you have a EHIC card, you pay the same as the locals in a medical situation but health insurance is still recommended for the first six months just in case you were to require some of the more expensive treatments or more costly procedures
When it comes to smoking, the seller of cigarettes is required to be 18 and the purchaser must be of legal age too. Cigarettes can be bought in convenience and grocery stores and some bars. Most hotels do not allow smoking in their rooms but it is worth checking before you book as they may. The cost of a pack of cigarettes as of 2016 is between 1200.00kr-1500.00kr. An example is a packet of Marlboroughs costing 1228.00kr. Attitudes to smoking are pretty laid back though attention should be paid to peoples right to clean air. When it comes to smoking outside, smokers must find somewhere with adequate ventilation in a public space.
Whilst Iceland is one of the healthiest countries in the world complete with the 7th highest life expectancy on the planet, the citizens also suffer some health issues like anywhere in the western world. Date collected from 2014 shows that the most common health issue is coronary heart disease with it accounting for nearly 20% of total deaths in the country. Iceland has the 4th highest rate of mortality from Alzheimers and Dementia in the world too, with 10.69% of the population succumbing to it. Other common causes of mortality are lung cancers and strokes plus Iceland seems to be number 1 in the world for deaths with lymphoma at 3.36%. The World Health Organisation compiled data from 188 countries recording obesity rates over the period from 1990-2013. It found that Iceland was positioned 21st in the world in terms of adults over the age of 20 years old with a BMI over 25. This puts Iceland above America who were 27th.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though, Icelanders have low mortality rates and extremely low pollution rates and in turn a majority of the country enjoy great health. Icelanders have a rich and varied diet which includes fish high in vitamin D and Omega 3 plus many more vegetables are being eaten on a daily basis than ever before. Icelanders live on average as of 2015 to a fine age of 82.7 years old combining the females average life expectancy (84.1) and for males (81.2). Icelanders generally have long life spans because of the low pollution combined with a diet rich in unadulterated food, water therapy through hot springs and an outdoors lifestyle.
Alcoholics Anonymous House by the Lake
Anonymous International meeting group.
20 Tjarnargata, Reykjavik, Captital Region 101, IS.
Tel: +354 659 7397
Open A Bank Account
In 2008 three of Iceland’s largest banks were nationalised and as a result the 62 billion dollar foreign debt led to their demise causing stock markets to fall, businesses to go bankrupt and foreign investors to leave. Following on from this the 2008 global financial crisis caused the banks to no longer allow lending. Whilst this dramatic turn of events did affect Europe and business relationships in Iceland, the country requested the UK, Belgium and Luxembourg to insure deposits in branches of banks in their countries. Haarde and Gialadottir arranged for a $10 billion bailout to insure Icelands bank deposits from the International Monetary Fund. Now, Iceland has bounced back with rising salaries, a booming tourist industry and the GDP also rising as a result.
The currency in Iceland is the króna and the current currency rate for 1 Krona in Pound Sterling is 0.0079GBP. For the US Dollar it is 0.0089 USD. króna can be found in coins plus denominations of 100kr., 50kr., 10kr., 5kr. and 1kr. In terms of bank notes, they come in denominations of 5000kr., 2000kr.,1000kr., and 500kr. US and UK banks do not have a presence in Iceland after the 2008 financial crash which saw HSBC and Citibank leave the country though their ATM machines remain. If you need to access cash in Iceland there are many ATMs available within Reykjavik and other cities and towns. ATM’s are available 24 hours a day for convenience. There are also 170 banks from which you can withdraw money so accessing funds is never a problem. Typical bank opening hours are weekdays from Monday to Friday 09.15 to 16.00. Do consider if you are located or traveling to somewhere more remote like North Iceland that banking hours particularly in winter maybe reduced.
The local banks in Iceland are Íslandsbanki, Kvika Banki (private), Landsbankinn and Arion Bank and the reserve bank or central bank is the Central Bank of Iceland which is run by an independent administration and is government owned. Currently there are no specific services offered to expats although plenty of banks encourage expats to contact them to discuss options and all of them offer English speaking staff and online banking in English. Below are the main banks who offer online banking in English and other financial services.
Landsbankinn offers savings accounts such as Vaxtareikningur 30, a non-indexed savings account with the interest rate adapting with the account balance total. All savings accounts in Iceland offer good rates of interest, but current accounts have little to none. One available current account is the Vaxtareikningur – Premium Rate Account which offers short term deposits which can be withdrawn after 7 days with high interest on such deposits with no long term commitment. Bank cards and cheque books are issued with savings accounts and current accounts. Other current accounts such as the Kjörbók – Regular savings accounts which are not a fixed term account, do not come with fees and are non indexed. Other services available to customers are overdraft systems, currency exchange, debit cards, credit cards and gift cards plus a specific array of loans.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Email to receive forms and register interest)
Phone: (+354) 410 4000
Arion Bank offers a very wide range of savings accounts with an example being the Óverðtryggður 18 account which has a 4.60% interest rate, is non indexed has no minimum balance and is a useful account to save in for important, larger purchases. Bank cards and cheque books are issued with savings accounts and current accounts. The bank suggests that many of their savings accounts could be of interest to foreign nationals and that their online banking is available in four languages including English. Also suggested would be a Visa debit payment card with contactless payment card and 24 hour online banking. Other services available are pension accounts for those working in Iceland, international currency transactions for receiving funds from abroad and transferring overseas plus a custody account/brokerage account wherein you are able to open an account with Arion Bank without having moved to the country yet.
Phone: (+354) 410 4000
Íslandsbanki offers an extensive list of indexed and non-indexed savings accounts plus a standard current account with card, internet banking and overdraft facility. Bank cards and cheque books are issued with savings accounts and current accounts. It offers accounts for children, a domestic foreign currency account and a retirement account too. The bank also offers loans, mortgages, pensions accounts with no net worth tax, debt relief programmes, online banking in English, currency exchange and debit and credit cards.
Phone:(+354) 440 4000
Anyone moving to Iceland and planning on working there must open a bank account for their salaries to be paid into. It is possible to also have an old bank account from your homeland and maintain it but the charges of depositing money in and withdrawing from a foreign bank account far surpass any reason to do it. The documentation asked for by banks to open an account may vary but generally you will need an Icelandic ID number (kennitala) from the National Registry (þjóðskrá) which some banks can assist you in getting. Also required would be an up to date passport and proof of address such as a copy of your tenancy agreement or alternatively a utility bill. Both savings accounts and current accounts may need deposits although banks can offer savings accounts which do not. It’s best to go into the branch to find out what accounts truly suit your personal needs.
Online banking is the most common way to access bank accounts with 91% of users checking their account this way as of 2015. As we know, it is now common for internet banking to be found in English as well as other languages and for the most part it is well received and with few negative reviews, as is personal banking in general. Icelanders always pay with cards regardless of how small the purchase so it isn’t necessary to keep cheques or cash on you all the time. Along with cheques and credit cards, debit cards are almost always accepted so all you need to do is enter your pin. The most common cards are Visa, Mastercard and Europay.
Applying for an overdraft in Iceland depends on how long you have resided there and the suitability of your credit history. With so much available online via credit checking systems such as Experian and Clearscore individuals can make use of these to demonstrate their credit score when applying for a loan. It is actually the bank and more importantly the bank manager who oversees your application who makes the final decision on whether you get an overdraft. Make an appointment so that the bank can assess your personal circumstances and bring with you as much information as you can to support your claims that you are reliable with money. Consider an overdraft if you plan on paying with cheques as this can cover customers from incurring fines for returned cheques due to insufficient funds being in your account. As a result of going into the red you may find your account frozen or suspended.
Bank led loans for expats in Iceland aren’t as common as one would hope but banks certainly consider applications and often do now lend to customers. You usually need to be a customer of the bank already and have had some time with the bank so they can see how you work financially. The typical types of loans available generally as listed via Arion Bank are property loans, vehicle financing, student support loans and computer loans. When deciding on the loan you need it’s important to book an appointment to talk to someone face to face about your options. You’ll need to come prepared, ready to represent yourself and your job too if you have one. The bank needs to know they are investing well in a customer who will be trustworthy. It’s important to know what you want, what you need the loan for and have some solid information to back it up with, make sure you arrive informed.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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Learn The Language
Iceland is a reassuring country to visit if you are English-speaking: a large percentage of the population speaks English and you should have few difficulties making yourself understood across the country. However, you may also wish to learn some Icelandic whilst you are resident here. We will look at some of your options below.
Icelandic itself has Indo-European roots. The language is a North Germanic one, related to Norwegian and Faroese (it is linguistically closer to the latter) with some influences from Gaelic – the early tongue that was spoken here in ancient times. Icelandic is the official language of the island, and Icelandic Sign Language also has an official place here.
Historically, however, despite competing with Danish for a short time, Iceland has been linguistically homogenous, due to its small population and remoteness, and it has changed so little since the 12th century that modern Icelanders can read old texts, such as the sagas, with relatively little difficulty. It retained Old Scandinavian grammar, but a language movement in the 19th century standardised it. It now has some loan words from Celtic, Latin, Danish, and Roma languages, but overall has remained remarkably constant down the centuries. Around 93% of the population currently speak it.
However, the use of English is widespread across Iceland. It is the lingua franca of commerce and if you are working in a company based in the country you should have little difficulty in conversing with your colleagues in your native tongue. Scandinavians generally tend to speak good English and you will find that the Icelanders are no exception. English is compulsory in schools from the age of 7/8 and English-language media is common in the country, and undubbed. You will therefore find that Icelanders tend to have a good understanding of some British and American cultural norms as well.
Danish, German, Lithuanian and Polish are also spoken, mainly within the relevant expat communities.
Realistically, you do not need to learn Icelandic; you will be able to negotiate your life in the country with just speaking English. However, it is always polite to try to master a few phrases in your host language, wherever you are, and Iceland is no exception. People will appreciate that you have made the effort, especially as Icelandic is held to be one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn. Some basic phrases might include:
• meet and greet
• days of the week/months of the year
• shopping and food-related vocabulary, including eating out
• some basic medical vocabulary (e.g. asking for a doctor’s appointment)
• some basic banking vocabulary (e.g. opening a bank account)
If you are linguistically-inclined, or have an interest in Icelandic literature, there are opportunities to learn the language when you are on the ground, or before you arrive. The University of Iceland runs an online language programme, Icelandic Online, but also offers more intensive courses such as a full BA programme in Icelandic as a second language, and a shorter practical Icelandic for International Students course.
The University of Akureyri also offers a 6ECTS course every semester in Icelandic for its international degree-seeking students and exchange students. The focus is on provision of a comprehensive insight into the Icelandic language, particularly with regard to written and spoken Icelandic.
The learning centre of Mímir Símenntun also offers courses in Icelandic at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels for foreigners throughout the year.
The Árni Magnússon Institute organises international summer courses in modern Icelandic and Icelandic culture in July every year. This is open to anyone but it primarily intended towards university students of languages and literature. Along with the University of Iceland and the University of Minnesota, it also offers a joint course to students in North America, which consists of three weeks taught at UoM and then three weeks of tuition at the University of Iceland.
The Snorri Programme is for young people of Icelandic descent living in North America. Students learn Icelandic language, history and culture and part of the intention is to strengthen ties with relatives in Iceland.
The University Center of the Westjfords hold summer schools in Ísafjörður and Núpur, of varying lengths and levels:
Beginners A1-A2: a three-week course designed to meet the needs of students who want to learn Icelandic and experience life in a small Icelandic town.
Crash Course A1: a one-week course in Ísafjörður held three times a year, in winter, spring and summer. It is designed for students who want a short, intense instruction in Icelandic language before going on to study In Iceland.
Intermediate A2-B1: a two-week course designed for students who already have a basic knowledge of Icelandic and wish to improve it.
Advanced B2: Two one-week courses which emphasise special advanced Icelandic skills which students can combine and take both courses if they wish, or just choose one. These courses are designed for prior learners of Icelandic.
There are English teaching jobs available in Iceland, if you have the relevant qualifications. You will need at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or in summer schools. Salaries are quoted on average as being US$1500 – 3000 per month, but the cost of living in Iceland is comparatively expensive as compared to other European countries.
Translating and interpreting work is likely to be competitive given the high standard of English among Icelanders.
Choose A School
In educational terms, the Icelandic system is fairly small, but also very highly rated. Literacy rates here are amongst the highest in the world, at around 99%. Iceland ranks well above average amongst OECD reporting countries on the percentage of GDP spent on education, at over 5.5%, and the nation’s PISA rating is very close to the world average.
State education in Iceland is well established and well regulated. It is controlled by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, which provides almost all schooling in Iceland. Although their number is slowly growing, there are still very few private schools here, as might be expected given the small population.
State education is conducted in Icelandic throughout, but the Latin alphabet is used (with a few additional accented letters), removing at least one stumbling block for expat children who may wish to enter the system. If your child needs Icelandic language training to be able to attend state school, this can be organised locally (typically about 70 hours would be required from scratch), and extra support can be continued at school as necessary.
Several languages are generally taught throughout the system, including English, often to a remarkably high level of fluency.
School tuition is provided totally free in Iceland, and is compulsory for all children from ages 6 to 16.
Day centre based pre-school/kindergarten is available but not compulsory. Parents will be charged fees.
Basic education (grunnskóli) is divided into three levels (often in the same building throughout):
• primary school covers ages 6 – 13
• lower secondary school runs from ages 14 – 16
• upper secondary education runs from ages 16 – 19 or 20
This is divided into three streams:
• Gymnasium – academic stream aimed at matriculation and university entry exams
• Industrial/vocational – focusing on qualifications necessary to enter commerce or industry
• Specialized vocational – for specific trades or careers, where the duration of tuition will depend on the profession or occupation chosen
For those attending vocational colleges or taking apprenticeships, there is also the chance of further advancement through technical colleges, and there are institutions for many professions such as teaching.
Those who achieve sufficient academic grades at upper secondary school may choose to go on to university or college. The University of Iceland caters for 14,000 students, and runs on the familiar three level model – BA/BSc, MA, PhD. Technical colleges and specialized institutions are available for those who may not achieve the grades necessary to go to university.
Homeschooling is permissible in Iceland, but only if at least one parent is a registered teacher, which in practice means numbers are tiny, and local support is minimal. It is administered through the local municipality, which must be contacted as soon as possible if you choose this route. Activities and sports will be your responsibility.
The few private schools in Iceland, offering tuition at the various levels, must adhere very closely to state curriculum standards and regulations. They will generally provide additional classes and activities depending on the philosophy of the individual school.
There are also a handful of fee-paying international schools in Reykjavik, catering more specifically for expat children of all ages. A couple offer day care for infants, but separate pre-school kindergarten (ages 3-6) is also available privately.
Here are some of the international schools and facilities available:
• International School of Iceland, Garobaer (English or bilingual, international primary curriculum, kindergarten to seventh grade, with Icelandic culture and history lessons)
• The International Department of Landakotsskoli, Reykjavik (English, Cambridge International School curriculum, various languages offered, to IGCSE level, Kindergarten – 10th grade)
• Reykjavik International School (English, NEASC accredited, Ministry regulated, full international curriculum, with additional Icelandic studies)
• Mentaskollin, Hamrahlid (international curriculum, with IBDP currently at diploma level only for prospective university candidates)
Extra-curricular activities will vary considerably, and need to be ascertained from the individual school. Demand for places at international schools is always high, and it is important to contact the school of your choice as early as possible. Fees will also be quite substantial, and it is always important to read the small print – additional expenses can mount up – for example many schools have additional contributary capital funds for improvements/repairs.