How To Move to Iceland [Learn the Steps]

Iceland is among the happiest countries in the world, primarily because of widespread tolerance, high standards of living, socio-political stability, and excellent weather.

Many people are considering moving to Iceland, but the process isn’t easy. 

To move to Iceland, people need to apply for a residence permit. Individuals must prove that they have secured employment in the country and have a place to stay.

Submission of criminal records, health insurance, and medical examination reports is also necessary. 

Residence permit requests are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Having proof of a job with a signed employment contract is essential for most people who want to move to Iceland permanently.

The Directorate of Immigration handles all applications. [1]

Also, see What Is There To Do In Iceland? to learn more.

What Are the First Steps to Moving to Iceland?

Moving to and living in Iceland is a process, and this process varies depending on where people are originally from.

Individuals from countries in the European Union (EU) or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) have different steps than people from other countries. 

The first steps to moving to Iceland involve getting a job and housing in Iceland.

Then individuals must register with Registers Iceland if they plan to stay for more than three months.

EEA/EFTA residents may live in Iceland for up to six months without a permit.  

Employers are expected to apply for residence permits on behalf of their employees.

They must demonstrate a labor shortage in their field and that the individual they are sponsoring is the best fit for the role for the permit to be granted. 

There are four categories of residence permits in Iceland: qualified professionals, athletes, a situation involving employee shortage, and collaboration.[2]

The basic requirements to gain a permit include:

  • A valid passport
  • A mandatory medical examination
  • Criminal records
  • A secure income source for at least three months

These permits are issued for one year, and permanent residence permits are issued to individuals who have lived in Iceland for a minimum of four years. 

Work prospects in Iceland vary, with the aging population opening up opportunities for foreign nationals in growing sectors like manufacturing, healthcare, IT, and tourism. 

Apart from confirmed employment, residence permits may be granted to people looking to reunite with family members in Iceland, study in Iceland, or seek asylum.

Other reasons residence permits may be extended include au-pair placement, volunteering, special ties to Iceland, and other special purposes. [3]

The requirements for these vary. All individuals who want to move to Iceland should check the documentation details and other requirements on the Directorate of Immigration of Iceland website. 

Residence permits processing fees are about 15-45 ISK, depending on whether the request is for a regular or expedited processing time. [4]

Also, see What Is Iceland Known For? to learn more.

What’s Hard About Moving to Iceland?

While Iceland is a wonderful country with a growing economy that is open to immigrants, it isn’t always easy to move.

There are several difficulties with moving to Iceland, especially for people who aren’t from EEA/EFTA countries. 

Finding a good job is one of the hardest parts of moving to Iceland. Despite the many employment opportunities, most are for entry-level or lower-end positions.

The cost of living also makes it hard to move to Iceland, compounded by the high taxes applied to sustain the island. 

A signed employment contract is essential to securing a work permit and a residence permit in Iceland unless individuals qualify for the other categories of residence permit applications.

Finding a job that pays for the high cost of living and offers a sustainable income is more difficult. 

Most people find that Iceland is always looking to fill positions across industries like IT, tourism, and healthcare.

However, most available positions are lower-end positions, or even entry-level, which also means that they pay less. 

Iceland’s high cost of living also makes it difficult to move.

Rents can be prohibitive, and resources are scarce on land as the country is an island requiring a lot of imports.

To offset import duties, prices of food, drink, and other products are marked up. 

Taxes are also very high. Citizens of Iceland enjoy a high standard of living, including several social, health, and educational benefits offered by the government.

However, the price of enjoying these facilities is a high tax rate that applies to all individuals living in the country. 

Also, see What is the Egtved Girl? to learn more.

Does Iceland Welcome Foreigners?

The number of foreign nationals living in Iceland has been increasing steadily since the 2000s. Over 22,744 foreigners were living in the country in 2015. [5]

The increase in foreign nationals has resulted in integration issues despite Iceland’s general reputation as a friendly country.  

Iceland welcomes foreigners, and the government plans to help foreigners integrate easily. Most Icelanders agree that foreigners have a positive impact on society.

Immigrants find that while Iceland is welcoming, it is difficult to make deeper connections in the country. 

75% of Icelanders agree that foreigners have positively impacted Icelandic society, and most have welcomed at least one foreigner into their homes. [6]

You can learn more about Icelanders by reading this article about how friendly Icelanders are

However, more comprehensive integration plans are required to help foreign nationals and immigrants fit into and participate in Icelandic societies.

Foreigners find it difficult due to the high cost of living and tend to make less money annually than the national average. 

The difficulty lies primarily in jobs available in the country, mostly low-end jobs that naturally have lower wages.

The immigration policies for foreign nationals, especially from non-EEA/EFTA countries, are notoriously difficult, though fairly clear-cut on paper. 

The wage discrepancy means that many foreigners and immigrants find it difficult to devote time to their personal lives and enjoy their life in Iceland.

Language barriers also play an important role as many foreign nationals find that Icelandic people are more comfortable in their language. 

The language barrier prevents foreigners from making deeper connections and integrating into friend groups, making language education an important aspect that needs attention. 


Finding a job is the first step to moving to Iceland, but it’s difficult, even though Iceland welcomes foreigners and has many opportunities. 

Also, see How To Move To Denmark? to learn more.

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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