Iceland Post Study Work Visa – How to Get a Work Visa for Iceland
Iceland is physically isolated from the neighbouring landmasses of mainland Europe and Greenland. Iceland is in the north of the Atlantic Ocean and east of Greenland and just touches the Arctic Circle. The country showcases a stunning nature with its waterfalls, mountains, volcanoes, fjords, northern lights, glaciers and incredible seaside.
Iceland has a free-market economy with relatively low corporate taxes compared to other OECD countries, while maintaining a Nordic welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens.
Iceland may not be the popular choice when studying abroad nevertheless you will be surprised with what the Universities in the country can offer. That topic deserves a whole other post and this article will discuss your options once you have decided to study in Iceland. The next big decision you need to make is if you will stay in the country after completing your studies.
We hope that this post will help you determine your next step to advance your career. You can also check out your post-study work options in Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom and the other EU countries to help you decide the final path you want to take.
Working in Iceland can be a challenge for some. The country was hit hard during the global financial crisis in 2008 and, while its economic conditions have improved, it is not yet in the same position it once was. Although opportunities exist.
The largest sectors in Iceland are manufacturing, fishing, and tourism. All three of the major sectors are vital contributors to the economy. Other sectors are also open which include but are not limited to finance, business management, creative arts and design, energy and utilities, engineering, and law.
While the summer is bright and seemingly everlasting, the winter months are dark, and freezing. These are the aspects you have to keep in mind if you want to work in outdoor pursuits like construction, tour guiding, agriculture, forestry, or transportation.
Majority of Icelanders speak English making your transition in the country a lot easier. However, Icelandic is the main language and learning the local language will help you get a job, make friends, and really learn about the culture.
Icelandic is widely perceived as one of the more difficult languages to pick up for native English speakers so your effort to learn the language will go a long way and demonstrate your commitment when you face prospective employers and it is also a requirement if you want to apply for a permanent residence in the country. You should consider making this a priority if you plan to stay long-term.
Iceland is heavily integrated into the European Union via the European Economic Area and the Schengen Agreement, despite its status as a non-EU Schengen country. The requirement for a visa and work permit depends on your citizenship. Students of EU/EEA member states do not need permits but non-EU/EEA students do.
EU/EEA students do not need a residence and a work permit and may stay in Iceland for up to three months without registering. To stay longer than three months, EU/EEA nationals must register their right to stay in Iceland with Registers Iceland.
All non-EU/EEA students are required to obtain a residence and a work permit to stay in Iceland after completing their studies. You need to apply through Iceland Directorate of Immigration (DOI). The processing time may vary so you should prepare all documents as fast as possible.
The residence permit you need to apply for must be in accordance with the purpose of your stay in Iceland. So what are your Iceland post study work visa options?
The three types of work permits available.
- Qualified Professionals – Requires vocational training at a University level or to an approved technical standard. The training must rectify what is lacking in Icelandic labor; applicants must prove that they alone can do their job better than an Icelander or EEA citizen.
- Athletes- Iceland grants visas to athletes and coaches belonging to National Olympic teams or clubs under the Sporting Association of Iceland.
- Temporary Shortage of Laborers – A field lacking in Icelandic or EEA employment can open up the possibility of temporary work permits, though applicants can only renew these once.
Graduate Looking for Employment – Iceland Post Study Work Visa
Non-EU/EEA students who completed their university studies in Iceland, may be renewed for up to six (6) months from the date of graduation in order for the graduate to look for employment in the respective field of expertise.
You need to prepare the following documents:
- Application Form
- Photocopy of valid passport (must be valid at least 90 days beyond the period of validity of the residence permit. You need the personal information page and the page containing the applicant’s signature)
- University Graduation certificate (confirmed copy of the graduation certificate from a university)
* Additional documentation that may be submitted
The processing time varies and you need to submit your application at least four weeks before your current student permit expires. You need to have a valid residence permit to stay legally in Iceland and this may also affect your application.
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Temporary Residence Permits based on work
Once you have been offered a binding contract, you can apply for the next applicable residence permit.
You will be eligible for a residence permit based on work if you meet the following conditions.
- You are older than 18 years,
- have found a job and are able to submit a signed employment contract,
- can prove that you are able to provide for yourself during your stay,
- you have a valid insurance
- have not served a criminal sentence abroad during the last five (5) years or been sentenced by a court of law for an offence which would be punishable by more than three (3) months imprisonment, according to Icelandic law, and
- have a passport valid at least 90 days beyond the estimated period of residence permit.
Temporary permit for work requiring Expert Knowledge
A temporary work permit may be issued for a specific position in Iceland when the job requires specialist knowledge (specialist license). This Iceland post study work visa permit may be granted for up to two years, however, not longer than the period of validity of the work permit. Once granted, you will be entitled to bring your family members with you on the grounds of family reunification.
The following conditions for the job should be met:
- That the foreign national has entered into a contract of employment with the employer to fill a specific position that requires expert knowledge provided that this is not a temporary work project,
- That the expert knowledge of the foreign national is essential for the relevant company, and
- that the expert knowledge of the foreign national connotes an education from a university, trade school, an art school, or a technical education that is recognised in Iceland, or in exceptional circumstances that the foreigner possesses a long work experience that can be equated to expert knowledge.
- An application for a specialist license must be submitted to the Directorate of Immigration including the necessary supporting documents.
The following are the required documents:
- Original copy of the application for a temporary work permit for a job that requires expert knowledge.
- A formal statement from a trade union entered on the application must be obtained before the application is returned (box IV in the application).
- Both the foreign national and the employer need to sign the application.
- A contract of employment between a foreign national and an employer with the following information:
- Information about the prospective job of the foreigner with the employer.
- Information about a pension fund to be paid into with respect to the work of the foreigner.
- The foreign national’s terms of employment must be similar to the terms of employment of other specialists that work in the relevant sector.
- Certified copy of the foreign national’s diploma in Icelandic or English.
- If the foreign national’s expert knowledge is based on a lengthy work experience the application must be accompanied by information about earlier workplaces and period of service.
- Information about the attempts by the employer to hire an employee who already has access to the Icelandic job market before searching outside the EEA for employees, or if this was not done, the reasoning for this having not been done before searching for employees outside the EEA.
- Confirmation that the employer will pay for the return travel of the foreign national at the end of the period of service if the contract of employment is terminated due to causes not the fault of the employee, or if a foreigner becomes disabled for a long time because of illness or accident. It must be specified to which country the return travel extends.
This residence permit may be renewed for two years at a time provided the conditions of the permit are still being met, however, not longer than the period of validity of the work permit. You can use this permit as a basis for a permanent residence permit.
You must remember that the permit is tied with the employer and if there are any changes on your work status, a separate work permit is needed. You cannot stay in another country longer than three (3) months in every 12-month period of the residence permit period, otherwise the residence permit may be cancelled or revoked
Temporary work permit based on Shortage of workers
A residence permit based on a shortage of labour may be granted when employees cannot be found either on the Icelandic labour market or within the EEA/EFTA member states or the Faroe Islands. This Iceland post study work visa permit may be granted for up to one (1) year, however, not longer than the period of validity of the work permit.
To apply, you need to prepare the following documents:
- Necessary documentation with an application for a work permit due to labour shortage
- Original copy of an application for a temporary work permit due to labour shortage signed by you and your employer.
- It is necessary to obtain a statement from a Union before returning the application form
- A Contract of Employment between the foreign national and the employer where the following information must be included:
- Information about the foreign national’s expected job for the employer.
- Information about the pension fund to be paid into with respect to the work of the foreigner.
- The foreign national’s terms of employment must be compliant with current wage agreements.
- Information about the attempts made by the employer to hire an employee who already has access to the Icelandic labour market before searching for personnel outside of the EEA.
- Confirmation that the employer will pay for the return travel of the foreign national at the end of the period of service if the contract of employment is terminated due to causes not the fault of the employee, or if the foreign national becomes disabled for a long time because of illness or accident. It must be specified to which country the return travel extends.
This residence permit may be renewed for up to one (1) year at a time, provided the conditions of the permit are still being met. Although you cannot bring your family members with you under this permit however the time spent in the country with this permit can be used as a basis for a permanent residence permit.
With this type of permit, you cannot stay outside the country for longer than 3 months within a 12 month period otherwise your permit may be revoked.
Long Term Visa
A long-term visa is granted to third country nationals who wish to stay in Iceland longer than 90 days and whose purpose does not belong to the categories under the temporary residence permit.
Recently, the Icelandic government has announced that they will allow remote workers to stay in the country as long as they meet the financial requirements. Third country nationals can stay for an additional 6 months with this permit.
To apply, you must prepare the following documents:
- Application form for a long-term visa
- Copies of valid passport
- Passport size photo (35mmX45mm) not older than six months.
- Documents confirming the purpose of the stay in Iceland
- Documents confirming that you are able to support yourself financially during the stay in Iceland (monthly income of 1,000,000 ISK )
- Confirmation of health insurance for the duration of the stay.
- Return ticket or proof of the applicant’s ability to pay for his travel back to the home country.
- If deemed necessary, the Directorate of Immigration may ask for a criminal record check.
Permanent Residence Permit
Generally, third country nationals are eligible for a permanent residence permit if they lived in Iceland consecutively for four years with a residence permit that could be the basis of a permanent residence permit.
As a student who has graduated from a University in Iceland, you are eligible for a permanent residence permit after a minimum of two years of temporary residence permit.
You are eligible for a reduced number of years if the total of uninterrupted stay with your student residence permit and temporary work residence permit exceeds four years. A stay is considered consecutive if you have not stayed outside of Iceland for more than 90 days per year based on the residence permit’s period of validity.
You also need to attend a language course in Icelandic for foreigners for at least 150 lessons and pass the assessment.
A permanent residence permit entitles you the right to a permanent stay in Iceland with unlimited work permit and may work or change work without applying at the Directorate of Labor. The permanent residence permit allows a stay abroad for up to 18 months over a four year (4) period, without the permit becoming invalid and may affect your citizenship application.
To apply, you must prepare the following documents:
- Application for a permanent residence permit,
- Photocopy of valid passport.
- Documents on support, including income-tax payment overviews for the last 12 months, employment contract or other documents showing secure support.
- Confirmed copies of recent years’ tax-return forms, i.e. in accordance with the time requirements that apply to the applicant.
- Original certificate on an Icelandic-language course, stating that the applicant has completed at least 150 lessons with 85% class attendance
This is the last step of getting an Iceland post-study work visa. Third-country nationals are eligible for citizenship after seven years of uninterrupted residence in Iceland. If you married an Icelandic national then the residence requirement is reduced to three years. As of 2003, Iceland has allowed dual citizenship so you must check your home country if they allow the same.
Are you ready to explore your options in Iceland? Comment below.
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