Updated: Jan 25
When the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano erupted back in 2010 it veritably catapulted Iceland into the public consciousness. Of course, most people had a vague idea of the country before then. But it was relatively quiet on the tourism front. All this was set to change though. This enormous eruption was worldwide news. The volcanic dust clouds literally grounded flights right across Europe for nearly a week! Suddenly Iceland was on the travel radar. What was this wild place with active volcanoes, vast glaciers and the Midnight Sun?
Since then travel to Iceland has exploded (excuse the pun). Thankfully it is very easy for most people to enter Iceland visa-free. In this article, we delve a little deeper into the details. We will look at the entry requirements for Iceland and discuss who does need a visa to travel to Iceland.
We will also take a little look at the Schengen Visa and also how working visas function in Iceland. You don't want to have any last-minute surprises when arriving at the airport in Iceland, right? Let's dive right in!
Who can travel to Iceland visa-free?
Travellers from the EU, EEA, the USA, Canada and Australia are all permitted to enter Iceland visa free. They are then allowed to travel freely for up to 90 days. Each passport should be valid for at least three months. Visitors from the US, Canada and Australia should also have an onward travel ticket upon arrival.
Who does need a visa to enter Iceland?
Most other citizens outside of Europe, Canada, the US and Australia will need to complete the tourist visa application process. For a comprehensive list of these countries please visit the Directorate of Immigration. This website also covers full information on the process and what each citizen will need in order to apply. Many of the countries listed do not have an official Icelandic Embassy. Instead, those wishing to travel can apply for a visa via another embassy representing Iceland in their country.
The main requirements are proof of medical insurance, sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. To complete the application form visitors may also need a letter of invitation. This depends on the nature of their visit. If visiting family then there should be proof of a family connection. If travelling on business a letter of invitation from an Iceland based business is required. Similarly if travelling for academic reasons there should be a letter of invitation from an institution. If the traveller plans to visit Iceland on vacation then a hotel or travel company can issue a letter.
Is Iceland a member state of the Schengen area?
Yes it is. Iceland signed the Schengen Agreement back in 2001. The Schengen Area includes over 25 countries in Europe from Scandinavia to Southern Europe. Schengen countries allow their citizens to travel across member state borders with just a photo ID. Travellers from outside of the area are able to apply for a Schengen visa for travel. This makes sense for those who would like to travel to several countries within the area that requires visas. To apply they need to fill out a visa application detailing their reasons for travel. They will also need to submit information and proof of their planned date of departure from the Schengen area.
How do working visas function in Iceland?
Actually members of the EU and the EEA can officially work in Iceland. These citizens can stay in Iceland for 90 days and work as they travel. This is great news for those who are time-rich but a little short on funds. These lucky travellers can spend a full three months experiencing Iceland. They will be able to pick up casual shifts or work for a few weeks then travel. This is an excellent way to get to know the country. It gives people the chance to see if they would like to stay longer and then apply for an official working visa.
Is there much work available in Iceland and if so what kind?
There is actually a lot of seasonal work available in Iceland. The country has a famously small population so many people have 2-3 jobs! In the summer high season from June to August there is a huge influx of tourists. This means that the catering and hospitality industries always need positions filled. You might find work as a driver or a tour guide if you know the country already. Or if you are new to Iceland then bar work, waiting and hotel work are all a good bet.
None of the above jobs require you to be able to speak Icelandic. But remember that a little effort to learn a few words can go a long way. Some people might arrange work before they get there. Setting up a full three-month placement in one location, getting to know an area and travelling on days off. While others might wing it and just turn up and ask around. If you are from outside of the EU or the EEA then you will need to have arranged a full-time job with sponsorship in order to apply for a work visa.
What to do if you want to stay longer?
Three months might well not be enough for you. If you would like to stay on in Iceland beyond the initial three months then this can be arranged relatively easily. You will need the offer of a full-time job that allows you to support yourself in the country. After that, it is a reasonably simple process of applying for a tax card. This card will then allow you to access public services including health care.