Updated: Apr 28
So you’re thinking about moving to Iceland? Good call. In this post we will give you an introduction to finding work in Iceland. We will look at who can freely come and work here in Iceland, covering visa requirements and residency permits. We will also look at the types of work you could do and how to go about beginning your job search.
Living and working in a whole new country may feel like a daunting prospect. But the rewards are huge. You will have the excitement of meeting new people and discovering a fascinating new culture too. Then there is that real sense of pride and achievement once you have navigated the path. Visiting a country and living there are two very different experiences. Time spent getting to know somewhere slowly from the inside reveals so much more cultural richness. If you love visiting Iceland, you are going to adore living here. Just put one foot in front of the other, put a smile on your face and the rest will take care of itself.
Can I legally work in Iceland?
Citizens from the European Union or EEA countries are entitled to live and work in Iceland for a period of 90 days without a work permit. After that they will need to apply for an official tax card. This useful card entitles the holder to access all public services, from the health care system to libraries. If you have a steady job and can prove that you can comfortably support yourself in Iceland, then you should be granted a tax card without trouble. Those from countries outside of the EU or EEA should contact their closest Icelandic embassy for further information. But it is worth noting that it is a great deal more complicated and quite a lengthy process for citizens outside of the EU/EEA to achieve a work permit for Iceland. You should visit the Icelandic government website for further details.
What are the most common jobs in Iceland?
Iceland has all sorts of jobs on offer right across a variety of very different sectors. However, the most common jobs are certainly in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Tourism has skyrocketed in Iceland over the last decade and now accounts for around 30% of the country’s GDP. In response to this increase in tourism a multitude of shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels have opened up to cater to all these new visitors. If you have experience in the customer service sector then you should have no trouble finding work, especially during high season. The high season in Iceland corresponds with the summer months of June to August. However, despite being busier at this time of year tourism is a year-round business in Iceland.
Related jobs in the tourism sector include marketing, driving and tour guiding, among many, many more. Who knows you could find yourself driving people in search of the Northern Lights or even becoming a tour guide to Iceland. Even if these are not your desired fields of work, they can be great stepping-stones to other work. Think of them as something to get you started in the country, meeting people and settling into life in Iceland.
Another important industry in Iceland is fishing. This accounts for upwards of 10% of Iceland’s GDP and 40% of its exports. Fisheries can be an interesting field to get into, but be aware that the fishing industry is not suited to all. It involves physical outdoor work often in some quite extreme conditions. Some people might well be up for the challenge, and it would certainly yield some interesting adventures.
How to find work in Iceland?
This depends on how quickly you need to find work and the sector you would like to work in. Your best bet is to do a little online research before you arrive. Have a look at online jobs boards or contact friends, or even friends of friends who you know in Iceland. Get your CV updated and maybe print out some copies to take with you.
For more casual work once you’ve arrived in Iceland good old word of mouth works well. Another avenue is to pick up the local newspaper and browse the listings. You can also simply ask around, look for ‘help needed’ signs in windows or pop into bars and restaurants to leave a copy of your CV.
Do I need to speak Icelandic?
You don’t have to speak Icelandic to get a job in the country, but it will be a far richer experience for you if you have a go. Nearly all of Icelandic people speak English, so you can certainly get by without a word of the language. If you are looking for work in the tourism sector then the most useful language is generally English. It can be quite a challenge to learn a whole new language and admittedly Icelandic is one of the more tricky languages to learn. It is quite a tonal language and there are many sounds that are challenging to get the hang of. It is a fun challenge though and you will be rewarded with a whole new insight into the country and its people.
What are my chances of finding a job in Iceland?
All in all, pretty good! The unemployment rate in Iceland is very low. In fact with such a small population (around 340,000) good workers are positively in demand. Much of the tourism industry centres around the capital city of Reykjavik. This is where the majority of the population lives and where nearly all visitors to Iceland will spend a few days at least. Having said that, there are many small tourism operations all over the country, including around the popular Golden Circle and ring road routes. These more distant villages and towns all need people to work in their hotels and restaurants. Getting to know small town Iceland will be whole other experience. Good luck and enjoy the ride!