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Moving to Iceland: The Ultimate Guide for Those Taking the Leap

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Moving to another country can be challenging. There’s so much you don’t know and so much to learn about the place you’ll call home soon. If you are planning on moving to Iceland, this article serves as a guide to make the switch a little easier.

Did you know that moving has been rated as one of the most stressful life events that could ever occur to you? Even more stressful than a breakup or a divorce! But moving to Iceland should be the exciting adventure it’s supposed to be, so to aid your big move, we’ve compiled a few tips and tricks and helpful advice to find your way much easier. So, without further ado, let’s dive in!

Moving to Iceland

Moving to Iceland – Making the Choice

Whether you’re moving to Iceland from the US, Europe, or other parts of the world, there are a few basic decisions to make and some admin prepping to do before relocating to Iceland can officially begin.

Top reasons for moving to Iceland

There are many reasons why people opt for migration to Iceland which include the following:

The Scenery

Iceland offers some of the most beautiful landscapes and magnificent views you’ll ever experience in your life. From volcanoes, glaciers, and mountains to waterfalls, fjords, and the seaside – Iceland has got it all and then some!

The Water

You can throw away any previous affinity for bottled water because you will never be able to get the kind of water quality that Iceland gives you. And this straight from the tap! That’s because of the endless supply of high-quality cold and hot water the island has to offer in the form of hot springs and (quite literally) ice-cold glaciers.

The Air

Have you ever heard of a country where the majority of its pollution consists of things such as fireworks over the Christmas season? Taking a breath of fresh, clean air is the order of the day in Iceland.

The Life Quality

Except for what the island itself offers in terms of activities, safety, etc. it also offers financial sustainability. Many visitors comment about the high prices in Iceland, but locals can actually afford them. Irrelevant to gender, you will be receiving a high salary. You’ll also receive certain trade union refunds and extra cash for the winter and summer holidays.

Salary in Iceland

The Connectivity

You would think that an island this remote and largely unpopulated would have some internet connectivity issues, but except for a few really remote spots, the internet connection works great all over.

The Sustainability

If you ever wonder about a post-apocalyptic scenario; Iceland probably offers the best one. Hot & cold water, electricity – it all comes from natural sources and uses sustainable resources such as hydroelectric power plants.

The People

The Icelanders are known for their friendliness and politeness. And when it comes to acceptance and understanding, they rank as some of the world’s top people with a wonderful sense of community.

There are plenty more reasons why people make the move to Iceland, but it’s important that you make it for the right reasons and thoroughly do your research beforehand.

Requirements to move to Iceland

Although it’s true that those from the EU countries generally get an easier “in”, there’s no reason why moving to Iceland from America, for example, won’t be possible. All you need to do is do your research on the different types of immigration and which will suit you best. Then you’ll need to complete the applicable residence application accompanied by all the necessary documentation and submit them to the authorities.

The requirements to move to Iceland will differ based on the relocation route you’re taking. This could include marrying an Icelander, being a student or working for an Icelandic company.

Iceland Visa Requirements

The Different Visa Requirements

As mentioned, there are a few different visa routes to take. You might qualify for more than one, in which case we recommend you do thorough research into which one best suits your needs (every visa has its own pros and cons). Here are a few of the visas, along with their requirements and limitations:

If a parent has been an Icelandic resident for at least 5 years, their children can apply for residency after they’ve stayed in the country for at least 2 years consecutively. In order to apply, you will need to prove that you can afford to support yourself during the time that you’ll still be job hunting.

A spouse can apply for residency once they have married an Icelandic citizen and have stayed in the country for at least 5 years consecutively. Your spouse will need to prove that they’ll be able to financially support you for a certain number of months that you will not be allowed to work. They’ll also need to be able to take care of you when you can finally go out looking for a job.

If you have been born in Iceland and have a parent who is a permanent resident, you will also be eligible to apply for your residency permit. Once again, you’ll need to be able to support yourself financially for a certain time after arrival.

A student who has been staying in Iceland for more than 4 years consecutively with a student visa, can apply for residency. Finances will once again play a role.

Individuals with a signed employment contract with an Icelandic company can apply for a work permit which also gives them temporary residency status. Their residency will be tied to that specific position and company. In other words, once they leave that job, they will need to find another job in a certain period of time and get a new work permit or face deportation.

Things to Know Before Moving to Iceland

If you are thinking to yourself, “I want to move to Iceland” there are probably a few things to know first before you start packing your bags.

The Weather

There is a reason why the locals say you can experience all 4 seasons in a day. The weather in Iceland is fickle. It also goes without saying that if you’re someone that doesn’t do well with cold, Iceland should probably not be on your migration top 3 list.

The Icelandic winds are also something to get used to. When these start howling up to 24 kilometers an hour, it not only can make life uncomfortable, but basic things such as driving can be quite challenging.

Then in the summer months, there is almost no darkness during nighttime. This can really mess with certain individuals’ sleeping patterns. So before you start moving from the US to Iceland or from another part of the world to Iceland, you need to ensure that you will be able to live in a place with such extreme and changing weather.

Brace Yourself for the Costs Involved

Moving to another country always has a lot of costs involved and the cost of moving to Iceland is no different. There will be administrative costs involved with your visa and other paperwork, and the move itself will cost you if you are planning on relocating with all your personal effects. And you’ll also need to be prepared for the cost of living.

As we already touched on, Iceland is quite an expensive country and even though salaries are good and people can afford it, it can be a shock on the system when you’re just starting out. The consensus on the cost of living in Iceland is that you'll need to budget at least 125 000 ISK a month for your survival on the island. Renting a single room can already have you 50 000 ISK out of pocket.

Where You’ll Be Based

You’ll need to decide which Icelandic town you will end up calling home. This will, of course, also be dictated by your work situation. Most immigrants settle in the capital of Reykjavik and this is also where about 70% of Iceland’s population lives.

Akureyri is in the north of Iceland and is the second-largest town in Iceland. It is definitely not a good idea to settle in a small fishing village because “it’s so pretty!” if you’re going to be job hunting. You’ll need to stick to the bigger business hubs. Generally, Icelanders live in their own houses. That means that if you’re planning on renting you might have quite the search ahead of you since the rental market is pretty small.

Moving to Iceland: Reykjavik

The Magical Kennitala

The name itself conjures up images of an Indiana Jones-like item that can only be found after an exciting, but dangerous, journey. Unfortunately, the reality of the Kennitala is much more mundane. For an American moving to Iceland, it’s the equivalent of a social security number. And whether you are a temporary or permanent resident, you will need one for anything from opening a bank account to going to see the doctor.

Finding a Job

Let’s start with the good news; 99% of Iceland’s population is employed. That means the odds of you finding yourself tragically unemployed for too long are slim. You will also need to make sure what your specific visa allows you to do in terms of work. But as a job seeker in Iceland, there are plenty of opportunities for foreigners such as construction, teaching English, working in the tourism sector, nursing, and plenty of others.

Moving to Iceland: Transport

Organizing Transport

It’s only if you are planning on living in the capital that your transport will essentially be sorted since you can make use of public transport. But if you are planning on exploring or living in one of the smaller towns, you’ll need to have your own vehicle. Of course, whilst finding your feet in your new country it’s always safe to go the rental route, and maybe renting a campervan will also allow you to have time to properly research and decide where to settle down.

Take the Leap

Many have made the big jump of moving to Iceland and we are yet to find someone who regrets it. As long as you have done your research, are prepared, and have some backup savings for the unexpected costs attached to any big move, you’ll have a magical time living and discovering the Land of Fire and Ice.


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