Visa Requirements for Iceland

Sign in Keflavik Airport in Reykjavik
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If you're planning a trip to the small island nation of Iceland, the first step to take is to find out if there are any legal barriers to entering the country. Luckily, citizens from many countries around the world—including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K., EU nations, and more than 50 others —can travel to Iceland for a period of up to 90 days without needing any type of visa. The only requirement is that you have a valid passport that is good for at least three months after your return date, so double-check the expiration date of your passport.

Even though Iceland is pretty far from the mainland of Europe, isn't a member of the EU, and doesn't use the euro, you can freely travel from Iceland to 25 other European nations that make up the Schengen Area without border controls. However, the 90-day limit corresponds to the entire Schengen Area, not just Iceland. The nations that are a part of this agreement are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Visa Requirements for Iceland
Visa Type How Long Is It Valid? Required Documents Application Fees
Schengen Tourist Visa 90 days in any 180-day period Bank statements, proof of medical insurance, hotel reservations, roundtrip plane tickets Up to 80 euros
Work Visa Up to 2 years Work contract, clean criminal record, health insurance 15,000 Icelandic krona
Student Visa Up to 1 year Acceptance letter into education program, clean criminal record, health insurance, proof of financial means 15,000 Icelandic krona
Family Visa Up to 2 years Certificate proving family relation, clean criminal record, health insurance, proof of financial means 15,000 Icelandic krona

Schengen Tourist Visa

Many travelers can visit Iceland and the rest of the Schengen Area countries without applying for a tourist visa, but if you have a passport from a non-exempt country, you'll need to apply for a Schengen Tourist Visa. The visa allows you to travel throughout the Schengen Area with the same rights as a visa-exempt traveler, meaning you're allowed to be in Schengen countries for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. Not all Schengen Tourist Visas allow for multiple entries, meaning you may only be allowed to enter once without applying for another visa.

Visa Fees and Application

The only official Icelandic Embassies that issue tourist visas are those in London, Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi and Washington D.C. Apart from those, all other consular services are outsourced to visa processing centers or the embassies of other countries. Once you figure out where you need to submit your application, the process is more or less the same for all applicants.

  • You'll need to turn in a completed application form, a passport-size photograph, proof of financial means, ties to home country (e.g., roundtrip ticket or proof of work, studies, or real estate in home country), travel insurance, and hotel bookings.
  • Even though Iceland doesn't use the euro, since the Schengen Tourist Visa is considered a "European" visa, the fee is 80 euros payable in the local currency of where you apply.
  • In addition to submitting your documents at your appointment, you'll also give your fingerprints.
  • Schengen Tourist Visas are generally processed within two weeks from your appointment.

Work Visa

Long-term visas in Iceland aren't really "visas," per se, but rather residence permits. Visas are used to give the holder permission to enter and stay in a country for a duration of time, while residence permits let the holder live in the country. Another important difference is that visas are applied for in the applicant's home country, usually at a consulate, while the residence permit is applied for directly in Iceland.

What this means is that if you're from a country where you can visit Iceland without a tourist visa, you can arrive and apply for your residence permit in person (although the processing time usually takes longer than the 90 days you're allowed to be there as a tourist). If you're not from a visa-exempt country, you'll need to apply by mail. All residence permit requests go through the Directorate of Immigration.

Residence permits for work are valid for the duration of the work contract for up to two years. If the job continues after that time, the permit can be renewed for additional time.

Visa Fees and Application

To be granted residence for work, you'll first need a job offer from an Icelandic company. Not only that, but you must apply under work that is based on "expert knowledge" you contain or on "a shortage of labor." Essentially, you need to justify why you are better equipped for the job than a native Islander.

Once you have a work contract, can either make an appointment to visit the Directorate of Immigration office in Kópavogur—just a 10-minute drive from central Reykjavik—or mail in your application and supporting documents.

  • A completed application for the residence permit
  • A completed application for the appropriate work permit
  • Work contract
  • Receipt of bank transfer for fee payment
  • Copy of passport
  • Passport-size photo
  • Criminal record certificate that has been authenticated or apostilled and translated (if not in a Scandinavian language or English)
  • Proof of health insurance

The fee is 15,000 Icelandic krona or its equivalent in your local currency, which must be paid by a bank transfer directly to the Directorate.

The entire process can take up to 180 days for processing. If you aren't already in Iceland when approved, you can then arrive in the country as a tourist if you're from a visa-exempt country. If you are not, then the Directorate will send the appropriate visa to your local consulate or proxy consulate so you can enter the country.

Student Visa

Just like workers, students who have been accepted into an Icelandic university, post-doctoral program, or an exchange program must apply for a resident permit for students. Students are generally allowed to stay for up to one year, which is renewable as long as the studies continue within the same program. There is also an option for foreign students who graduate from an Icelandic university to apply for a special permit that allows them to stay in the country for an additional six months and look for work, which can then be converted into a work permit.

Students are allowed to work with their residence permit for up to 15 hours per week, as long as they apply for a separate work permit.

Visa Fees and Application

The application for the student residence permit is submitted to the Directorate of Immigration and can be done in person or via mail. If your classes begin in the fall semester, you must submit your completed application no later than June 1. If you are starting in the spring semester, you must submit everything by November 1.

The exact documents you need vary slightly based on the type of program you're enrolling in, but the basics that all students need to submit include:

  • A completed application for the residence permit
  • Application for a work permit (only if you plan to work)
  • Letter of acceptance into university or program
  • Receipt of bank transfer for fee payment
  • Copy of passport
  • Passport-size photo
  • Criminal record certificate that has been authenticated or apostilled and translated (if not in a Scandinavian language or English)
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of financial means

You must pay the fee via a bank transfer to the Directorate before submitting the application, which is the equivalent of 15,000 Icelandic krona in your local currency.

As long as your application is turned in before the deadline and is completed correctly, you should receive your residence permit before your courses begin. If you are from a country that doesn't require a tourist visa, you could arrive in Iceland in the summer before being approved and likely receive the permit before your 90-day limit runs out. If you are not from a visa-exempt country, you'll need to wait until your permit is granted and a visa is sent to your local consulate.

Family Visa

If you're applying for a residence permit based on a family tie to someone living in Iceland, the exact application process has several idiosyncrasies depending on the particular situation: the type of family relation, whether or not the sponsor is an Icelandic or Nordic citizen, whether or not the sponsor is a European citizen, what type of residence permit the sponsor has, etc. Be sure to carefully read over the exact guidelines from the Directorate of Immigration to see which elements apply to you.

For example, not all types of residents can sponsor all types of family members. Icelandic and Nordic citizens have the most generous guidelines and are allowed to sponsor foreign nationals who are a same or opposite-sex legal spouse, cohabitating partner, a child under 18, a parent over 67, or a parent of a child sponsor who is under 18.

Visa Fees and Application

The application must be submitted to the Directorate of Immigration, either in person by the sponsor or by mail. There is a specific application form for each situation and the required documents vary as well, but the basic documentation that must be turned in for all family residence permits are:

  • The completed application form
  • Receipt of bank transfer for fee payment
  • Copy of passport
  • Passport-size photo
  • Certificate that shows family relation that has been authenticated or apostilled and translated (if not in a Scandinavian language or English)
  • Criminal record certificate that has been authenticated or apostilled and translated (if not in a Scandinavian language or English)
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of financial means

The visa fee for a family residence permit is the equivalent of 15,000 Icelandic krona in your local currency. It must be paid via a bank transfer to the Directorate before you submit your application.

Residence permits for family members can take up to 180 days to be processed and approved.

Visa Overstays

Overstaying your visa in Iceland is a serious offense and you will likely be deported immediately and banned for a period of time from returning not just to Iceland, but to the entire Schengen Area. If you aren't sure if you're going to overstay your visa, there's a simple way to find out. Grab a calendar and go to the date that you expect to leave the Schengen Area. From there, go back 180 days—about six months—counting up all of the days you were in one of the 26 Schengen countries. If that number is 90 or less, you won't have a problem.

Extending Your Visa

If you are in Iceland and suddenly need to stay longer than the 90 allowed days, you must request an extension to your Schengen Tourist Visa at the Directorate of Immigration office. However, extensions are only granted in extreme circumstances, such as a natural disaster, a humanitarian crisis, a medical emergency, and so forth. Be sure to bring all of your original application documents plus some type of documentation that demonstrates your justification.

It's imperative that you apply for the extension before your current allowed period expires. If you wait until after, you will have already overstayed your visa and may be immediately deported.

Article Sources
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  1. European Commission. "Who Must Apply for a Schengen Visa." August 18, 2020.

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