General information regarding work permits
The right of foreign nationals to work in Iceland is regulated by The Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act No. 97/2002 and Regulation No. 339/2005. The right of foreign nationals to reside in Iceland is regulated by Act No. 80/2016 on Foreign Nationals. Full information on the right of foreign nationals to reside in Iceland is available at The Directorate of Immigration’s website.
Who does not need a work permit
Certain foreign nationals are exempt from obtaining a temporary work permit. This includes citizens from countries within the European Economic Area, countries within the European Free Trade Agreement or from the Faroe Islands.
Further information is available here.
Short term assignments
In certain instances, foreign nationals are permitted to work and reside in Iceland for up to 90 days per year without a permit. Employers who intend to use this exemption er required to notify The Directorate of Labour of the foreign nationals’ intended work before it commences. Further information is available here.
According to Article 6 of the Act, individuals that require a temporary work permit to work in Iceland are strictly prohibited from working as self-employed individuals and is considered a violation of the Act. Doing so may affect the individuals current and future work permit applications. Only in instances where the foreign national’s work falls under the provisions of Article 23 of Act no. 97/2002 regarding work permit exemptions is self-employment permitted.
Temporary Work Permits
An employer who intends to hire a foreign national who is a citizen of a country outside of the European Economic Area, EFTA-state or the Faroe Islands, shall apply for and have been granted a work permit prior to the foreign national commencing work.
According to The Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act, seven types of work permits are available, and they are as follows:
- A temporary work permit for a job in which special skills are required.
- A temporary work permit due to a shortage of employees.
- A temporary work permit for athletes.
- A temporary work permit regarding special circumstances.
- A temporary work permit regarding family reunification.
- A temporary work permit in connection with study.
- A temporary work permit for specialized employees under service contracts or collaboration agreements on educational, academic, or scientific work.
Further information regarding each type of temporary work permit and the application process can be found here.
Where should you submit the application
Applications, along with all necessary supporting documents, should be submitted to the Directorate of Immigration, Dalvegi 18, 201 Kópavogur, or alternatively to your local District Commissioner office if you are located outside of the Capital Region.
To ensure efficiency, it is recommended that the work permit application be submitted alongside the residence permit application to The Directorate of Immigration. Further information regarding residence permit processing procedures can be found here.
Commencing employment before obtaining a work permit
Foreign nationals commencing employment before they have been granted a work permit according to the above legislation, may result in their work permit applications being declined and such actions may lead to the foreign national or the employer being imposed with fines or imprisonment for up to two years. This is applicable regardless of if the intended period of employment in Iceland is short or long-term. An application for an exemption to commence work under Article 8 may be found . Please note that this exemption can only be granted to applicants for a work that requires expert knowledge under Article 8.
An individual who possesses a valid residence permit and applies for a work permit with a new employer may request an exemption to start work during the processing time of an application for a work permit, per Article 19, paragraph 5 of the Act. This is a narrow exemption from the general principle of the legislation and a written request regarding this shall be addressed to The Directorate of Labor.