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Moving to Iceland: How to get started!

Moving to Iceland: How to get started!

moving to iceland

Playing with the thought of moving to Iceland? Many visitors fall in love with Iceland and consider living here either for a while or even long term. Moving to Iceland and finding work can be a challenge, especially in 2021. Keep on reading to find out what you need to know before you start packing your bags.

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Who can move to Iceland?

Everyone can move to Iceland, but for some people, it is more challenging. The main difference is between EEA/EFTA citizens and citizens outside of this area. As an EU citizen, you can stay in Iceland for up to three months without registration. However, if you want to work and earn money you will need to apply for a system ID number with the tax office.

Staying longer than three months requires confirmation of your right to stay in Iceland. For that, you can fill out a form and hand it in together with a few documents. You also have to prove that you can support yourself for at least three months.

life in iceland

In my experience it is easiest to find a job quickly and get a place to live in order to register the address. Otherwise, having enough money saved to support yourself is an option.

Citizen of a country outside EEA/EFTA

Moving to Iceland from outside the EU is more complicated. You can stay in Iceland for up to three months, but if you like to stay longer, you need a resident permit. The decision over that is made by the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration.

Although I don’t have personal experience with this process, fellow immigrants reported that the process can be painful, complicated, and unfair. I recommend you to dive deeper into the requirements on the official website of the Icelandic Register.

Can you stand the weather?

If you love it warm and sunny, Iceland will not be for you. The weather is mostly mild, meaning, we don’t get extreme cold temperatures, thanks to the gulf stream. However, the location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean brings nasty storms and strong winds all year long.

The winter is dark with very little daylight hours which can be depressing for some (including me). The summer on the other side is full of daylight and you won’t see the starry nightsky.

Do you need to learn Icelandic?

Some people will tell you, yes, others will tell you no. Almost every Icelander speaks proper English. The question here is, do they want to speak English with you? If you consider moving to Iceland, start to learn Icelandic as early as you can. It is best to get a few phrases right to get you over the first weeks.

moving to iceland

Then you should dive deeper into options like studying Icelandic for one year at the University of Iceland or taking Icelandic classes. It is important to learn Icelandic if you want to be part of the community and make friends with Icelanders. At some point, they will always switch to Icelandic in conversations.

Is Iceland safe?

Iceland ranks the safest country in the world. With very low homicide rates and generally low criminal offenses you can feel very relaxed even walking outside

In the past, Icelanders even left their houses and cars unlocked, but with the rising numbers of foreign visitors, this changed. Icelanders still don’t worry much and let for instance their kids play outside in the summer until sometimes 10 pm.

is iceland safe?

You should, however, always be careful and not trust anyone blindly. Especially when it comes to finding an apartment. More scams have been reported in recent years, and some landlords will offer you an apartment without a contract.

Although I even rented apartments without a contract, I highly recommend you to push for a contract. Because then you can apply for housing benefits. They are granted when your salary is relatively low and you pay a high rent.

Crime Rate in Iceland

Criminal offenses increase by 3% between the years 2016-2018. Theft and burglary are the largest part of the offenses. Fraud has increased from year to year in recent years, mainly due to an increase in cybercrime.

One homicide was committed in 2019. At that time there were two attempted murders. More info on the website if the Icelandic police, Lögreglan.

How to find a job in Iceland?

Before 2020, the best option was to walk directly to the places you want to work and hand in your CV. Recommendations from friends that already work help a lot. Consider connection with people online before moving to Iceland.

If you are a proffessional in your field you can research job offers on the following websites:

Salary in Iceland

The minimum salary in Iceland on the 1st of January 2021 is 340.000 kr., 2.164,64 EUR, 2.630,36 USD before taxes.

You can find an overview of salaries in Iceland here, (Icelandic only).

Studying in Iceland

Studying in Iceland can help you with moving to Iceland. Getting a residence permit is much easier with a student visa. If you don’t have any specific field you want to study, you can start with Icelandic as a Second Language.

moving to iceland

“The general entrance requirement for the Practical Diploma program is a foreign equivalent to the Icelandic matriculation examination (stúdentspróf) and a proof of English proficiency, TOEFL or IELTS (minimum score TOEFL 79, IELTS 6.5).

As a student of the University of Iceland, you pay a yearly fee of 75.000 kr. (477,49 EUR, 580,23 USD). No more fees will add to this but keep in mind that you will need books and they are pretty expensive. Book prices range from 3.000 kr. to up to 10.000 kr.

Studying all over Iceland:

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How to find Housing in Iceland?

Housing outside of the capital area is relatively cheaper, but if you want to live in Reykjavík, get ready for high housing prices.

Be aware of scammers! Never pay rent in advance before you get the key or visit the apartment. Never trust an offer that seems too good to be true. As mentioned above, push for a contract. Only with a contract, you can apply for housing benefits.

I found a few of my apartments to rent on Facebook Groups. The Icelandic Word for Rent is LEIGA.

Average prices in my experience for a studio are between 120.000 kr. to 180.000 kr. and for a shared room 60.000 lr. to 100.000 kr. More apartments are available in 2020/2021 since people cannot rent out their holiday homes and air bnbs.

housing in iceland

Consider living in the countryside: Housing outside of Reykjavík can be much cheaper but on the other hand can require a car.

Do I need a car?

Every Icelander would probably answer this question with Yes. But I lived in Reykjavík for several years without owning a car. You can get around with the public bus Strætó, bike, or rent an electric scooter.

Having a car is more convenient. Maybe you can share a car with your friends and roommates for a while to get settled.

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Conclusion – Moving to Iceland

If you want to go on this adventure, the possibilities are there. If you can handle the weather which is far from tropical and you are willing to learn basic Icelandic, you are on a good way to become a Viking (kidding).

Kirkjufell mountain

Iceland is a safe place to live in. You have the most spectacular nature right on your doorstep and we have the best tasting tap water in the world. To find out if you like living in Iceland, you have to move here and test it out.

This post is just a glimpse into the knowledge I gathered while living in Iceland for over four years. Let me know if you have questions. Stay tuned for more posts about Life in Iceland.

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