Practical information for living in Iceland

Visas and permits

For students

If you plan on studying in Iceland and are an international student, you are going to need to apply for a student permit.

While there are many different types of visas in Iceland, this particular kind is for an individual who will study in Iceland for at least one semester. Basically, it is a residence permit designed for foreign students who are 18 or older, wishing to attend a secondary school or university that is located in Iceland. The regulations note that you must be a full-time student at an institution of higher learning, including a university or a vocational school, or you must take part in additional studies that may meet these requirements.

If you are a student who resides outside of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) or the European Economic Area (EEA), then it is extremely important to remember that you must apply for this permit before you arrive. Before you even travel to the country of Iceland, you must first receive this approval from the Directorate of Immigration. However, if you live in a country that from which a visa for travel is not required to enter Iceland, you may relocate to Iceland while your application is still under review.

As soon as you receive your university acceptance letter, you should apply immediately. Deadlines are as follows:

  • 1 June - Fall Semester
  • 1 November - Spring Semester

You must take your application to the embassy or the consulate before you relocate to Iceland, or to any other country that is a part of the Schengen group of countries so that you may obtain your Iceland Student Visa.

If you live in a country within the EFTA or the EEA and will be studying for one semester, then you must register at the Service Desk at the university. You must bring your passport or other identification to receive your username.

If you will be staying in Iceland for one year or longer, you must register for your legal residence in the country at the Registers Iceland, Student Registration and the Service Desk. This can only be done upon arrival in Iceland, but all documentation must be obtained before entry into the country, including:

  • Passport or other travel documents
  • Signed application
  • Acceptance letter from the university
  • Proof of medical insurance
  • Registration fees
  • Proof of means of support

If you are a resident of a Nordic country, you need only provide documentation at the university Student Desk for one semester of study. For an entire academic year, you will need to register your residence as soon as you arrive.

Additionally, any changes to your housing, regardless of your length of stay or your country of residence, must be reported immediately to the Registers Iceland and the Directorate of Immigration. You can file Form A-251 online, or you can visit the office in person.

For professionals

If you have obtained a job in Iceland, you will also need to obtain a Work Visa for Iceland.

There are three basic types of work residence permits for Iceland:

  • Residence permit based on temporary shortage of laborers
  • Residence permit for a qualified professional
  • Residence permit for an athlete
  • You will need to submit the application to the Immigration Directorate or the nearest District Commissioner‘s office, along with any supporting documents or proof requested.

For students who will be working while they are attending the university, a work permit is not required if you live within EFTA or EEA countries. If the student does not reside in these countries, he or she can apply for a work permit that will allow for work up to 15 hours each week. Once a student has an employment contract, the application for the permit may be completed and submitted.


If you plan to establish a permanent residency in Iceland, you will need to register with the National Registry, where you will receive a 10-digit identification number, commonly known as a kennitala. The first six digits consist of the person’s birth date: the day, month and year. You must have this number to be able to register a residence in Iceland, to open a bank account, to apply for a tax card, or to get a home telephone and/or internet service.

Some international students or visitors may need an identification number prior to their arrival, such as if they wish to purchase health insurance in Iceland for their stay. Often the identification number will be applied for by the insurance company, along with a copy of the foreigner's passport and the signed application.

Bank account

If you plan to work in Iceland, or you’d like to manage your money there, you’ll need an Icelandic bank account. Keep in mind that you’ll need an identification number to do this.

There are four main banks in Reykjavik:

  • Arion banki
  • Íslandsbanki
  • Landsbankinn
  • MP banki

Arion banki and Landsbankinn both have branches that are in close proximity to the university areas.

Since they are widely accepted throughout Iceland, be sure to apply for a debit and/or credit card, which will also help you to keep your finances organized. Plus, all of these institutions also offer online banking, which can be a great convenience for students.

SIM Card

Iceland has three large phone companies:

  • Siminn
  • Vodafone
  • Nova

If you are going to mostly be in the Reykjavík area, Vodafone is a slightly more expensive option but will work well for you. Nova does not offer other languages than Icelandic.

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