Detailed requirements

Please note that the information on this website is being updated in accordance with a new Act on Foreigners that will take effect January 1st 2017. You can find the Act on foreigners in Icelandic here.

All applicants for residence permits must fulfil the basic requirements, which are described in detail here.

Applicants must furthermore fulfil the special requirements for the residence permit applied for on grounds of Article 12 – Article 12, item d, of the Act on Foreigners, as well as Article 13. A residence permit may also be granted on grounds of the exemption clauses of Article 11, paragraph 3, and Article 12, item f. These provisions are also discussed herein.


Residence and work permits

Residence permit regarding au pair engagement

Residence permit on grounds of family reunification

Residence permit for students

Residence permit on grounds of special ties to Iceland

Residence permit on humanitarian grounds

Residence permit on grounds of legitimate and specific purpose

Permanent residence permit


Note that this website contains detailed information about the specific requirements for residence permits. A list of the documents that must be submitted with an application for a residence permit is on a page attached to every type of residence permit.


Please Note, that for all documents issued in a language other than English or one of the Nordic languages, a translation by a certifies/sworn translator must also be submitted. This translation must be an original and certified by the relevant authorities. It is the applicant’s responsibility to have the certificates translated and paid for. If a certain language is not listed on the website of the Icelandic district commissioners, or on the website of FLDS, Association of Certified Court Interpreters and Translators, it means that there are no certified translators in that language in Iceland; and therefore the services of a translator based outside of Iceland must be sought.


The Directorate of Immigration requests an authentication of foreign documents as listed below. Authentication can be either an „apostille“ from the applicant‘s home country, or a double authentication from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in the home country and the embassy of that country in Iceland, or the embassy accredited to Iceland if the country does not have an embassy in Iceland:

  • Criminal record certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Marital status certificate
  • Certificate on cohabitation
  • Birth certificate
  • Child custody documents
  • Death certificate
  • Divorce documents



Residence and work permits

An applicant for a residence and work permit must fulfil all basic requirements for a residence permit, as well as for receiving a work permit issued by the Directorate of Labour.


Application for a work permit and employment contracts

Work permits are issued on grounds of Act no. 97/2002 on Foreign Nationals‘ Right to Work. The Directorate of Labour is responsible for issuing work permits in Iceland. An application for a work permit is submitted to the Directorate of Immigration, which sends it to the Directorate of Labour if the applicant fulfils all the requirements for a residence permit or permanent residence permit, according to the Act on Foreigners. The relevant application for a work permit shall be submitted to the Directorate of Immigration together with other accompanying documents relating to residence/permanent resident permits.


The following types of residence permits are based either on employment or allow employment, and require the applicant to apply for a work permit:

  • Residence permit for a specialist, according to Article 12.
    • Residence permit for a spouse or partner of the specialist, according to Article 13.
  • Residence permit on grounds of a temporary shortage of labour, according to Article 12 a.
  • Residence permit for athletes, according to Article 12 b.
  • Residence permit because of studies, according to Article 12 e.
  • Residence permit on humanitarian grounds or special ties to Iceland, according to Article 12 f.
    • Residence permit for a family member of an individual who has an Article 12 f permit, according to Article 13.
  • Residence permit on grounds of lawful and special purpose, according to Article 11, paragraph 3.
  • Residence permit of the spouse of a holder of a permanent residence permit, according to Article 13.
  • Residence permit for a cohabitant of an Icelandic national, according to Article 13.
  • Residence permit for children older than 18 years, according to Article 13.
  • Permanent residence permit, according to Article 15.


Applications for a work permit and an employment contract must be in original format and signed by both the applicant and the employer if such a requirement is stated on the application form.



Au pair engagement

Residence permits on grounds of au-pair engagements are issued in accordance with Article 12 d, of the Act on Foreigners. The applicant must fulfil all the basic requirements, stated in Article 11, and also the special requirements, according to Article 12 d.


Au-pair engagement is viewed as a type of cultural exchange. The Au-pair must live in the home of the host family for the duration of stay in Iceland.


The applicant must have reached the age of 18 when the application must be between the ages of 18 and 25 when applying for an au-pair residence permit in Iceland.  A signed au-pair contract between the host family and the applicant must be submitted.  The contract shall state the contract‘s period of validity, the benefits which the applicant shall receive from the host family, such as meals, housing, daily working hours, daily rest periods, the right to study, and provisions on health and accident insurance. See the model contract on au pair engagement here. Note that this model contract is old and that some of the provisions may be outdated. For further information on au pair engagement, applicants are invited to contact the Directorate of Immigration. The applicant‘s meals and housing with the host family shall be free of charge and the applicant shall have a private room at the house. The host family shall furthermore ensure that the applicant gets sufficient time to study Icelandic and to engage in leisure activities.


An applicant may not work on the general labour market.


An applicant who wishes to leave the au pair engagement, must inform the Directorate of Immigration of this. If an intermediary has handled the au pair engagement, he/she shall also be informed of the termination of this engagement.


The applicant pays for the airline ticket to and from Iceland, however, the applicant and the host family may decide on another arrangement. In instances where au pair engagement is terminated or if an applicant is incapable of carrying out his/her duties due to illness or an accident, the host family shall guarantee the payment of the au pair engaged person’s return back to his/her home country.


Note that a residence permit under the au pair engagement program is issued for a maximum of one year and cannot be renewed after its expiration.


An individual who has a residence permit on grounds of au pair engagement cannot get a residence permit on grounds of Article 12 to Article 12 c, until two years after the expiry of a residence permit on grounds of au pair engagement (specialists, temporary shortage of labour, and athletes).



Residence permit on grounds of family reunification

An applicant for family reunification must fulfil all basic requirements for a residence permit, as well as the specific requirements stated in Article 13 of the Act on Foreigners.


A relative of an Icelandic national, other Nordic nationals residing in Iceland, or a foreign national staying in Iceland in as a specialist, athlete, a PhD student, a general student who is an US national or on grounds of a humanitarian permit, special ties to Iceland or permanent residence permit, may apply for a residence permit.


Immediate family members are: the spouse (husband/wife); cohabiting spouse; the children of the person concerned who are under the age of 18, are supported by him/her and in his/her custody; and his/her relatives, or those of his/her spouse, in a direct line of descent, who are 67 or older and are supported by them financially.


Spouse and cohabiting spouse

Please note that not all the same rules apply to a spouse in marriage and a spouse in cohabitation.


A spouse must fulfil all basic requirements of a residence permit; additionally a marriage certificate must be submitted.


Specific rules for cohabiting spouses

A cohabiting spouse must fulfil all the basic requirements of a residence permit. A cohabiting spouse must submit proof that the cohabitation has been in effect for at least two years. Such certificates are issued by Registers Iceland or by the authority in a person’s own country that is responsible for public registration.


A cohabiting spouse must also submit a marital status certificate. Granting a residence permit for a cohabiting spouse is not permitted unless it has been confirmed that neither party is married.


Note that there exists no support duty between cohabiting spouses. An applicant must show independent means of support.


Marriage/cohabitation of convenience

The Directorate of Immigration is authorized to deny an application for a residence permit if that the sole purpose of the union is to obtain a residence permit, see Article 13, paragraph 3, of the Act on Foreigners. This is referred to as marriage of convenience / cohabitation of convenience.


In the instance of founded suspicion of marriage of convenience / cohabitation of convenience, the applicant must prove in a clear manner that such suspicion is unfounded. A marriage of convenience / cohabitation of convenience does not grant the right to a residence permit and is punishable according to Article 57 of the Act on Foreigners. In order to examine whether marriage/cohabitation is possibly a union of convenience, the Directorate of Immigration may call in the applicant and the spouse/partner for interviews at the offices of the Directorate of Immigration, according to Article 39, paragraph 3, of the Regulation on Foreigners. A denial of a residence permit on grounds of marriage of convenience / cohabitation of convenience is a decision based on assessment made by the Directorate of Immigration.


The factors that constitute the grounds when a residence permit application is denied are stated in an explanatory note with the parliamentary bill that was passed as Act no. 20/2004, amending the Act on Foreigners. Indications that this may indeed be a marriage of convenience / cohabitation of convenience include, for example, the parties not having lived together before marriage or cohabitation started, that they do not understand each other’s language, have difficulty communicating with each other, that there is a great difference in their ages, they do not know about individual circumstances or events in the life of each other before they married, or do not know about a previous marriage. This is not a complete list of indications and other factors may support suspicions about marriage of convenience / cohabitation of convenience having been established.


The reason a marriage or cohabitation of convenience cannot be the grounds for issuing a residence permit is, among other things, to protect those who are more vulnerable (at risk) of being subject to pressure or abuse of some sort if they do not agree to participate in marriage or cohabitation of convenience. According to Article 13, paragraph 3, an examination must always be made as to whether the circumstances are as stated above if one spouse is 24 years of age or younger.


Establishment of marriage/cohabitation without the consent of both parties to the union or in breach of the provisions of Icelandic law and the rule of public order

If the establishment of marriage / cohabitation is in breach of the provisions of Icelandic law or public order, this results in denial of a residence permit. There are protective views behind this provision, as it is intended, among other things, to prevent forced marriage. The experience of Iceland’s neighbouring countries was taken into account when this provision was implemented. Reasons that could result in denial on these grounds include, for example, if one party to the marriage is under the age of 18 or if this pertains to what is called marriage by proxy, where one party or neither party to the marriage are present during the marriage ceremony.


According to Article 13, paragraph 3, examination shall always be made as to whether the circumstances are as described above if one spouse is 24 years of age or younger.


Violence and abuse causing the end of marriage/cohabitation

Article 13, paragraph 6, states that if marriage/cohabitation is dissolved because an applicant or his/her child has suffered violence or abuse in the relationship, it is permissible to renew the residence permits on the same grounds even though the relevant marriage/cohabitation is over. The requirement is that there exist special circumstances and that special causes of fairness justify such renewal. When the parliamentary bill was discussed in Iceland’s parliament, Althingi, an emphasis was placed on how dissolution of marriage/cohabitation for such reasons should not automatically result in a renewal of a residence permit. Generally, the applicant should take into account whether continued stay in Iceland on other grounds should be considered, otherwise he/she should return to his/her own country.


Decisions on renewing a residence permit on these grounds are exceptional and the Directorate of Immigration must assess the existing documents in every single instance. The factors to be taken into consideration include, for example, the length of the marriage or cohabitation, and the connection of the applicant to Iceland. Consideration is shown for the incidents, whether they are serious, whether a certain incident was a singular occurrence, etc.


The Directorate of Immigration emphasizes that too stringent requirements of proof by the applicant are not made by the Directorate regarding the reasons for the breakup of a relationship; nevertheless, the applicant must illustrate and explain to the extent possible that abuse or violence took place.


In order for the Directorate of Immigration being able to consider a renewal of a residence permit on these grounds, the Directorate must be provided with as detailed documents as possible. Medical records, psychological records, police records or a statement from the Women’s Shelter or other institutions where an applicant has stayed could support statements by him/her about what happened.


Child

According to Article 13 and the Legal Competence Act no. 71/1997, an individual is deemed as being a child if under the age of 18 and unmarried. Therefore a residence permit cannot be issued on grounds of family reunification to an individual who has turned 18 or is under the age of 18 and is married. A child can either be granted residence permit at the same time as his/her parents or later when the parents have received a residence permit in Iceland.


Who may apply for a residence permit for a child?

Only a parent, who is also a custodian of a child, may apply for a residence permit in Iceland for his/her child. A custodian, who is not a parent, or a parent who is not a custodian, cannot apply for a residence permit for a child. A parent who does not have custody of a child wishes to apply for a residence permit for said child, a change of custody must take place in the home country before the child arrives in Iceland.
If immediate relatives, for example, grandfather, grandmother, aunt or uncle, request a residence permit for a child, the child must be adopted by the person applying for the permit and that person must have custody of the child.


Requirements for a residence permit for a child

A child must fulfil all the basic requirements of a residence permit, or the parents or custodians must fulfil them on behalf of their child. The parents must submit the following documents and fulfil the following requirements for their child:

  • The custodian/parents sign the application for a residence permit.
  • Submit a housing certificate for the parents to live at the said housing.
  • If applying for a residence permit for a child after his/her custodian has been granted a residence permit in Iceland, for example a year later, proof must be submitted that the custodian has sufficient means of support and confirmation of having supported the child over the last 12 months prior to applying for a residence permit. Such confirmation, for example, may be a bank statement or transfer receipts.
  • A criminal record certificate must be submitted for the child if he/she has reached the age of 15.


Documents stating the connection of the child to the custodian must also be submitted. Strict requirements are made regarding the format of these documents in order to prevent a child from being unlawfully transported between countries.


Birth certificate

A demand is made for proof of the identity of a child’s parents. The certificate must be issued by the appropriate authority in the home state. If there exists any doubt about which authority should issue the birth certificate in the child’s home state, the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration should be contacted.


Custody documents

Custody documents may not be older than six months. If the documents are older a confirmation by the authorities on their validity must be submitted.


Custody can be shown with the following documents:

  • A birth certificate can be a confirmation of custody in instances where the child comes to Iceland with both parents and if the parents are married. However, the Directorate of Immigration may request further confirmation.
  • Confirmation of custody issued by a public authority, for example, a court, a district commissioner or a comparable authority in the home state.
  • Divorce papers. If the divorce papers state who has custody of a child this is sufficient confirmation of custody.
  • Death certificate. If one of the custodians has died and the surviving person has sole custody of the child, the death certificate is sufficient confirmation of custody.
  • If more than one person has custody of a child and only one of them resides in Iceland, confirmation must also be submitted that the custodian parent who resides abroad agrees to the child being brought to Iceland. Submission of a witnessed statement on the custody of a child is not sufficient.


Certificate of marital status

If a child has reached the age of 16 when an application is made for a residence permit, confirmed documents by the competent authorities must be submitted of the child’s marital status. If an individual is under 18 years of age and is married, he/she is no longer a minor according to Iceland law. He/she therefore does not have the right to family reunification if married.


All necessary documents must have been received before the child’s 18th birthday, see Article 47, paragraph 3, of the Regulation on Foreigners. If this requirement is not fulfilled the application will be handled as if he/she were an adult.


Applicant older than 18 years

An applicant who has turned 18 years of age and was granted a residence permit during childhood, however, may renew the residence permit on the same grounds although he/she is no longer deemed as being a minor, see Article 13, paragraph 5, of the Act on Foreigners. In doing this, however, the applicant must submit documents about employment and/or acceptance at school. A list of the additional documents that must accompany an application for a residence permit is contained in the check-list on the renewal of a residence permit for a child.


Immediate family members

Immediate family members in the interpretation of Article 13 are parents, grandmothers and grandfathers, and even great grandmothers and great grandfathers. The requirement is for the immediate family member having reached the age of 67. An immediate family member must fulfil all the basic requirements for a residence permit except for the requirement on independent means of support. The family member in Iceland must illustrate that the immediate family member abroad has been supported by him/her for at least one year prior to applying for a residence permit.


According to Article 13 of the Act on Foreigners, immediate family members of Icelandic or Nordic nationals and foreign nationals holding a permanent residence permit, holders of residence permits for: specialists; doctorate students; athletes; humanitarian grounds and special ties to Iceland, can apply for a residence permit in Iceland on grounds of family reunification.


In order to prove the family connection of an applicant, his/her immediate relations in Iceland shall submit a birth certificate or other certificates showing their connection to the applicant.


Violence and abuse

A residence permit on grounds of Article 13 shall not be granted if the nearest immediate family member of an applicant has been sentenced by a court over the last five years or been subject to security measures for violation of the provisions of Chapter XXI-XXIV of the General Penal Code no. 19/1940. The offences in question include incest, sexual abuse, manslaughter, physical violence and breaches of persons’ freedom. Such offences, however, do not generally result in a residence permit being denied if this would entail an unfair measure towards an applicant or his/her immediate family relations.



Students

A student’s residence permit is for an individual, 18 years of age or older, who intends to pursue studies at a university in Iceland or other studies with similar preparatory requirements. The student must fulfil all basic requirements for residence permits, as well as the special requirements of Article 12 e. The student must fulfil the preparatory requirements made regarding the relevant studies, for example, language skills.


A student does not have to submit a housing certificate before coming to Iceland, however, must submit it not later than two weeks after arrival in Iceland.


Full studies in the interpretation of the Act on Foreigners are studies at university level or other studies where comparable demands are made regarding the preparatory education as made at the university level.


A residence permit for the fall semester must be applied for by by 1 July. The application and all the necessary accompanying documents for the spring semester must have been received by the authorities not later than 1 November.


Full studies at a university are 30 units (ECTS) per semester


A residence permit for a student is generally only issued for six (6) months at a time. The exception is for PhD students, which are generally issued permits for one year at a time. When renewing the residence permit the student must show satisfactory study performance by means of a confirmation by the relevant school.


First renewal (2nd school semester):
Satisfactory study performance at the university level is based on 50% per semester or at least 15 units (ECTS).

Second renewal etc. (3rd school semester and more advanced studies):
Satisfactory study performance at the university level is based on 75% per semester or at least 22.5 units (ECTS).


Special note: a student is only permitted to work 15 hours per week except in instances where a student is employed during leave from study or as a part of his/her vocational training, see Article 15 of Regulation no. 339/2005 on Foreign Nationals´ Right to Work. The Icelandic Directorate of Labor provides further information about work permits.



Special ties to Iceland

According to Article 12, paragraph 1, f, of the Act on Foreigners, deviating from the basic requirements for residence permits as stated in Article 11 is permissible if the applicant has special ties to Iceland. Assessing when this is done rests with the authorities, the Directorate of Immigration in this instance. The Directorate of Immigration has no obligation to deviate from the basic requirements for a residence permit even though an applicant has a special connection to Iceland. When determining how far to go in allowing exemptions from the basic requirements for residence permits, the focus must be on the circumstances in each and every case.


The Ministry of the Interior has issued guidelines about residence permits on grounds of special ties. The Directorate of Immigration takes these guidelines into account when making decisions. The focal points of the guidelines are as follows:
 

Lawful stay in Iceland. Previous lawful stay in the country on the ground of a residence permit is considered, especially if it was within the last 10 years.

  • Lawful previous stay in the country is a material factor that should be considered, i.e. stay on grounds of a residence permit, according to the provisions of the Act on Foreigners.
  • When setting criteria on the length of stay, that is valid for everyone, an overall consideration must be given to every single case. A short stay only (less than two years) and without any connection to relatives in Iceland would only be considered satisfactory in extreme exceptions.
  • When assessing special ties because of previous residence in Iceland, the focus shall be on the length of stay at the time.
  • Special ties to Iceland may in some instances be considered as existing without a previous lawful stay when close relatives reside in Iceland.


Close relatives in Iceland. Consideration should be shown to whether an applicant has close relatives in Iceland.

  • Ties to close relatives who reside in Iceland is a material factor that should be taken into account,  the explanatory statement with the initial provision of Article 11, paragraph 2, of the Act on Foreigners.
  • This factor holds the most weight in the total assessment of a foreigner’s situation when considering whether a residence permit should be granted on grounds of special ties to Iceland.
  • In this instance consideration must be shown, for example, to the family pattern and the size of the family, the family history, the circumstances of the family, the type of family connection/kinship.
  • An emphasis is placed on an overall assessment of the circumstances, for example, assessing/comparing the ties to the home country with the ties to Iceland.
  • A focus should be on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and an assessment should be made as to whether it would be a breach of the provision, and of Article 71 of the Constitution of the Republic of Iceland regarding the right to family life, if a residence permit in Iceland were to be denied on the grounds of the applicant not fulfilling other requirements for a residence permit in Iceland. If such an assessment results in the conclusion that this would be in breach of the provisions, a residence permit should be granted on grounds of special ties to Iceland.
  • In the instances of a child/children, an examination must be made into issues on custody and the arrangement of visitation. The applicant must either have custody of a child or have been active in visiting with the child/children, and must continue doing so if he/she intends to obtain a residence permit on these grounds.
  • The word children refers to persons under the age of 18 unless otherwise stated.
  • Examples of instances where granting a residence permit on grounds of special ties are as follows:
    • The applicant has a child/children in Iceland who are Icelandic citizens.
    • The applicant has a child/children in Iceland who are not Icelandic citizens.
    • The applicant is a single parent older than 55 years of age, has a child older than 18 years of age who resides in Iceland and is an Icelandic citizen, has a permanent residence permit or a temporary residence permit that creates grounds for a permanent residence permit in Iceland. The aforementioned age requirements may be deviated from in specific circumstances.
    • The applicant is 18-30 years of age, has no spouse, however, has a parent who is an Icelandic citizen, or has a permanent residence permit or residence permit that creates grounds for a permanent residence permit in Iceland, and if the applicant is alone behind in his/her home country/all his/her immediate family resides in Iceland. In this instance the views on care should exist to such an extent that the applicant is dependent on his/her family in Iceland to some or full extent. Other important factors may also be considered for granting a residence permit on these grounds.
    • The applicant is lawfully staying in Iceland in cohabitation with an Icelandic citizen, however, they do not fulfil the requirement of having been in a formal, registered cohabitation for two (2) years that would render it possible to obtain a residence permit on such grounds, and are expecting a child together. Applicants for asylum do not fall under this category.


Ties based on work, social and/or cultural contacts. Consideration must be shown for whether an applicant has stayed in Iceland over the last 10 years with a lawful purpose on grounds of a residence permit and whether he/she has formed ties in the community during the time of stay.

  • Ties through work or social and/or cultural contacts can be deemed as material factors in an overall assessment for granting a residence permit on grounds of special ties.
  • A focus here is on whether a foreign national has formed special ties with the community during his/her stay, which should not necessarily or normally be severed.
  • Short-term stay (less than two years) has no bearing in this respect.
  • When assessing these ties, consideration must be shown as to whether the relevant person was an active participant on the labour market. Consideration must be shown as to whether the relevant person still has an offer of employment by the same employer although he/she was denied a work permit. A declaration by the employer must be available stating that the relevant person is an important employee and that he/she will be working for the employer for at least six months.
  • This factor alone would never be sufficient reason for a residence permit on grounds of special ties (i.e. a job offer); instead some ties through relatives who reside in Iceland must also exist (item b). Otherwise there exists the risk of the Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act being circumvent.


Support and other basic requirements for a residence permit – Article 11 of the Act on Foreigners. The principal rule shall be that an applicant must fulfil the requirements of means of support as well as the other basic requirements of a residence permit in accordance with Article 11 of the Act on Foreigners (except for Article 11, paragraph 1, item b).

  • It must be kept in mind that according to Article 12, paragraph 1, item f, it is permissible to grant a residence permit on grounds of special ties even though the requirements in Article 11 are not fulfilled. It is not possible to limit this rule in guideline rules, however, it is desirable that an applicant shows that the requirements in Article 11 are fulfilled by the applicant to the extent possible (except Article 11, paragraph 1, item b), however, this requirement may be deviated from in very special circumstances.


A decision is reached on grounds of an overall assessment. An overall assessment must always be carried out of an applicant’s situation. The applicant’s ties to the home country and his/her ties to Iceland because of relatives and/or a previous stay in Iceland must be assessed together. Important factors in the assessment are for example:

  • The circumstances/situation of an applicant (marital status, situation in the home country, etc.).
  • Applicant‘s age.
  • Family pattern and family size.
  • Background history of the family.
  • Situation of the family.
  • Family ties/kinship.
  • Connection regarding previous stay (cultural connection, for example).
  • Consequences if a residence permit is not granted.


Note that the aforementioned factors are only guideline views and are not complete. Other circumstances may be taken into account, as well as how an overall assessment in every case may lead to circumstances that are considered grounds of special ties in one case but may not apply in another case. One relative residing in Iceland, for example, may be sufficient for granting a residence permit on grounds of a special ties in one case, whereas in another instance this may conceivably not be sufficient.



Residence permit on humanitarian grounds

According to Article 12, paragraph 1, item f, of the Act on Foreigners, it is permissible to deviate from the basic requirements for a residence permit as stated in Article 11 if humanitarian views justify it. Paragraph 2 of the same article states that a residence permit may be granted on humanitarian grounds if a foreign national can show his/her urgent need for protection, for example, for health reasons, or because of difficult social circumstances, or because of difficult general circumstances in the home country or in a country he/she would be sent to, or because of other instances for which he/she cannot be fairly made responsible. Assessing when this should be done is in the hands of the Directorate of Immigration. An overall assessment will always take place before a residence permit on humanitarian grounds is granted. The same applies to the renewal of a residence permit. The Directorate of Immigration assesses whether the circumstances, that constituted the grounds of the permit, still exist at the time when the permit needs to be renewed.


A residence permit on humanitarian grounds is considered in instances where an application for a residence permit has been denied. According to the Act on Foreigners, an assessment in such instances shall be made as to whether the applicant has the right to a residence permit on humanitarian grounds. When making such an assessment the focus is on similar factors as those in cases of applications for international protection, see here. Consideration is shown for the general situation in the applicant‘s home country or in the country where he/she would be sent, including whether basic human rights are sufficiently guaranteed.


Urgent need for protection on grounds of health reasons

The focus is on factors such as whether a case pertains to sudden and life-threatening disease for which there is treatment in Iceland, but not in the home country of the relevant person. In instances of long-term diseases stronger views for protection exist when a person‘s illness is in its final stages. A focus is also on whether treatment of the disease has been started in Iceland and whether it is medically appropriate to stop such treatment. A focus is furthermore on the applicant‘s social circumstances in this respect.


When applying for a residence permit for health reasons, a medical certificate must be submitted describing the physical condition of the relevant person. The certificate is submitted to the Directorate of Immigration’s official doctor, who assesses it on grounds of the aforementioned views.


Urgent need for protection on grounds of inflictive social circumstances in the home country

Inflictive social circumstances refers, for example, to the circumstances of persons who have suffered sexual abuse which may result in a difficult situation for them in the home country, or circumstances of persons who are of different sexual orientation than prevails in their home country and face ostracism or violence upon return. The need for protection depends on the circumstances in each instance. Note that the grounds for granting such a permit are when a permit cannot be granted according to Chapter VII of the Act on International Protection.


Urgent need for protection on grounds of inflictive circumstances

Inflictive circumstances refers, for example, to ongoing human rights violations in the home country, i.e. circumstances where the authorities do not provide their citizens with protection against offences of violence or crime, natural disasters or ongoing warfare in the home country. In such instances international protection may be provided, however, it is also permissible to take such circumstances into consideration when assessing a residence permit on humanitarian grounds.


A residence permit on humanitarian grounds does not apply to economic distress, for example, poverty, famine or lack of housing.



Residence permit on grounds of legitimate and specific purpose

In special circumstances a residence permit may be granted an individual who comes to Iceland on legitimate grounds and with a special purpose. The applicant must fulfil the basic requirements for a residence permit, according to Article 11, however, does not have to fulfil the special requirements, stated in Article 12, Article 12 e, or Article 13.


A residence permit on these grounds is only granted in exceptional instances and when special circumstances exist. The provision entails an authorization for granting a residence permit, however, not an obligation to grant a residence permit under any circumstances. An assessment is made in every instance as to whether a residence permit should be granted.


Falling under this provision, for example, can be nuns or missionaries, as well as volunteers who come to Iceland on behalf of volunteer organizations. This is not a complete list and various other instances may fall under this provision.


In order for the Directorate of Immigration being able to assess whether a residence permit should be granted on these grounds, a statement by the applicant must be received by the Directorate, describing the purpose of his/her stay in Iceland. Documents supporting the statement must also be submitted. Such a document can be a confirmation from a religious group, for example, or other documents from a person in Iceland who confirms why the applicant intends to stay in Iceland.


A residence permit on legitimate grounds or specific purpose is granted for one year at a time as a maximum and cannot constitute the grounds for a permanent residence permit. The focus is on temporary circumstances and therefore it is not anticipated that a residence permit that is granted on these grounds can be renewed except in exceptional instances.



Permanent residence permit

A permanent residence permit, according to Article 15 of the Act on Foreigners, entails an unlimited right to stay in Iceland. The requirement is that the applicant has stayed in Iceland for four consecutive years on the basis of a residence permit which can be grounds for a permanent residence permit. The applicant must, for example, have had a residence permit as a specialist for four years and may not have changed the grounds of the permit during this time in order to fulfil this requirement. A permanent residence permit must be applied for at least one month before the current residence permit expires. The grounds for the issuance of a permanent residence permit are that the requirements for the issuance of a residence permit still exist, for example, if an applicant has held a residence permit on grounds of employment, the requirements for such a residence permit must be fulfilled, for example, continued employment.


A permanent residence permit is not issued if granting it means that the applicant receives a better right than the person from which he/she draws the right to stay. This means that an applicant who has a residence permit on grounds of family reunification cannot apply for a permanent residence permit until the person from whom he/she draws his/her right (mother/father) has been granted a permanent residence permit or Icelandic citizenship.


The applicant must have completed a 150 hours course in the Icelandic language for foreigners or have taken an Icelandic language skills exam with an acknowledged party. Click here to see a list of acknowledged parties for this exam.


The requirement of the 150 hours Icelandic course may be deviated from if the applicant is 65 years of age or older, has lived in Iceland for at least 10 years and is unable, for physical or mental reasons, to participate in such a course. Such a circumstance must be confirmed by a medical doctor.


The applicant must prove that his/her means of support during the stay in Iceland have been secure and that he/she is able to provide for his/her needs in a lawful manner in Iceland. The same guidelines for support apply as when a residence permit is granted, see basic requirements. In order to prove that means of support have and will be secure, the applicant must submit a confirmed copy of his/her tax return forms of the last four years and documents confirming means of support, for example, an employment contract and pay slips. Sending tax return forms in electronic format is permissible. Send to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Reasons preventing the granting of a permanent residence permit

No circumstances may exist that could cause an applicant being expelled from Iceland, according to Article 15, paragraph 1, item b. This article refers to Article 20, paragraph 1, item a, on the expulsion of a foreign national who has a residence permit. The article states that a foreign national who has a residence permit may be expelled from Iceland if:

  1. He/she has seriously or repeatedly been in breach of one or more provisions of the Act on Foreigners, or submitted materially incorrect or clearly misleading information in a case, according to the Act on Foreigners.
  2. He/she has over the last five years served a sentence abroad or been sentenced and penalized for conduct which according to Icelandic law could result in imprisonment for more than one year. The same applies regarding special measures that are decided because of criminal conduct.
  3. He/she has been sentenced by court or if a court has ordered that he/she shall be subject to security measures for conduct that could result in more than one year imprisonment, or has been sentenced to imprisonment more than once over the last three years
  4. It is necessary with a view to national security or public interest.


An applicant who has been sentenced or penalized falls under these provisions and therefore does not have a right to a permanent residence permit. Additionally, an applicant may not have unfinished matters in the penal system if suspected of criminal conduct. In such circumstances an application will be denied. The Directorate of Immigration obtains criminal record certificates from the police; hence the applicant does not have to submit such a certificate.


Payments in the form of social assistance by the state or a municipality are not considered as secure means of support. If an applicant has received social assistance over the last four (4) years before applying for a residence permit, the application is denied. If means of support have not been secure for a short period of time, however, the authorities may deviate from this requirement. This includes instances, for example, of an applicant having suffered an accident or having been on maternity/paternity leave. Note that the guidelines on support do not apply to applicants who have had a refugee residence permit, according to Article 12 j, or a residence permit on humanitarian grounds, according to Article 12, paragraph 4, item f.


An applicant who has worked and intends to continue working must apply for an unrestricted work permit and must submit an employment contract in the same way as when applying for a residence permit.


Permanent residence permit for a child

A child who is born in Iceland after his/her parent was granted a permanent residence permit may be granted a permanent residence permit by means of an application.


A child who has a permanent residence permit may engage in work without a work permit until the age of 18. After turning 18 the relevant person must apply for an unrestricted work permit if he/she intends to continue working.