Dreaming of Moving to Iceland? Here’s What to Know If You’re American

updated Oct 13, 2023
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Many people consider Iceland a bucket-list destination with its beautiful scenery, fresh seafood, and chances to glimpse the Northern Lights. Although many plan stopovers in Iceland while traveling to Europe, the country beckons others to stay longer. If the possibility of lingering in the capital of Reykjavik or a rural area like Selfoss sounds appealing, it may be time to move to Iceland. Whether you want to get a job along the coast, retire in the city, or work remotely, here are answers to a few frequently-asked questions about moving to Iceland as an American.

Quick Overview

How to Move to Iceland

  1. Contact the Directorate of Immigration to apply for a residence permit.
  2. Prove that you’ve secured a place to live.
  3. Submit your criminal record and consent to a mandatory medical examination.
  4. If you’re not employed, prepare to prove that you have enough funds to support yourself.
  5. Set aside money for airfare and residence applications.

Can U.S. citizens move to Iceland?

Moving to Iceland as a United States citizen is possible. However, what the country allows is pretty restrictive. If you plan on staying for more than three months, you will need to contact the Directorate of Immigration to apply for a residence permit, and acceptance depends on your reason for staying. Commonly acceptable justifications include being a qualified worker, student, volunteer, au pair, or needing to reunite with a family member, such as a spouse, minor, or aging parent. In particular circumstances, residency is considered on a case-by-case basis. 

Before heading to Iceland, you will also need to prove that you have secured a place of residence, and you may also have to submit your criminal record and consent to a mandatory medical examination. Also, be prepared to provide additional information to immigration, such as your passport and proof of having health insurance recognized in Iceland.

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How much money do you need to immigrate to Iceland?

As expected, you will have to account for airfare and residence applications. “Both temporary and permanent residence permits cost 15,000 ISK, which is equivalent to $116,” advises Lum Kamishi, the editor of a visa guidance site. He also says that moving to Iceland requires obtaining a national ID number called a kennitala, which costs around $62, or 8,000 ISK. “You will need to present your kennitala when applying for work, seeking medical care, opening a bank account, and even when borrowing a book from the library,” Kamishi adds.

Although those are inexpensive initial investments, living in Iceland is pricier than residing in the United States. Consumer goods, eating in restaurants, and groceries all cost more. The good news is that the average monthly rent tends to be less. However, just like in the United States, where you choose to live will significantly impact how much it costs to live in Iceland.

Can I move to Iceland without a job?

Yes, it is possible to retire in Iceland or move prior to securing a job. However, if you don’t have employment before moving, you will need to prove that you have around $1,500 per month as an individual or about $2,200 per month as a couple for the duration of your intended stay. For example, if you plan to stay for a year without employment, you’ll have to prove that you have the required amount to support yourself for the entire year. If you cannot prove that you can fund your stay, you will need to work in Iceland, securing a job that the country deems necessary.