We made it into Iceland today with our brand new Icelandic teleworker visas!
We wanted to move to Iceland for a while for a few reasons: they’re doing such an excellent job of controlling COVID-19, life is going on normally (bars & restaurants & museums are open), they have phenomenal internet connectivity (gig fiber everywhere), and it’s just a beautiful place to visit year-round.
As Americans, if we want to get into Iceland, we have a few choices:
- Just drop in as a tourist for 90 days – except this is off-limits now due to the COVID19 travel bans
- Get a work permit and stay for years – this is what we’d originally planned to do when I first shared that we were moving to Iceland for a while. I had signed on to work part-time for an Icelandic company, a few days per month, in order to get a conventional work permit. However, my soon-to-be-employer had a shakeup, and rather than find another employer, we opted to…
- Get Iceland’s new teleworker visa – which lets you stay for 6 months per year as long as you’re from a country that wouldn’t normally need a tourist visa, and you can prove that you have a remote job that makes at least around $100K USD per year.
The good news of using the teleworker visa:
- Iceland’s internet infrastructure is fantastic, with full 1Gbit/sec fiber available all over the country, making it easy to work remotely
- I don’t have to work for someone else, and I don’t have to go into an office, so I can limit my possible exposure to COVID19
- It doesn’t affect our tax status – we don’t have to pay extra income taxes in Iceland, just our normal US income taxes back home
The bad news:
- It’s only good for 6 months per year – they’ve talked about raising that, but for now it’s still just 6 months
- It’s not eligible for a permanent residency permit – if I’d have had a regular work permit and stayed for 4 years straight (less vacations), we could have gotten a permanent residency permit, so we were planning to build a house in Iceland – that’s off for now
How to apply for a teleworker visa
The teleworker visa application is pretty simple, but can’t be done online: you have to send over real paper forms and passport photos. I would highly recommend shipping your application via a shipping company that includes signed proof of delivery and tracking. If you need help with the application process, WorkFromIceland.com offers an advisory package, but it costs thousands of dollars. (We didn’t use it, but I was tempted.)
After Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration receives your application, it goes into a bit of a black hole. We didn’t get email confirmation that our application was received, and Iceland’s immigration status page doesn’t show what range of teleworker visas they’re working on. That page is only updated about once a month – if you apply, I’d recommend using a service like distill.io to watch the page for changes.
We received approval via email after 5 weeks to process, but we had a few folks talking to the Iceland government on our behalf, so that might have sped things up. As we worked through the final logistics with the Directorate of Immigration, we found out that we were literally the very first people to get approvals for this new visa!
Iceland sends you a signed email confirmation, at which point you’re eligible to enter the country. You show this email to passport control as you enter Iceland, they check their databases, and in you go.
After arriving in Iceland, you’ll quarantine.
Obviously this situation is very fluid, and I’m writing about the January 2021 situation. If you’re reading this later, check covid.is for the latest coronavirus travel restrictions.
72 hours before you fly into Iceland, you have to register for your free COVID19 test and download the Rakning C-19 app. Iceland tracks you by your cell phone number, and the app helps the country do contact tracing.
When you arrive, you get a free COVID19 test at the airport. Because they’ve got testing gear centralized in one location, you get your results back in the app quickly – ours took just about 8 hours.
From the airport, you have to go into quarantine for 5 days. There are a set list of hotels that accept quarantining guests, or you can go to your house. You’re allowed to pick up a rental car, and if you have a long drive ahead of you, you can stay overnight in a quarantine hotel first before setting off on your journey – but only one night. Because there are storms in the north where we need to go, we decided to just do the whole quarantine at an approved hotel instead. Room service!
After 5 days, you get another free COVID19 test. (The date, time, and location are sent to you via email & via the Rakning-C19 app within a day of you starting quarantine.) After you receive the all-clear from your second test’s results, then you’re done with quarantining. We’ll drive up north, settle into our rental house, set up my home studio. I’m teleworking again, teaching training classes starting February 1. Oh I think I’m supposed to say 1 Feb now. I’m European. (raises pinkie finger)
I’m not teleworking too hard though: during our stay here, we’re working 2 weeks a month, and spending the rest of the time seeing the amazing sights of Iceland.
If you’ve got any questions about the application process or arriving into Iceland, let me know. Next up in your immigration process: getting a kennitala and an electronic ID.