Temporary work permits 

Generally, employers who intend to hire a foreign national who is a citizen of a country outside of the European Economic Area, EFTA-state or the Faroe Islands, shall apply for and have been granted a work permit prior to the foreign national commencing work. If the foreign national commences employment before the permit is granted, it may lead to the application being declined. It may also lead to up to two years imprisonment of the employer and the foreign national. 

If the employer is issued with a temporary work permit, it on the condition that the foreign national for who the permit is applied for, is only permitted to work for the company that the work permit is granted to. If the foreign national would like to change employers, then they are required to apply for a new work permit with their new employer, which must be granted before they are permitted to commence working. Further information is available further down this page. 

Process of applying for a temporary work permit

Applications for temporary work permits along with all necessary supporting documents are to be submitted to The Directorate of Immigration. Generally, The Directorate of Immigration inquires as to whether the foreign national fulfils the conditions to be issued with a residence permit before the work permit application is forwarded to The Directorate of Labour for processing. 

When The Directorate of Labour has received the application, the directorate checks to ensure that all necessary supporting documents are accompanying the application, if the application fulfils the conditions of The Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act. If any documents are missing or if further information is required, The Directorate of Labour sends a letter to the employer and the foreign national where the required documentation or information is requested. 

If the application is determined to be satisfactory, or if the deadlines to submit further documentation or information have passed, The Directorate of Labour makes a decision on the application and the requested temporary work permit is either granted or declined. The Directorate of Labour’s decision it notified to the employer and the foreign national by letter. The Directorate of Immigration is also notified of the decision as it may impact the foreign national’s right to reside in Iceland. If The Directorate of Labour declines the issuing of the work permit, it is possible to appeal the decision to The Ministry of Social Affairs. 

General conditions of temporary work permits. 

The following conditions must be fulfilled for The Directorate of Labour to grant a temporary work permit. 

  • The application for a temporary work permit has been signed by the employer and the foreign national. 
  • An employment contract signed by both the employer and the foreign national accompanies the application. 
  • The relevant labour union has provided their opinion in section IV of the application. 

Extending the work permit 

The application to extend the temporary work permit must be submitted to The Directorate of Immigration four weeks before the current permit expires. When extending the work permit, all conditions must be fulfilled, and the employer must have must have paid tax deductions at source and social security tax regarding the foreign national’s employment in accordance with the legislation. 

Generally, only the following documents are required to be submitted when applying for a work permit extension: 

  • The application for a temporary work permit has been signed by the employer and the foreign national. 
  • An employment contract signed by both the employer and the foreign national accompanies the application. 
  • The relevant labour union has provided their opinion in section IV of the application. 

In the following instances, further information must be submitted with and application for a work permit extension: 

  • When applying for a temporary work permit due to a shortage of employees. 
  • When applying for a temporary work permit for specialized employees under service contracts or collaboration agreements on educational, academic, or scientific work. 

Further information regarding the documentation required to be submitted can be found by selecting the relevant type of permit here below. 

New employer of the foreign national 

Foreign nationals with temporary work permits are prohibited to work for another employer before they are issued a work permit to employ them. If the foreign national would like to change employers, he is required to submit an application for a work permit to The Directorate of Immigration from their new employer and the permit must be granted before they are permitted to commence working. 

All conditions of the type of work permit which is applied for must be fulfilled, regardless of the type of permit the foreign national held with their previous employer.

Further information regarding the conditions of each type of work permit can be found here below. 


A temporary work permit for a job in which special skills are required:

A temporary work permit may be granted for specific employment here in Iceland when workers cannot be found in the domestic labour market, within the European Economic Area, in EFTA states or in the Faroe Islands due to a shortage of employees (labour-shortage permit), per Article 9 of the Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act, no. 97/2002. The conditions for granting a work permit according to this provision are amongst others:

  • The assistance of the Directorate of Labour has been requested to find an employee in Iceland and within the EEA, the EFTA- states or in the Faroe Islands. An advertisement can be submitted electronically here.
  • The foreign national has entered into an employment contract with an employer on the execution of a specific job which, according to legislation or customs in Iceland.
  • The opinon of the relevant labour union has been obtained
  • That the employer provides specific detailed reasoning regarding the necessity to hire foreign employees from states outside the EEA, the EFTA states or the Faroe Islands, and, amongst other things, in what way this is important to the employer's business operations.

Please be informed that work permits due to a shortage of employees are only granted in exceptional circumstances, are only intended to respond to temporary fluctuations in the Icelandic labour market. Furthermore, the employer is required to search for an employee who already has a non-restricted access to the Icelandic labour market before this type of permit is applied for, also when applying for an extension.

Applications for temporary work permits are to be submitted to The Directorate of Immigration along with all necessary supporting documents. To ensure efficiency, it is recommended that the work permit application be submitted alongside the residence permit application to The Directorate of Immigration.

 Necessary application supporting documents:

  1. Original copy of the application for a temporary work permit due to a shortage of employees.
    • The relevant labour union has provided their opinion in section IV of the application before it is submitted.
    • The application has been signed by both the employer and the foreign national.
  2. A contract of employment between a foreign national and an employer of which the following must be included:
    • Information regarding the foreign nationals intended job of the with the employer.
      • In instances of legally protected job titles or a licensed trade, a confirmation from the competent Icelandic authorities that the foreign national possess the required qualifications to perform the job for which he or she is to be hired must accompany the application. Further information regarding licenced trades can be found here, and information regarding health professionals here.
  • Information regarding the pension fund to be paid into in respect to the foreign national’s nature of employment.
  • The foreign national's terms of employment must be in accordance with relative collective agreements.
    1. It is essential to clearly stipulate the terms and conditions of employment.
  1. Information regarding the attempts by the employer to hire an employee who already has a non-restricted access to the Icelandic labour market before searching outside the EEA for employees.
    • If the employer has not advertised the position via the The Directorate of Labour’s EURES job portal before the application is submitted, the directorate will postpone the processing of the application to give the employer an opportunity to advertise the position

      4. Detailed reasoning regarding the necessity to hire the foreign national in question to work for the employer, why this is important to the employer's business operations.
      • Please be informed that this does not refer to reasons pertaining to the foreign national or their circumstances, but only to reasons pertaining til the employer and the conditions of the domestic labour market.

 

  1. Confirmation that the employer will pay for the foreign national’s return travel at the end of the period of service if the contract of employment is terminated due to causes not the fault of the employee, or if the foreign national becomes disabled long-term due to illness or accident. Information regarding to which country the return travel extends must be stipulated.

 

  1. With the application for an extension of a labour-shortage permit, the same documentation must be submitted.

 It is the applicant's responsibility to present the necessary documentation for the application for a temporary work permit. If all required documentation is not submitted with the application, it will result in a delay in the processing of the application or the application being declined. The Directorate of Labour may request additional documentation, should the directorate deem it to be necessary.

A checklist of the documents and information which must be submitted when applying for a work permit due to labour market shortages can be found here.

Temporary work permits due to labour market shortages can be granted for up to one year at a time. If a work permit is granted for a longer period than eight months and the validity of the work permit is interrupted, i.e. due to the application for an extension being submitted after the previous permit has expired, the foreign national must leave Iceland for two years before they are permitted to be issued with a work permit due to a shortage on employees again. The Directorate of Labour has no legal authority to deviate from the aforementioned obligation to stay abroad for two years.

If the work permit is valid for less than eight months in a twelve-month period, the foreign national is not required to reside abroad for two years for them to be granted a new work permit due to a shortage of employees.

Application for a permit extension:
With an application for a labour-shortage permit extension, the same conditions must be fulfilled as the when the first permit was granted. The company is required, amongst others, to advertise the position in question again, unless The Directorate of Labour has granted an exemption. Please refer to the conditions specified above. Furthermore, the employer must have must have paid tax deductions at source and social security tax regarding the foreign national’s employment in accordance with the legislation.

The foreign national is generally permitted to work while the application for the permit extension is being processed. It is however a condition that the application for an extension be submitted to The Directorate of Immigration at least four weeks before the previous permit expires.

New employer:
If the foreign national who has been issued a specialist permit would like to change employers, they are required to apply for a permit with their new employer. The foreign national is prohibited to commence employment with their new employer before the permit has been granted. In other respects, the application is the same as when applying for a work permit due to a shortage of employees for the first time. The employer is required, among other things advertise the position in question unless the The Directorate has granted an exemption. Please refer to the conditions specified above.

A temporary work permit due to a shortage of employees:

A temporary work permit may be granted for specific employment here in Iceland when workers cannot be found in the domestic labour market, within the European Economic Area, in EFTA states or in the Faroe Islands due to a shortage of employees (labour-shortage permit), per Article 9 of the Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act, no. 97/2002. The conditions for granting a work permit according to this provision are amongst others:  

  • The foreign national has entered into an employment contract with an employer on the execution of a specific job which, according to legislation or customs in Iceland. 
  • The opinon of the relevant labour union has been obtained 
  • That the employer provides specific detailed reasoning regarding the necessity to hire foreign employees from states outside the EEA, the EFTA states or the Faroe Islands, and, amongst other things, in what way this is important to the employer's business operations. 

Please be informed that work permits due to a shortage of employees are only granted in exceptional circumstances, are only intended to respond to temporary fluctuations in the Icelandic labour market. Furthermore, the employer is required to search for an employee who already has a non-restricted access to the Icelandic labour market before this type of permit is applied foralso when applying for an extension. 

Applications for temporary work permits are to be submitted to The Directorate of Immigration along with all necessary supporting documents. To ensure efficiency, it is recommended that the work permit application be submitted alongside the residence permit application to The Directorate of Immigration.  

 

Necessary application supporting documents: 

  1. Original copy of the application for a temporary work permit due to a shortage of employees. 
    • The relevant labour union has provided their opinion in section IV of the application before it is submitted. 
    • The application has been signed by both the employer and the foreign national.  

      2. A contract of employment between a foreign national and an employer of which the following must be included: 
      • Information regarding the foreign nationals intended job of the with the employer. 
        • In instances of legally protected job titles or a licensed trade, a confirmation from the competent Icelandic authorities that the foreign national possess the required qualifications to perform the job for which he or she is to be hired must accompany the application. Further information regarding licenced trades can be found hereand information regarding health professionals here. 
        • Information regarding the pension fund to be paid into in respect to the foreign national’s nature of employment. 
        • The foreign national's terms of employment must be in accordance with relative collective agreements. 
          • It is essential to clearly stipulate the terms and conditions of employment. 

 3. Information regarding the attempts by the
      employer to hire an employee who already        has 
a non-restricted access to the           Icelandic labour market before searching outside the EEA for employees 

  • If the employer has not advertised the position via the The Directorate of Labour’s EURES job portal before the application is submitted, the directorate will postpone the processing of the application to give the employer an opportunity to advertise the position. 

    4.D
    etailed reasoning regarding the necessity to hire the foreign national in question to work for the employerwhy this is important to the employer's business operations. 
    • Please be informed that this does not refer to reasons pertaining to the foreign national or their circumstances, but only to reasons pertaining til the employer and the conditions of the domestic labour market. 

 5. Confirmation that the employer will pay for the foreign national’s return travel at the end of the period of service if the contract of employment is terminated due to causes not the fault of the employee, or if the foreign national becomes disabled long-term due to illness or accident. Information regarding to which country the return travel extends must be stipulated. 

 6. With the application for an extension of a labour-shortage permit, the same documentation must be submitted. 

 It is the applicant's responsibility to present the necessary documentation for the application for a temporary work permit. If all required documentation is not submitted with the application, it will result in a delay in the processing of the application or the application being declined. The Directorate of Labour may request additional documentation, should the directorate deem it to be necessary. 

A checklist of the documents and information which must be submitted when applying for a work permit due to labour market shortages can be found here

Temporary work permits due to labour market shortages can be granted for up to one year at a time. If a work permit is granted for a longer period than eight months and the validity of the work permit is interrupted, i.e. due to the application for an extension being submitted after the previous permit has expired, the foreign national must leave Iceland for two years before they are permitted to be issued with a work permit due to a shortage on employees again. The Directorate of Labour has no legal authority to deviate from the aforementioned obligation to stay abroad for two years. 

If the work permit is valid for less than eight months in a twelve-month period, the foreign national is not required to reside abroad for two years for them to be granted a new work permit due to a shortage of employees. 

Application for a permit extension: 

With an application for a labour-shortage permit extension, the same conditions must be fulfilled as the when the first permit was granted. The company is required, amongst others, to advertise the position in question again, unless The Directorate of Labour has granted an exemption. Please refer to the conditions specified above. Furthermore, the employer must have must have paid tax deductions at source and social security tax regarding the foreign national’s employment in accordance with the legislation. 

The foreign national is generally permitted to work while the application for the permit extension is being processed. It is however a condition that the application for an extension be submitted to The Directorate of Immigration at least four weeks before the previous permit expires. 

New employer: 

If the foreign national who has been issued a specialist permit would like to change employers, they are required to apply for a permit with their new employer. The foreign national is prohibited to commence employment with their new employer before the permit has been granted. In other respectsthe application is the same as when applying for a work permit due to a shortage of employees for the first time. The employer is required, among other things advertise the position in question unless the The Directorate has granted an exemption. Please refer to the conditions specified above. 

Temporary work permit for athletes:

A temporary work permit may be granted due to the work of athletes at sports clubs within the Icelandic Sports and Olympic Federation, per Article 10 of The Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act, no. 97/2002The conditions for granting a work permit according to this provision are amongst others:  

  • That the foreign national has entered into a contract of employment with a sports club to engage in a specific sport or to be a trainer for a specific sport at the club where the contract of employment includes information about the pension fund to be paid into with respect to the foreign nationals’ employment. 
  • That the sports club will, in certain instances, pay for the return travel of the foreign national upon the conclusion of their period employment. 

Necessary application supporting documents: 

  1. Original copy of the application for a temporary work permit for athletes  
    • The application must be signed by both the foreign national and a representative from the sports club. 
  2.  A contract of employment between a foreign national and an employer of which the following must be included:
    1. Information regarding the foreign nationals intended job of the with the employer.
    2. Information regarding the pension fund to be paid into in respect to the foreign national’s nature of employment. 
    3. The foreign nationals’ terms and conditions of employment and other perquisites. 
    4. Confirmation that the employer will pay for the foreign national’s return travel at the end of the period of service if the contract of employment is terminated due to causes not the fault of the employee, or if the foreign national becomes disabled long-term due to illness or accident. Information regarding to which country the return travel extends must be stipulated. 

It is the applicant's responsibility to present the necessary documentation for the application for a temporary work permit. If all required documentation is not submitted with the application, it will result in a delay in the processing of the application or the application being declined. The Directorate of Labour may request additional documentation, should the directorate deem it to be necessary. 

 A checklist of the documents and information which must be submitted when applying for a work permit due for athletes can be found here

  1. A work permit for athletes which is granted for the first time is never granted for longer than one year, but never longer than the employment period stipulated in the employment contract. Work permits may be extended for up to two years at a time. With the application for an extension of a work permit for athletes, the same documentation must be submitted as when applying for a new application. 

Application for a permit extension: 

With an application to extend work permit for athletesthe same documents must be submitted as with a new application. Please refer to the conditions specified above. Furthermore, the sports club must have must have paid tax deductions at source and social security tax regarding the foreign national’s employment in accordance with the legislation. 

The foreign national is generally permitted to work while the application for the permit extension is being processed. It is however a condition that the application for an extension be submitted to The Directorate of Immigration at least four weeks before the previous permit expires. 

The foreign national would like to work for a new sports club: 

If the foreign national who has been issued a work permit for athletes would like to change sports clubs, they are required to apply for a permit with the new sports club. The foreign national is prohibited to commence employment with their new sports club before the permit has been granted. In other respects, the application is the same as when applying for a work permit for athletes for the first time. Please refer to the conditions specified above. 

 

A temporary work permit granted in order to reunite families:

A work permit may be granted to a foreign national if their closest relative is an Icelandic citizen or if they possess a certain type of work permit here in Iceland, per Article 12 of The Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act, no 97/2002. The conditions, amongst others, are as follows: 

  • The foreign national is: 
  • a cohabiting spouse of an Icelandic citizen. 
  • child of a spouse or cohabiting spouse of an Icelandic citizen, providing further conditions are met. 
  • spouse, cohabiting spouse, or child older than 18 years providing further conditions are met, of foreign nationals who have been granted the following work permits: 
  • Temporary work permits for a job in which special skills are required, per Article 8 of The Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act. 
  • Temporary work permits connected to residence permits on humanitarian grounds, per Article 11 of The Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act.  
  • Permanent residence permits, per Article 58 of The Act on Foreigners, no. 80/2016 
  • The foreign national has entered into a contract of employment with an employer. 
  • The relevant labour union has provided their opinion in section IV of the application. 

Necessary application supporting documents: 

  1. Original copy of the application for a temporary work permit granted in order to reunite families. 
  1. The opinion of the relevant labour union must be obtained before it is submitted (section IV) 
  1. The application must be signed by both the foreign national and the employer. 
  1. A contract of employment between a foreign national and an employer of which the following must be included: 
  1. Information regarding the foreign nationals intended job of the with the employer. 
  1. Information regarding the pension fund to be paid into in respect to the foreign national’s nature of employment. 
  1. The foreign national's terms of employment must be in accordance with relative collective agreements. It is essential to clearly stipulate the terms and conditions of employment. 

With an application to extend a work permit under special circumstances, the same documents must be submitted as with a new application 

Temporary work permits under special circumstances, in connection with residence permits on humanitarian grounds may form the grounds for a permanent residence permit. 

It is the applicant's responsibility to present the necessary documentation for the application for a temporary work permit. If all required documentation is not submitted with the application, it will result in a delay in the processing of the application or the application being declined. The Directorate of Labour may request additional documentation, should the directorate deem it to be necessary. 

A temporary work permit in connection with study:

A temporary work permit may granted to a foreign national who is pursuing studies here in Iceland (student permit), per Article 13 of The Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act, no. 97/2002. The conditions, amongst others, are as follows: 

  • The foreign national has entered into a contract of employment with an employer. 
  • The foreign nationals’ employment ratio is not higher than 40%, except during school vacation periods or in vocational training. 
  • The foreign national has been granted a student residence permit under the Act on Foreigners. 
  • The relevant labour union has provided their opinion in section IV of the application. 

Necessary application supporting documents: 

  1. Original copy of the application for a temporary work permit in connection with study. 
  1. The opinion of the relevant labour union must be obtained before it is submitted (section IV) 
  1. The application must be signed by both the foreign national and the employer. 
  1. A contract of employment between a foreign national and an employer of which the following must be included: 
  1. Information regarding the foreign nationals intended job of the with the employer. 
  1. Information regarding the pension fund to be paid into in respect to the foreign national’s nature of employment. 
  1. The foreign national's terms of employment must be in accordance with relative collective agreements. It is essential to clearly stipulate the terms and conditions of employment. 

With an application to extend a work permit under special circumstances, the same documents must be submitted as with a new application.  

It is the applicant's responsibility to present the necessary documentation for the application for a temporary work permit. If all required documentation is not submitted with the application, it will result in a delay in the processing of the application or the application being declined. The Directorate of Labour may request additional documentation, should the directorate deem it to be necessary. 

Temporary work permits for specialised employees under service contracts or collaboration agreements on educational, academic, or scientific work:

temporary work permit may be granted, in exceptional circumstances, to specialist employees on the grounds of a service agreement, per Article 15 of The Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act, no. 97/2002. The conditions, amongst others, are as follows: 

  1. The foreign company providing services here in Iceland does not operate a branch in Iceland. 
  2. A service agreement has been made between the foreign and domestic company. 
  3. The service agreement or confirmed addendum thereto stipulates the necessity of the foreign national applying for the work permit to the services being provided. 

Necessary application supporting documents: 

  1. Original copy of the application for a temporary work for specialist employees on the grounds of a service agreement. 
  2. A service agreement between the foreign and domestic company. 
  3. The service agreement or the confirmed addendum must stipulate the necessity of the foreign nation applying for the work permit to perform the services being provided. 
  4. A contract of employment between a foreign national and the service company of which the following must be stipulated: 
  5. Information regarding the foreign nationals terms and conditions of employment while they are residing in Iceland. 

With an application to extend a work permit under special circumstances, the same documents must be submitted as with a new application.  

It is the applicant's responsibility to present the necessary documentation for the application for a temporary work permit. If all required documentation is not submitted with the application, it will result in a delay in the processing of the application or the application being declined. The Directorate of Labour may request additional documentation, should the directorate deem it to be necessary. 

A work permit under special circumstances:

In exceptional cases, a work permit may be granted under special circumstances, per Article 11 of The Foreign Nationals’ Right to Work Act, no. 97/2002, and the following conditions, amongst others, are fulfilled:

  • The foreign national has been granted a residence permit on the following grounds:
    • A provisional residence permit.
    • A residence permit on humanitarian grounds.
    • A residence permits on the basis of a lawful and special purpose.
  • The foreign national has entered into a contract of employment with an employer.
  • The relevant labour union has provided their opinion in section IV of the application.

Necessary application supporting documents:

  1. Original copy of the application for a temporary work permit under special circumstances.
  2. The opinion of the relevant labour union must be obtained before it is submitted (section IV)
  3. The application must be signed by both the foreign national and the employer.
  4. A contract of employment between a foreign national and an employer of which the following must be included:
    1. Information regarding the foreign nationals intended job of the with the employer.
    2. Information regarding the pension fund to be paid into in respect to the foreign national’s nature of employment.
    3. The foreign national's terms of employment must be in accordance with relative collective agreements. It is essential to clearly stipulate the terms and conditions of employment.

With an application to extend a work permit under special circumstances, the same documents must be submitted as with a new application.

Temporary work permits under special circumstances, in connection with residence permits on humanitarian grounds may form the grounds for a permanent residence permit.

It is the applicant's responsibility to present the necessary documentation for the application for a temporary work permit. If all required documentation is not submitted with the application, it will result in a delay in the processing of the application or the application being declined. The Directorate of Labour may request additional documentation, should the directorate deem it to be necessary.


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