Since regulation changes made it possible for remote workers outside the EEA with substantial incomes to obtain visas to Iceland for 6 months, 65 such applications have been received, almost all from US citizens, Kjarninn reports. Ten people have already come to Iceland on such a visa but 50 more applications have been accepted.
The Directorate of Immigration has received 65 visa applications for people outside the EEA who want to come to Iceland and work for a foreign company remotely for up to six months. These visas were first made available at the end of October and attracted some interest for the strict conditions required for obtaining such a visa, most notably the high salary requirements attached. In order to obtain a remote working visa, people need to have a salary of at least 1 million ISK per month or show proof of contract work meeting the required income standards if working independently.
According to the Directorate of Immigration, the 65 visa applications are both from people who wants to work remotely from Iceland, as well as their spouses and children. Ten people have been issued such a visa but the visa isn’t issued until the people arrive.
In addition to the ten already here, the Directorate of Immigration has approved 50 more visa applications and is processing five more. 95% of the applications come from the US and the remaining 5% are either Canadian or British.
The new visa option was introduced last October, intended for remote workers who want to spend time in Iceland. Since the remote workers don’t pay taxes in Iceland, they’re not entitled to any government services. If the visa holder is bringing school-age children, they need to provide proof that the children are studying remotely or being home-schooled or, alternatively, get permission to place them in an Icelandic school.
The initiative is intended to make it easier for remote workers to choose Iceland as their residence. Authorities are looking into extending the visas for more than the current 6 months but that would require further changes to legislation and regulations. The Ministry of industry and innovation told Kjarninn that Minister of Industry, Innovation and Tourism Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir has brought the issue up in a government meeting, suggesting that her ministry figure out how to execute further visa extensions and present the necessary legal changes to the government no later than May 7.
Visit Iceland has analysed the demand for remote work in Iceland and found that there’s a great demand for working remotely in Iceland but many don’t fulfil the strict requirements currently in place for such visas. Visit Iceland also found that the application process needed to be streamlined, applicants’ spouses needed to be able to obtain work permits in Iceland, and the tax situation should be reviewed.
When the initiative was presented last October, Þórdís Kolbrún stated that to develop an export industry based on innovation in Iceland, we needed to create an environment where people with different ideas and skills can get to know each other, learn from each other and create opportunities for the future. The Icelandic innovative industry’s greatest weakness was its lack of connections to the international market and by attracting remote workers, we could create new connections.
Þórdís Kolbrún also told Kjarninn that she believed making remote worker visas available was only one step. The process also needed to be simplified and Iceland needed to be marketed as an option for remote working. “for experts in international tech companies, we can offer a high quality of living. There’s the nature of course, but also good access to kindergartens and elementary schools, which is often a bigger bonus for people with children than we realise. Then there’s our great healthcare system, active cultural life, peace and quiet,” said Þórdís Kolbrún.