Tourists flocking to Iceland have helped to rescue the country's economy after it suffered badly during the global banking crisis - opening up exciting new opportunities for those willing to brave its harsh climate

This small island nation, situated in the North Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America, may not seem an obvious place to go looking for job vacancies.

But while holidaymakers come for the volcanoes, hot springs, geysers and northern lights, there is also plenty on offer for visitors who decide to make Iceland their home.

Before the recession foreign workers already made up 10% of the workforce and, although there was a dip during the hard times, that number is on the rise again as the growing economy faces a labour shortage.

Jobs in Iceland

The economy was hit hard by the banking crisis in 2008 but has since recovered strongly, largely thanks to a boom in tourism. Astonishingly, given its population of only around 330,000, Iceland expects to receive two million visitors in 2017. That's five times the number seen in 2010.

According to a report in the Financial Times, more than a third of the jobs created in the last five years have been in tourism. Iceland's increased popularity as a holiday destination has led to growth in areas such as hotel construction, as the country's infrastructure currently struggles to keep up with the influx of foreign travellers.

Meanwhile, Iceland continues to depend heavily on the fishing industry, which accounts for 40% of its exports. Geothermal and hydroelectric power, as well as aluminium smelting, are also important, as the country gradually returns to the high growth, low unemployment economy it enjoyed before the crash.

Skills shortages exist, however, in areas such as construction, healthcare, IT and tourism.

To find vacancies you can search for jobs in Iceland at:

If you are in Iceland, local newspapers and trade unions are good places to find openings and it's also worth registering with recruitment agencies.

How to get a job in Iceland

According to the Icelandic Directorate of Labour, most jobs in the country are never advertised. This means that you'll need to send speculative applications to companies that you are interested in working for. Use social media platforms such as LinkedIn to build a local network and contact prospective employers.

Where jobs are listed, you'll typically be required to complete an online application form or send your CV and a cover letter. As a general rule your application should be in the same language as the job advert, if possible.

Summer jobs

Casual seasonal work and volunteering are great ways to experience Iceland while gaining language skills and boosting your CV.

As a result of the rapid growth of tourism in Iceland, temporary employment in the hospitality industry - for example in restaurants and hotels - is relatively easy to find during the summer. Fluency in English is a real benefit for these roles. Another option is to help out on a farm. You can learn more about this type of work at Nínukot.

Opportunities for casual work and volunteering are also listed on:

Meanwhile, the European Voluntary Service (EVS) is funded by the European Commission and is aimed at 17 to 30-year-olds who want to volunteer abroad in areas such as youth work, cultural activities, social care or environmental protection. Placements last between two weeks and 12 months.

When arranging a voluntary placement, always be sure to check the terms and conditions.

Teaching jobs

Many Icelanders speak English to various degrees of fluency and it is now taught from an early age in the country's high quality state schools. As such, there is very limited scope to find temporary work teaching English as a foreign language.

If you are highly qualified it may be possible to secure a role teaching English in a university, in a corporate setting or in an international school.


Taking an internship abroad can help you to stand out in the competitive job market and learn a new language. Search for internships in Iceland at:

It may also be possible to secure an internship by applying speculatively to companies that you are interested in and explaining your skills and qualifications. If you do not speak Icelandic, focus on larger firms that use English as their main language of business.

Icelandic visas

If you're from any country in the European Economic Area (EEA) you can live and work in Iceland without a permit for up to three months, or six months if you're looking for employment. To stay longer than this, you will need to register your residence with the relevant authorities.

The EEA comprises all European Union (EU) member states (including the UK) plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. In addition, Swiss nationals have the same rights as citizens of EEA countries.

This visa information remains valid following the UK's decision to leave the EU and will be updated should changes occur.

Individuals from outside the EEA will need a Schengen visa to visit Iceland for up to three months. To stay for longer than three months, you'll need a residence permit and you should apply before moving to Iceland - only travelling once it has been granted.

Residence permits for workers are divided into three categories:

  • qualified professionals;
  • athletes;
  • temporary shortage of labourers.

There is a processing fee of ISK 12,000 (about £88) for residence permits. You can find out more about the criteria you must meet in order to be eligible at The Directorate of Immigration - Residence permits. Contact the Icelandic embassy in your home country to begin your application.

Whether you are from an EEA country or not, after moving to Iceland you should apply for a kennitala, an Icelandic ID/social security number. It is required for things like opening a bank account and paying tax.

Language requirements

Many Icelanders speak good English and it is possible to find jobs in larger companies that use it as their language of business. Therefore, you should be able to get by while you learn the basics of Icelandic, which is recognised as one of the hardest languages for native English speakers to get to grips with.

If you do want to learn, you can do so for free using, a service provided by the University of Iceland.

Alternatively, the University Centre of the Westfjords offers short residential courses during which you can study while also experiencing life in a remote Icelandic town. They cost between €300 and €600 (£267-£534) and last from one to three weeks.

How to explain your qualifications to employers

Qualifications gained in the UK and elsewhere in Europe will generally be recognised by employers in Iceland. Useful information to help you ensure that no problems arise can be found at Europass and ENIC-NARIC.

What it's like to work in Iceland

The standard working week in Iceland is 40 hours (eight hours per day Monday to Friday). Full-time workers are entitled to a minimum of 24 days of paid leave during the holiday year from May to April, and there are also 12 annual public holidays.

All employees, including EEA citizens who have worked for the same employer for two months or more, are entitled to a written employment contract. To learn about details such as income tax, pension requirements and sick leave, visit the Multicultural and information centre - Work.

When you're deciding whether a move to Iceland is feasible, bear in mind that the cost of living in Reykjavik is high - comparable with London and New York.

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