How to Move to Iceland from the US

Joe Roberts
Apr 26, 2022
Icon Time To Read13 min read

At a glance

Have you decided to relocate to Iceland for the gorgeous scenery, vibrant culture, and natural solitude? Well, you aren’t alone. Iceland’s population is projected to grow by roughly 27% between now and 2069, and immigration will play a significant role in that growth.[1]

Unfortunately, permanently moving to Iceland is much harder for US citizens than for residents of Schengen countries. But don’t worry. We’ve done the research and found out how you can move to Iceland, take up permanent residence, and even become an Icelandic citizen.

Keep reading, and we’ll go over every step your move to Iceland—or Ísland as it’s called in the Icelandic language—will require. We’ll cover visa applications, customs requirements, and which international moving company you should hire.

Best international moving companies for a move to Iceland

Moving to Iceland is difficult, and there are several things you should do before actually booking an international moving company. However, it’s not too early to get moving estimates to determine which mover will give you the best price. Requesting estimates early in the process will also give you an idea of how much to budget for your overseas move.

Additionally, your moving company may be able to help you with logistical tasks like getting your visa and counseling you on the Icelandic customs process. The earlier you get this help, the better.

Start your move to Iceland by getting quotes from some or all of our favorite international moving companies. Then, after you’ve applied for all the documents we’ll go over below, you can actually book your moving service.

Use case
Moving company
Star rating
Customer service
Phone number
Best overall
northamericanNorth American Van Lines
4.8 out of 5 stars
7 days/week customer service89 years of experience855-898-6625
Employee relocation
unitedUnited Van Lines
4.7 out of 5 stars
Weekday only customer service94 years of experience877-740-3040
Most popular
internationalvanlinesInternational Van Lines
4.3 out of 5 stars
7 days/week customer service18 years of experience855-930-4574
Wide availability
alliedAllied Van Lines
4.1 out of 5 stars
Weekday only customer service94 years of experience855-886-2648
Excellent reviews
bekinsBekins Van Lines
4.1 out of 5 stars
Weekday only customer service131 years of experience800-456-8092
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How moving companies ship your stuff overseas

Moving companies can deliver household goods overseas in two ways: by air or by sea. Air freight is quicker than ocean freight, but it’s also much, much more expensive. Because of this cost difference, ocean freight is far more common, and some companies don’t even offer air freight. Learn more about your options in our guide to moving internationally.

You probably can’t take everything to Iceland

Moving to Iceland is going to cost you thousands of dollars no matter what you do, but getting rid of anything you can bear to part with will save you some money in the long run. If you have clothing, books, furniture, dishes, and other household goods that would be cheaper to replace than ship across the world, you probably should.

Electronics should be at the top of your list as you’re deciding what to get rid of. Taking electronics to other countries often means paying duty fees. And since outlets and voltage vary between countries, it’s best to just get new gadgets after you’re in Iceland instead of shipping the ones you currently own and buying adapters and converters to make them work.

Here are a few ways to offload the things you’ll get rid of:

There are some things you’ll be given no choice but to ditch. Iceland, like any other country, restricts which items can be imported. Iceland’s list of banned imports includes things like narcotics, long knives, and some types of food.[2]

There are also some items—like firearms and telecommunications equipment—that you can only bring into Iceland if you have special permits. Check out the International Trade Administration’s resource about Iceland’s prohibited imports to learn more.

Bringing pets to Iceland

As long as you meet the requirements imposed by the Icelandic authorities, you can bring your beloved pets to Iceland with you. These requirements include things like an import permit from the Iceland Food and Veterinary Authority and up-to-date vaccination and health certificates.

For a full run-down on the process and requirements for importing pets, read the US Department of Agriculture’s resource on traveling to Iceland with animals.

Bringing your car to Iceland

Shipping your car to Iceland is an option, though it costs thousands of dollars. Additionally, Iceland’s weather is pretty hard on vehicles that aren’t built for the cold climate. Before you decide to ship your car, determine how rugged it is and whether it’s worth the price. It’s probably more cost-effective to sell your current car in the United States and replace it in Iceland.

If you do decide to ship your car, use our international car shipping guide to get started.

Start budgeting for your move

After getting a few moving quotes and determining how much you’ll pay to ship your household goods, it’s time to make a budget. Of course, your moving costs aren’t the only expenses you should account for. There are also processing fees for all your visa applications, the rent or mortgage for wherever you’ll live in Iceland, and living expenses.

Lastly, you’re required to prove that you can support yourself before immigrating to Iceland. For an individual, you need to have a monthly income or cash flow of 212.694 ISK.[3] With the current conversion rate, this sum converts to about $1,633.97. If you’ll need a job to meet this requirement, you should start searching for Icelandic employment as soon as possible. 

A quick note on numbers in Iceland

In Iceland, periods are used in places where you’d use a comma in the US to separate thousands. For example, “15.000 ISK” is fifteen thousand ISK, not fifteen.

How much does it cost to relocate to Iceland?

International moves generally cost somewhere between $1,500 and $12,000, and the average price is $8,000. If this price is higher than you can pay at the moment, read our guide to paying for your move to get some help covering your moving costs.

Moving prices vary drastically depending on the situation, and minute details like how much stuff you’re moving, exactly where you’re moving from, and which company you hire can all affect the price of your move to Iceland.

Because of this variability, there’s no substitute for actually getting your own quotes from moving companies. Anything short of an estimate tailored to your specific situation is just a guess and shouldn’t be the basis for your budget.

Processing fees for visa and permit applications

When you’re budgeting, you should account for the processing fee for your residence permit or visa application. Here’s a list of common processing fees from the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration:

Cost in Icelandic króna
Cost in American dollars
Application for a residence permit15.000 ISK
Application for a residence permit renewal15.000 ISK
Application for a long-term visa12.200 ISK
Application for a permanent residence permit15.000 ISK
Citizenship application for an adult25.000 ISK4

Data as of 4/13/2022. Application fees are sourced directly from the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration. Fees in American dollars are based on the ISK to dollar conversion rate as of 4/13/2022.

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Need help with Icelandic conversion rates?

Conversion rates between the currencies in different countries fluctuate all the time, so the dollar amounts we’ve listed above might be slightly off. To find the most accurate price for your processing fees, check today’s conversion rate using this handy currency conversion tool.

What is the cost of living in Iceland?

According to Numbeo, the average pre-rent cost of living for a single Icelandic resident is $1,202.60 every month, while the monthly cost of living for a family of four is $4,433.30. This means that the cost of living in Iceland is roughly 34% higher than it is in the United States. Conversely, Iceland’s average rent is actually about 18% cheaper than the US’s.[5]

Renew your documents

Before you start applying for Icelandic permits, you should first ensure all of your essential documents are up-to-date. Check the expiration date on your passport, your driver’s license—which you can use to drive in Iceland[6]—and your insurance documents. If any of these documents will expire soon, renew them now instead of waiting.

It’s much harder for a US citizen to renew documentation like this when living abroad. Also, renewal applications can take time to process, so it’s good to get the ball rolling as soon as possible instead of waiting until the last minute.

An approval stamp with an Icelandic visa

Apply for your Kennitala

A Kennitala is the very first thing you’ll need to apply for. This is a 10-digit identification number, and you can think of it as the Icelandic equivalent of a social security number. It’s what identifies you in the Icelandic tax system, and you’ll need it to do basically anything you’d use an ID for in the US. This includes applying for work, getting medical treatment, and opening a bank account.

To apply for your Kennitala before moving to Iceland, you’ll need to fill out a form, scan it as a PDF, and then email that PDF to the Icelandic tax authority. Check out Awesome Reykjavík’s guide for a more complete set of application instructions.

Other resources from Awesome Reykjavík

Awesome Reykjavík is an . . . awesome asset for anyone moving to Iceland. The website can help you with every step of your move from picking a mobile plan to opening a bank account. Visit its home page to check out guides and resources.

Apply for your residence permit and visa

If you plan to live in Iceland for more than three months, you’ll need to apply for a residence permit. There are multiple types of residence permits, and each has its own conditions and requirements. Depending on which residence permit you need, you may have to take care of some preliminary steps before actually applying.

It’s also worth noting that an Icelandic residence permit doesn’t grant you the right to stay in Iceland permanently. To do that, you’ll need a permanent residence permit, which you can only apply for after you’ve lived in Iceland on a regular residence permit for four years.[7]

Applying for a student residence permit

If you’re going to Iceland to study at a university, you’ll need to apply for a student residence permit. Be aware that you’ll only get the permit if you’re studying full-time at an Icelandic university. Simply taking a single Icelandic language course or studying at a university in a different country doesn’t count.[8]

Also, you can only work 15 hours a week—provided you get a work permit—while in Iceland on a student permit.[8] This means that you’ll need to have another source of income—say a parent, a spouse, or a sizable nest egg—to support yourself. Otherwise, you may not have the means to get by while studying.

The Icelandic Directorate of Immigration’s instructions for applying for a student permit gives a more comprehensive breakdown of the requirements and restrictions for this type of permit.

Applying for a work residence permit

Before getting a residence permit to work in Iceland, you’ll first need to get a work permit from the Icelandic Directorate of Labor. And to get your work permit, you’ll need to have a job lined up with an Icelandic company that wants to hire you and is willing to sponsor you through the application process.[9]

Luckily, this means you’ll have your employer’s help while going through the complex process of applying for your various permits. The unfortunate part is that you’ll need to find a job before you’re allowed to live in Iceland long-term. To start looking for work, check out this Icelandic job-listing website.

To learn more about applying for your work residence permit, thoroughly read the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration’s guide.

Applying for a family reunification residence permit

A family reunification residence permit only applies in a few specific circumstances:

  • If you’re married to—or you’re in a domestic partnership with—an Icelandic citizen or resident. Same-sex marriage is legal in Iceland,[10] so you can also apply for this permit if you’re in a same-sex marriage with an Icelandic citizen or resident.
  • If you’re the parent of an Icelandic citizen or resident and you’re older than 67.
  • If you’re the child of an Icelandic citizen or resident and you’re younger than 18.
  • If you’re the parent of an Icelandic citizen or resident who is younger than 18.[11]

If none of these situations apply to you, then you can’t get this type of permit. If you do fit in one of these categories, though, take the next steps by reading the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration’s instructions.

Other types of residence permits

There are a small handful of other Icelandic residence permits, but they only apply in very special circumstances like missionary work and undefined one-off cases. If you want to see whether or not one of these permits might work for you, check the full list of residence permit types.

Applying for your D-visa

After your residence permit application is approved, you’ll need to apply for a D-visa. This will function as your long-term travel visa for your trip to Iceland. The good news is that the Directorate of Immigration will help you send the application to the Icelandic embassy once your residence permit is approved. Check out the Directorate’s resource about D-visas to learn more.

Hire an immigration lawyer!

Immigrating to a foreign country is a messy process with a lot of moving parts, and not all Icelandic residency permits can lead to citizenship. If you intend to naturalize in Iceland and eventually apply for citizenship, you should get an immigration lawyer as soon as possible, especially if you're immigrating with family. This list of lawyers from the US Embassy in Iceland is a great place to start looking for legal counsel.

Find a place to live in Iceland

After you’ve applied for your Kennitala, your residency permit, and your visa, it’s time to look for your Icelandic home. Luckily, there are plenty of websites and Facebook groups designed to help you find your new home before you’re even living abroad.

This resource from Iceland’s Ministry of Industries and Innovation has a comprehensive list of house-hunting sites and groups where you can start your search for your home in Iceland.

A housing community on the Westman Islands in Iceland.

Book your flight

With all your applications processing, your movers booked, your work lined up, and your budget set, it’s time to book your flight to Reykjavík. You can book your flight before your applications are finalized, but you may want to buy trip cancellation insurance so you can easily cancel if your application is denied.

Also, it can take several weeks for your moving company to deliver all your household goods overseas, so when you’re packing for your flight, pack more generously than you would for a vacation. Make sure that all the documents, clothing, medicine, and electronics you’ll need are in your bags. And don’t forget to pack plenty of winter coats!

Prepare for your movers

In the days leading up to your move date, you should prepare your home and household goods for your movers. This means boxing up your things, disassembling any furniture you’re shipping, and deep cleaning empty rooms. Also, if you haven’t yet, now is a great time to offload the things you’ve decided to leave in the US.

You should also be in constant communication with your moving coordinator to get updates on exactly when your movers will arrive.

Lastly, keep the luggage you’ll be flying with in a separate room so someone in your moving crew doesn’t accidentally cart it away. You never know.

For more preparation tips, read our guide to getting ready for your movers.

Heads Up
You can never be too prepared

When you move overseas, there are a lot of tasks to complete and complications to deal with. The only way to ensure your move to Iceland goes smoothly is to make a plan for every single step along the journey. We’re here to help with that. To get even more tips and tricks for moving to another country, check out our guide to preparing for your international move.

Get settled in Iceland

Unfortunately, your move isn’t over after you land in Iceland. There’s still a lot you’ll need to take care of, like getting your utilities in order, making sure your mail is forwarding to your new address, and familiarizing yourself with your new neighborhood.

This is also a great time to start filling in your new home with furniture to replace everything you sold or dumped in the US. And of course, there’s also the unpacking you’ll need to do once your movers deliver your stuff.

Our moving checklist can help you keep track of everything you’ll need to do post-move.

Applying for permanent residence

After you’ve lived in Iceland for four years, you can apply for a permanent residence permit. This permit allows you to stay in Iceland indefinitely, but it doesn’t grant you citizenship. You’ll still have to wait a few more years before that becomes possible.

If you haven’t even left the US yet, then applying for permanent residence is still a long way off for you. However, you can check out the Directorate of Immigration’s guide to permanent residence anyway if you’re taking the long view of your move to Iceland.

Apply for Icelandic citizenship

After seven years of continuous residence in Iceland, you can finally apply for citizenship. If you’re married to or related to an Icelander, the waiting period can be shorter.

However, simply waiting for years to go by doesn’t guarantee you Icelandic citizenship. Like every other step we’ve gone over, there are certain requirements you must meet, fees you must pay, and a lengthy application process.

To see the full picture of the citizenship process, read this resource from Digital Iceland or check articles eight and nine of the Icelandic Nationality Act, No. 100/1952. As you can probably guess, there’s a lot of legalese in both resources.

Because of the complexity involved in gaining citizenship, we want to reiterate that you should really lawyer up if you intend to naturalize. It will be expensive, but it will be money well-spent.


The road to residency and citizenship in Iceland is going to be a long and difficult one, but you wouldn’t be moving to Iceland if you didn’t love a good adventure. And now that you know what that road will require, you’re ready to take the first step by getting quotes from international moving companies. Gangi þér vel (good luck)!

FAQ about moving to Iceland

Do they speak English in Iceland?

The national language of Iceland is Icelandic. However, English is often taught as a second language in Iceland, and many Icelanders can speak English.[12] You should still learn Icelandic if you plan to be in Iceland for an extended period, though. It will make working, studying, and just getting along with your neighbors much easier. Use one of these language learning apps to become bilingual.

What is the primary currency in Iceland?

The primary currency in Iceland is the Icelandic króna, and you’ll often see it abbreviated as “ISK” or “kr.” The conversion rate between the dollar and the króna fluctuates, so to get the most up-to-date info on how many krónur  a dollar is worth, check today’s conversion rate.

Can you move to Iceland without a job?

You can technically move to Iceland without a job, and you actually have to get a work permit if you intend to work there. However, you do have to prove that you can support yourself when you apply for a residency permit. Unless you’re independently wealthy, you may have a hard time meeting this requirement without getting a job.

Additionally, Iceland’s cost of living is higher than the US’s, so getting by without a job might be difficult.

Does Iceland have universal health care?

Yes, Iceland has universal health care. However, you won’t be covered by it immediately after moving there. You can only apply to become a part of Iceland’s health care system after residing there for six months.[13] Before that, you’ll need to pay for private insurance. To learn more, read the Icelandic Ministry of Health’s resource on health insurance.

Recommended resources

You now know how to hire an international moving company, get your Kennitala, and apply for residence. Now, you just need to wait for all your applications to get accepted. While you’re waiting, check out these resources to ensure you’re fully prepared for your overseas relocation:


  1. Statistics Iceland, “Population projections 2020–2069,” December 17, 2020. Accessed April 12, 2022.
  2. International Trade Administration, “Prohibited and Restricted Imports,” October 3, 2021. Accessed April 12, 2022.
  3. Directorate of Immigration, “Basic Requirements for a Residence Permit.” Accessed April 14, 2022.
  4. Directorate of Immigration, “Processing Fee.” Accessed April 13, 2022.
  5. Numbeo, “Cost of Living in Iceland.” Accessed April 13, 2022.
  6. Nordic Visitor, “Driving in Iceland.” Accessed April 14, 2022.
  7. Directorate of Immigration, “Permanent Residence Permit.” Accessed April 13, 2022.
  8. Directorate of Immigration, “Residence Permits for Students.” Accessed April 13, 2022.
  9. Directorate of Immigration, “Residence Permits Based on Work.” Accessed April 13, 2022.
  10. Equaldex, “LGBT Rights in Iceland.” Accessed April 14, 2022.
  11. Directorate of Immigration, “Family reunification.” Accessed April 13, 2022.
  12. Visit Reykjavík, “Yes, We Speak English,” September 4, 2017. Accessed April 14, 2022.
  13. Sjúkratryggingar Íslands, “Health Insurance in Iceland.” Accessed April 14, 2022.
Joe Roberts
Written by
Joe Roberts
Joe Roberts is a professional writer with a degree in writing studies and over four years of copywriting experience. He previously worked at, where he wrote about furniture, home decor, and moving. Joe has moved all over Utah, so he knows his way around a moving truck—and he spends his time (and money) expanding his personal library so it will be even heavier next time he moves.