More and more foreign nationals are flocking to the geographically-stunning northern Atlantic haven of Iceland

Around 15,000 immigrants currently work in the ‘land of fire and ice’. One in ten employees are non-Icelandic, with international settlers attracted by the country’s beautiful landscape and high standard of living.

What’s more, Iceland is becoming an increasingly popular destination for UK nationals, with London just a three-hour flight away.

Job market in Iceland

Iceland’s job market is currently stronger than the UK’s. Unemployment was at 4.4% in December 2013, with graduate unemployment at just 2.93%. With this in mind, it’s essential you begin your job search before you pack your bags.

Three-quarters of Iceland’s labour force work in services, with one in five working in industry and 5% working in agriculture. This distribution is similar to that of the UK.

Several key industries thrive. The fishing industry accounts for 40% of all export earnings and over 12% of the country’s gross domestic product. It also employs 5% of the country’s workforce. Other major sectors include:

  • aluminium smelting;
  • biotechnology;
  • finance;
  • geothermal power;
  • hydro-electric power production;
  • software production;
  • tourism.

If you’ve got a degree in technology or have a vocational skill, Iceland might be perfect for you. Skill shortages in IT and vocational education and training (VET) are felt most severely in the public services. The education and health sectors in particular are on the lookout for highly-skilled employees.

Job vacancies

Job vacancies for international workers can be found in several places, including:

Work experience and internships in Iceland

Summer work placements and internships can really help you stand out in a very competitive job market. Openings can be found in several places, including:

Icelanders are taught English from a young age, so many are fluent in the language. This means that there are fewer opportunities to teach English in Iceland than elsewhere in Europe.

Volunteering in Iceland

Voluntary work is a great option if you’re looking to sample the delights of Iceland, while boosting your employability and improving your language skills.

There are many opportunities available, with most involving building or preservation projects.

  • The European Voluntary Service (EVS) – youngsters aged 18-30 can work as a volunteer for 2-12 months on a non-profit project.
  • SEEDS – this is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation designed to protect and promote the Icelandic environment and cultural understanding.
  • Worldwide Friends – participants work together for around two weeks on a project organised by a local sponsor. The organisation offers over 100 work camps in Iceland.

Other places where you can find volunteering opportunities include:

You may also be able to arrange voluntary work by sending speculative applications to organisations in your chosen sector. However, be sure to check the terms and conditions thoroughly before taking things further.

Language requirements

As mentioned above, many Icelanders possess a strong grasp of English. However, having the ability to speak Icelandic – even at a basic level – will be important when applying for any job.

Some roles, such as those in healthcare, will require a higher level of Icelandic than others. Clearly, being fluent will greatly increase your chances of employment.

With immigration numbers rising, there are a growing number of Icelandic language courses available. Most of these are in the capital city of Reykjavík.

Find out more about learning the language at Study in Iceland – Learning Icelandic.

Icelandic visas and immigration

Iceland is not currently part of the European Union (EU), but UK nationals and the majority of EU citizens don’t need a visa or work permit to enter the country.

EU citizens staying in Iceland for more than three months will require a residence permit. Getting one of these is fairly straightforward. Once you’ve lived in Iceland for six months you’ll automatically become a member of the Icelandic social insurance system, regardless of nationality.

For country-specific information on social security entitlements, see European Commission – Your Rights Country by Country.