Residence permits for spouses and cohabiting partners

Anybody who is a national of a country outside the EEA and EFTA and intends to remain in Iceland for longer than three months must have a residence permit.

Residence permits are issued to people intending to move to Iceland to live with their spouse or cohabiting partner in Iceland. This is subject to the spouse or cohabiting partner being a national of Iceland or a Nordic country; a foreign national with a permanent residence permit or a temporary residence permit based on a work position requiring expertise or as a sportsperson or as a parent or based on international protection, humanitarian grounds, special links to the country or further education.

Special conditions apply to family reunification with persons who have a residence permit in Iceland based on international protection, humanitarian grounds, special links to the country or as a parent. The person for whom an application is lodged to join in Iceland must have been legally resident and in work or study in Iceland for the last four years before submission of the application (unless an exemption applies).

You may be entitled to a residence permit as a spouse or cohabiting partner if you meet all of the following criteria (and others):

  • you are over the age of eighteen;
  • you were eighteen or older when you were married or entered into cohabitation;
  • you have been married or cohabiting for at least one year;
  • your spouse or cohabiting partner is resident in Iceland and is a national of Iceland or a Nordic country, or a foreign national with a permanent residence permit, or a foreign resident living in Iceland on the basis of a residence permit of one of the types listed above;
  • the marriage meets the criteria for registration under legal domicile legislation;
  • you will be permanently resident at the same place as your spouse or cohabiting partner;
  • you can demonstrate that you can support yourself during your residence period;
  • you have health insurance with an Icelandic insurance company (see under ‘Insurance companies’) or an overseas insurance company licensed to operate in Iceland (see under ‘Foreign insurance companies’);
  • you have not served a court sentence over the last five years or been sentenced to imprisonment for a period longer than the equivalent of three months’ imprisonment under Icelandic law;
  • your spouse has not, over the last five years, received a court sentence or been subject to security measures (unless an exception applies);
  • you have a passport which is valid for at least ninety days after the expected validity period of the residence permit; and
  • the family member in Iceland authorises the issuance of a residence permit.

You may not:

  • have entered into a marriage or cohabitation of convenience (i.e. for any other purpose than living with your spouse, e.g. for the sole purpose of receiving an Icelandic residence permit);
  • have been cohabiting for less than one year, if you are applying for a cohabitation permit;
  • begin working before a residence and work permit has been granted, unless you are the spouse or cohabiting partner of an Icelandic national, in which case, you do not need to apply for a work permit (note, however, that the cohabiting partner of an Icelandic national may begin working only once a residence permit has been granted);
  • work for a different employer from the employer to whom the work permit is granted;
  • be away from Iceland for more than ninety days in any twelve-month period while your permit is valid, otherwise your residence permit may be cancelled or withdrawn.

Applications for a residence permit (and work permit, where appropriate) should be submitted to the Directorate of Immigration or to District Commissioners outside Greater Reykjavik.

Spouses and cohabiting partners may be in Iceland when the application is submitted if the entitlement is based on a person of the type listed above (except if they are the spouse or cohabiting partner of a student requiring a visa).

It is the responsibility of the applicant to apply for renewal of their residence permit at least four weeks before the validity of the permit expires. If this is done, the applicant is authorised to remain in Iceland while the renewal application is being processed by the Directorate of Immigration. If renewal is not applied for before the validity of the residence permit expires, the application will be handled as though it were a first application rather than a renewal. Applications received after the validity of the previous permit has expired will be rejected if the applicant is not authorised to remain in Iceland while their application is being processed. See here for further details on the application process and authorisation for residence.

More information can be found on the Directorate of Immigration website.