Icelandic Language Blog

Getting and renewing a student permit Posted by on Oct 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

The official site for this is here, but it’s confusing and has out-of-date information. Remember that I’m posting what someone from outside of the EEA has to do.

Note: You must be eighteen or older to get this permit, unfortunately. My friend found this out the hard way, and even though I never noticed anything saying you couldn’t be younger than eighteen (I had thought it was fine as long as you graduated high school), he was deported and has to wait until he’s eighteen to get the permit.

The first step is to apply to a school in Iceland. I applied for the University of Iceland, which I might post about next time as it’s no piece of cake understanding them either, but for now I’ll leave it at that.

To apply for the living permit for the first time, I had to:
– Get a background check. I called some local police stations and figured out which ones were able to do a check, then I went there and got my fingerprints taken with a fee. After that I mailed (I can’t remember if I mailed it or if the police station did) the fingerprints along with a form saying I wanted a “notarized background check” and after a couple weeks they got back to me saying I had nothing on permanent record.

– Renew my passport. I found out where a local passport place was and basically gave them identification, paid a fee, gave them my old passport and a couple photos taken at a local photo place, and hoped that they’d get everything done before my flight. I was told that I was accepted to the Uni in the middle of June and I had to be in Iceland by the end of August for school orientation and entrance exams.

– Get proof of financial support. What this means is, you need to have a bank account with your name on it (it could be a joint account, so your wife or parent could have their name on it too) that has $7,000 US in it. That’s $1,000 for each month you’re in Iceland. You don’t have to keep this balance at that amount throughout the whole semester – it could be entirely spent by the last month, even – but you have to get it back up to $7,000 in six months when you renew the permit again. I don’t know how it works if you have a job that you’re going to keep while in Iceland though. You can’t have someone state that you’re dependent on them and have them show their bank information, no matter how much money they have the account has to also have your name on it or the office won’t accept it.

– Get proof of housing. I was going to be living in student housing, but since I had just been told I was accepted into the school I hadn’t been able to get housing yet, so I used my Icelandic friend’s address as “my address” and got him to sign the form saying it was okay for me to live at his house.

Apply for Icelandic insurance. I applied through these guys for “sickness cost insurance”, meaning health insurance, and they were able to get me a kennitala (social security number, which you need for doing basically anything in Iceland) at the same time. I had to Email them a scan of my passport and fill out their insurance request form, and since I wanted a kennitala too I had to also mail them a scan of my high school diploma. You only need insurance in Iceland for the first six months of living there. After that, you get regular “free” health insurance just like any Icelandic citizen, and the cost of any hospitalization or medicine is the same as what it would cost for an Icelander.

– Pay the fee and mail all of this plus the fee receipt to the Foreign Immigration Office (ÚTL) in Iceland. You can’t mail it to an Icelandic embassy or a Nordic embassy in the US, they can’t issue you permits and they’ll have to forward the application to the ÚTL which will waste time. The fee was 12.000kr and I had to send the approximate amount in USD to them via bank transfer, because my bank was unable to send them money in Icelandic crowns.

– Email them over and over and then get Icelanders to call them multiple times. They wouldn’t send me any information via Email, they said “talk to your representative”, which was my Icelandic friend, and any information they gave him they would physically mail to him. It wasn’t until they were called a few times in Icelandic that they told me what was wrong with my permit/that my permit was already granted. If you just wait for them to contact you, you might not get it in time. This is something I’ve found out happens with getting your kennitala too if you apply for one at the office when already in Iceland, you just have to contact them over and over for them to do anything about it.

To renew the living permit, I have to:

– Have been registered for thirty class credits and have passed at least twenty-two in the last semester (just get a school transcript). If you don’t pass at least that much, they send you a letter that says you have two weeks to give them a good reason why you weren’t able to pass or they won’t renew your permit.

– Pay 6.000kr in cash, in person at the ÚTL office at the time of renewing the permit (they can’t accept credit cards and you can’t bank transfer them – they only accept the bank transfer when you’re outside of Iceland at the time of getting the permit).

– Fill out the same application as when first applying for a permit, only checking “permit renewal” this time instead of “first permit”. You also have to get another passport photocopy and prove you have $7,000 again, but they can photocopy the passport at the office while you’re there. They’ll take your photo at the same time so you can get an I.D. card, and on the card is the expiration date of the I.D. – you need to apply for a permit renewal one month before the I.D. card expires.

– Prove that you have housing again.

– Get a “social services certificate”. This is a certificate that tells them whether or not you received government aid, like money, in the past six months. You have to get this whether or not you receive aid. The certificate is free to get but you have to travel to your Þjónustumiðstöð (Social Services Office) to get it. Here is a list of them so you can find your local one. You just have to tell them you need a certificate from them for your student permit and show them I.D., and they’ll know what to do.

Then you wait until you get your new I.D. card in the mail, and once you get that your permit is renewed. On the ID card is an “expiration date” and that’s when your living permit expires, so you need to apply to renew your permit a month in advance. Although I’ve been over a week late with sending in my renewal and they were fine with it. They speak English and Icelandic at the office but I wouldn’t bet on them speaking any other languages, you might get lucky and they’ll be able to speak German, Spanish, or Polish though. The forms are only in English and Icelandic to my knowledge. If you ever get a paper in the mail from the Immigration Office it will always be in Icelandic.

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About the Author: sequoia

I try to write about two-thirds of the blog topics on cultural aspects and one-third on the language, because there's much more out there already on the language compared to daily life information. I try to stay away from touristy things because there's more of that out there than anything else on Iceland, and I feel like talking about that stuff gives you the wrong impression of Iceland.