With a population of less than 400,000, and covering an area of 100,000 square kilometres, Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in the whole of Europe. Situated on top of a volcanic ridge Iceland has an active volcano located on the country’s central plateau. Despite its proximity to the Arctic Circle, Iceland has a surprisingly temperate climate due to the influence of the Gulf Stream.
Earliest records indicate that the country was first settled as early as 874 A.D. by Norwegians and followed by other Scandinavian peoples in the following centuries. Iceland joined the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1994 which saw the country’s economy diversify into financial, manufacturing and biotechnology fields which have largely replaced the old agriculture and fishing industries.
Ranked at Number Three in a list of most developed countries in the world (and also third in terms of the average wealth of citizens) Iceland is a popular tourist destination and tourism currently accounts for approximately ten per cent of the country’s GDP (gross domestic product) with over two million visitors per year.
Iceland is a part of both the European Economic Area (EEA) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Although a Schengen country since 2001, Iceland is not a member of the European Union which should mean that EU citizens should require a visa to visit the country. This is not the case, however, as the EU and Schengen have a reciprocal agreement to waive visas for travel between the two entities.
This visa-exempt arrangement applies to all citizens of European Union countries as well as to around sixty countries named on a visa-exempt list. The list includes such countries as the USA, Canada, Australia, many South American countries and also the United Kingdom despite the recent departure from the European Union.
Intending visitors from countries not covered by the Schengen visa-exemption are deemed to be “world citizens” or “world travellers” and will require a visa appropriate to the purpose of the visit.
Applying for a Schengen Visa
For world citizens planning a visit to Iceland there are three main requirements without which it is impossible to enter the country. The three necessary items are:
- A current, valid passport
- Appropriate Schengen Visa Form for the relevant embassy or consulate
- Proof of adequate health insurance
There are a few other required pieces of documentation but the exact nature of these documents will depend chiefly on the purpose of the intended stay in Iceland.
Although the Tourist Visa is the most commonly sought form of Schengen Visa it is far from being the only type available and choosing the correct form of visa is of the utmost importance.
Airport Transit Visa
Even visitors who have no intention of staying in Iceland but are only transiting through one of the airports will require an Airport Transit Visa. It may also be necessary to possess a valid visa for the destination country (if this applies) and an airline ticket for the onward portion of the flight.
Similar to the Airport Transit Visa, a Transit Visa is applicable for visitors using an Icelandic seaport before moving on to another country. A visa for the eventual destination country might also be required as well as copies of bookings for the next stage of travel.
For most tourists and casual visitors a Tourist Visa is the most commonly sought form of Schengen Visa for Iceland. Necessary documentation includes:
- Recent bank statements (covering the preceding six months)
- Detailed travel itinerary covering planned trips and excursions
- Proof of sufficient funding to cover the entire duration of the visit
These are in addition to a valid passport and other required paperwork.
Travellers intending to visit friends or family members resident in Iceland should apply for a Visitor Visa. Again, there is some documentation particular to this form of visa that will be required:
- Proof of adequate funding
- Detailed daily schedule for any planned outings and trips
- Letter of sponsorship or an invitation letter from the relative or friend in question
- Details and proof of the relationship
- Colour copies of the sponsor’s passport will also be required as well as a copy of any residency card held.
Expressly aimed at business people, a Schengen Business Visa is solely for those wishing to attend conferences, meetings or business-related matters. Application for a Business Visa will necessitate the provision of:
- A letter of invitation from the Icelandic business concerned
- Details of the business and dates of the business being carried out as well as relevant dates
- Letter stating the purpose(s) of the visit
- Itinerary details including contact names and addresses as well as accommodation plans
- In addition, an applicant must state who will cover the costs and expenses involved in the business trip.
For short-term studies, internships or training courses a Study Visa will be necessary as long as the course does not cover a period any longer than the permitted 90 day allowance in a set 180 day period. For longer courses like college or university courses a longer term Student Visa will be required.
Subject to the usual time limit of 90 days, world travellers seeking medical treatment in Iceland will require a Medical Visa. Applications for such treatment must be accompanied by:
- Medical report confirming the necessity of treatment in Iceland
- Confirmation letter from the Icelandic medical authorities confirming dates and acceptance for treatment
- It will also be necessary to demonstrate proof of payment for services or suitable financial arrangements having been made.
Member of Official Delegations Visa
Visiting members of official delegations to Iceland should possess this form of visa in order to partake in negotiations, meetings or consultations with their Icelandic counterparts.
Submitting the Schengen Visa Application
Having selected and completed the correct type of visa application form it should be double-checked, signed and dated. Mistakes or omissions at this point can (and will) result in delays if not outright refusal. All necessary documentation should be collected and checked that all is in order and present.
When everything is ready an applicant should make an appointment with the nearest Icelandic embassy or consulate (or approved visa processing centre) where it will be necessary to attend for interview in person. At the interview, the applicant will be questioned further as to the reasons for the intended visit and fingerprint samples taken as a security measure. Once the application is approved payment must be made in full for the visa.