It’s no secret that Scandinavian countries are some of the happiest nations in the world. According to the World Happiness Report (yes, that's a real thing, published in support of the UN High Level Meeting on happiness and well-being, which is also real thing), Norway tops the list this year, followed by Denmark and Iceland.
If you fancy the idea of living in a country where your taxes actually work for you and aren’t fazed by the prospect of learning a new language, then you might want to consider moving to these Nordic nations.
All three countries’ application processes are pretty standard: There are no points systems or applicant pools, nor do you need an invitation to apply. All you need to do is fill up an online form, pay the application fees, and make sure you have all the necessary documents. But while these countries’ application processes are pretty simple, their requirements may not be as easy to meet. And since one prerequisite for every permanent residence permit is to spend a certain number of years working and living in your chosen country, we’re outlining the requirements for both types of visas.
Do you dream of living in a peaceful, progressive country? Iceland ranks first in the 2017 Global Peace Index, and is known for being one of the first countries to legalize same-sex marriage. Its people highly value both economic and gender equality. Iceland is also famous for its dramatic landscapes characterized by glaciers, volcanoes, and geysers. And if you’ve always wanted to see aurora borealis, the capital city of Reykjavik is the perfect place to do so.
However, we’re not lying when we say the easiest way to immigrate to Iceland is to marry a local. The requirements for getting a work permit are very difficult to meet if you don’t come from any of the European Economic Area (EEA) or European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member nations. That said, if you’re willing to give it a go anyway, here are the requirements.
Permanent Residence Permit
- You have to have legally stayed in the country for a minimum of four years
- However, this requirement can be waived if you’ve studied in Iceland for two years and then held a temporary residence permit for two years after that
- You should have proof that you are capable of financially supporting yourself
- You should have attended a minimum of 150 hours’ worth of Icelandic language classes
Temporary Work Permits
Iceland doesn’t grant any job-seeking permits. To be considered for a work visa, you need to have an existing job offer, along with proof that you can provide for yourself and a health insurance policy from a firm that is licensed to operate in Iceland.
Your Icelandic employers can’t hire you just because they like you, either—they’ll have to prove to the Directorate of Immigration that they’ve tried and failed to find a similarly qualified person from within the country or EEA and EFTA member nations. This means your knowledge must be highly specialized. Unlike other countries, the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration doesn’t specify what constitutes “expert knowledge” or provide any lists of specialized occupations, implying that acceptance really is determined on a case-to-case basis.
If your heart is set on living in Iceland, it might be a good idea to study there and build connections with companies through internships. That way, if you do acquire this mysterious expert knowledge that no one else in Europe has, your educational attainment is sure to be recognized by Immigration too.
A) Permit for Work Requiring Expert Knowledge
With this visa, you can get a residence permit of up to two years, though its validity can’t exceed that of your work permit. After your residence permit expires, you can renew it up to two years at a time.
- An employment contract for a “specific position that requires expert knowledge”
- Your employer must prove that your expertise is essential to their company
- Your employer must show that they’ve already asked the Directorate of Labor to help them find a similarly qualified person within the EEA, the EFTA, or the Faeroe Islands
- You should have obtained your expertise via a degree from a university, trade school, or art school that is recognized in Iceland
- You’ll need to get a specialist license from the Department of Immigration
B) Permit Based on Shortage of Workers
The Directorate of Immigration clarifies that this residence permit is only “granted as an exception,” when workers can’t be found in the EEA, EFTA, or Faeroe Islands.
- An employment contract
- Proof that your employer has already sought the assistance of the Directorate of Labor in filling your position, to no avail
- A statement from a relevant union that they have a shortage of workers
Apart from being the second happiest country in the world, Denmark also has the distinction of being perceived as the least corrupt country in the world. But what we really love about Denmark is that its culture is characterized by ‘hygge’—a sense of coziness and contentment that stems from slowing down, appreciating simple pleasures, and spending time with loved ones. No wonder the Danes are one of the happiest people in the world.
Permanent Residence Permit
- You’ll need to have legally lived in Denmark for at least eight years
- But if you meet all four supplementary requirements on top of the basic ones, you can qualify for permanent residency in just four years
- You should have been working in Denmark for at least three and a half years
Temporary Work Permits
A) Establishment Card
This is basically a job-seeking permit. You can apply for one if you’ve obtained a master’s degree or PhD from a Danish university. With an establishment card, you can work for any company, change jobs, or start your own business and live in Denmark for up to two years. After that, you’ll need to apply for a different work permit. You’ll also be entitled to free Danish lessons.
- Your application must be submitted within six months after you’ve graduated
- You need to show that you have the ability to support yourself while job-hunting. The minimum amount varies depending on whether you have a spouse and children:
- 86,184 DKK without a family
- 172,368 DKK if your spouse will be with you
- 256,032 DKK if your spouse and children will be with you
- 169,848 DKK if only your children will be with you
- You cannot have received any graduate allowances or benefits from the Active Social Policy Act
As the name implies, your application can be fast-tracked if you get a job offer from a company who is “certified to recruit foreign employees with special qualifications.” If your contract is less than four years, your residence and work permits will be valid for the same length of time as your contract. If your contract is for more than four years, your residence and work permits will be valid for up to four years and you’ll have to apply for an extension afterwards.
- Your company should be certified by the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI)
- Your employer will submit the application on your behalf, so you need to be willing to grant them power of attorney
- Your salary, benefits, and the terms of your contract must meet Danish employment standards
- You’ll need to meet the requirements of one of three fast-tracks: pay limit, researcher, and educational
Pay Limit Track
- Basically, if you have a contract for a salary of at least 408,800 DKK which will be paid to a Danish bank account, you’re in.
- You should have been specifically hired as a researcher
- While you don’t have to be employed full-time, you do have to show that your contract meets Danish working condition standards
- You need to be a highly qualified professional with significant expertise in your field
- Your purpose should be either to receive specialized training, or to train other employees in your company
C) Pay Limit
Just like the Pay Limit option under the Fast Track work permit, you can apply for this visa if your salary reaches a certain amount. The only difference is that the application process will take longer than the fast track.
If your contract is less than four years, your residence and work permits will be valid for the same length of time as your contract. If your contract is for more than four years, your residence and work permits will be valid for up to four years and you’ll have to apply for an extension afterwards.
- Your salary should be at least 408,800 DKK paid to a Danish bank account
- The conditions of your contract should meet Danish labor standards
D) Positive List
You can apply for this visa if your occupation is included in Denmark’s skill shortage list. The validity of this permit is just like those of the Pay Limit and Fast Track schemes.
- Your occupation should be included on Denmark’s Positive List, which is updated every January and July
- Your educational background must meet the requirements for your occupation as stated in DISCO-08, the country’s official classification of professions. The list is only available in Danish, so you’d better get cracking on those language classes.
- Your salary and benefits should meet Danish employment standards
Apart being number one on the World Happiness Report Index for 2017, Norway is also known for being a great promoter of human rights, with its annual Oslo Freedom Forum. Tourists regularly flock to the country to see its breathtaking fjords and the spectacular Northern Lights. Their requirements are a lot less stringent than those of Iceland so if you’ve got a job offer from a Norwegian company, go ahead and apply.
Permanent Residence Permit
- You should have legally resided in Norway for at least three years
- You should be able to support yourself, and should not have received any social security benefits during your stay
- You should have passed the mandatory Norwegian language and social studies classes
Temporary Work Permits
A) Job Seeker
This permit allows you to stay in Norway and look for work for one year.
- You should have one of the following residence permits:
- as a student at a university, vocational school, or upper secondary school
- as a professional obtaining additional education for your qualifications to be recognized in Norway (such as a doctor who needs certification)
- a residence permit as a researcher
- You need to have at least 238,784 NOK per year deposited in a Norwegian bank account
B) Skilled Worker
This visa allows you to work in Norway for one to three years.
- You should have a full-time job offer from a Norwegian company
- Your pay and working conditions should meet Norwegian standards
- You should have a 3-year bachelor’s degree or vocational training