Iceland offers rich foreigners refuge amid Covid-19 pandemic
Reykjavik has made changes to its remote-work visa program for citizens beyond the European Schengen Area, making Iceland an appealing destination for anyone looking to escape global second wave lockdowns, but there’s a catch.
Under the terms of the visa, any foreign national not required to have a visa to enter Iceland will be allowed to stay in the country for six uninterrupted months, even as its international borders remain largely shut. However, you have to be gainfully employed elsewhere, and earn nearly six figures to be allowed to stay in the Land of Fire and Ice.
“I think the idea is to attract high-earning professionals from Silicon Valley or San Francisco to spend their money here, instead of there,” Asta Gudrun Helgadottir, a member of Iceland’s pro-direct-democracy Pirate Party and a former parliament member, told Bloomberg.
With its new program, Iceland has joined several other countries, including Bermuda, Barbados, the Cayman Islands and Estonia, that are trying to lure the work-from-anywhere set with long-stay waivers. However, Iceland is strictly targeting the wealthy. The country requires proof of a 1 million Icelandic krona ($7,360) monthly salary, or about $88,000 a year, and applicants must meet supplemental health insurance requirements. To compare, Bermuda requires little more than a $263 application fee for those who want to swap their quarantine life for an island adventure.
Iceland’s visitor numbers plunged by almost 80 percent as a result of Covid-19, even after travel resumed within Europe’s Schengen Area over the summer. This has meant temporary devastation for many local businesses.
Locals interviewed by Bloomberg believe the government’s goal is to boost investment flows without crowds and without straining the national healthcare system. They also said they hope that requiring proof of income will prevent temporary residents from competing with Icelanders for local jobs.
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