A year ago, tourism revenue accounted for 42% of Iceland’s economy, and while the country has been taking advantage of the downtime caused by the coronavirus pandemic by putting $12 million into improving roads and sites for future tourists, it is also anxious to jumpstart its tourism industry again after it has seen a 79% decline.
So, Iceland has expanded its long-term visa program beyond the European Schengen area. Now, it is also allowing other citizens, including Americans, to stay for up to six months, according to the Work in Iceland program, which acts in coordination with the government.
But there is one major stipulation: “To be granted permission for an extended stay, the person in question must demonstrate an employment relationship with a foreign company (or verify self-employment in the country where they have a permanent residence) and meet the income and health insurance requirements.”
That income threshold is set at one million Icelandic krona monthly, which is equal to about $7,360 monthly or $88,000 annually, Bloomberg reports.
“I think the idea is to attract high-earning professionals from Silicon Valley or San Francisco to spend their money here, instead of there,” former parliament member Asta Gudrun Helgadottir told the outlet.
According to the report, the hope seems to be that long-term tourists can restimulate the economy by booking Airbnbs and spending money at restaurants, as well as take weekend trips around the country during their longer stays, but that if they already have well-paying jobs back home, they won’t take away from the Icelandic community.
The cost of living in Iceland was always high, and the country had already started veering toward high-end travelers, like at the Blue Lagoon’s Retreat Hotel, where rooms start at about $1,300 a night, and the upcoming Six Senses in the Össurá Valley. One appeal of going to Iceland now is definitely its built-in social distancing. With a population of 361,313 as of 2019, according to the World Bank, the nation has seen 5,277 cases of COVID-19 and 26 deaths, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reports.
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