Located in the extreme north of the Atlantic Ocean, near the Arctic Circle, Iceland is part of the Schengen Area but not a member of the EU. The island presents a mountainous relief, besides volcanic activity and the phenomenon geysers – which provides energy for the heating of residences (geothermal energy).
Iceland’s main economic activity is fishing, responsible for 40% of exports. Since the beginning of the century and signing the Schengen Agreement, Iceland has also strengthened the software and biotechnology industry. Another essential sector in the Icelandic economy is tourism, especially ecotourism.
Icelanders enjoy one of the best living standards on the planet, and the government of Iceland offers an excellent social security system. Iceland ranks 17th in the world ranking of Human Development Index (HDI), and all inhabitants above the age of 15 are literate. If compared to other European countries, Iceland’s life expectancy is high – 81.6 years.
Iceland is the second largest European island, after Great Britain. The country was discovered by Scandinavian navigators (or Vikings) in the 9th century when it served as a springboard for exploring new lands to the west. Iceland only gained independence from Denmark during the Second World War conflicts.
More than 170 geothermal pools, glaciers, lakes, and waterfalls can be found in Iceland. The beautiful Gullfoss waterfall and Þingvellir National Park (Thingvellir) are among the main attractions for outdoor enthusiasts. Another highlight of Iceland is the father of all geysers, known simply as Geysir, 100 kilometres from the capital Reykjavik. While Reykjavik is usually a calm place, it also has a lively social and nightlife, typical of cities with Nordic roots.
Despite being far away from mainland Europe, Iceland is part of the Schengen Area, which makes it easier for EU nationals to visit the island. Moreover, nationals eligible to the Schengen visa-waiver agreement, like Americans, don’t need to apply for a visa prior to arriving in Iceland.
The year of 2001 was very important for the Schengen community, as border controls were abolished between the Member States and Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. Although the territory of Iceland is part of the Schengen Zone, the country hasn’t yet joined the European Union. Just like Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, Iceland’s negotiations for the accession in the EU remain on hold.
After Iceland signed the Schengen Agreement in 1996, the country has been involved in all policy-making regarding the Schengen Territory. In addition, the government of Iceland has to abide by several regulations created by the Schengen commission, including migratory policies. Since 2015, the spark of terrorist attacks and emerging immigration crisis in the European continent has called for discussions over a more effective border control system. The European Commission proposed the creation of the ETIAS – an electronic authorization procedure to help identify potential security threats. The Icelandic government has backed the introduction of the ETIAS, which is supposed to commence in 2021.
Once implemented, the ETIAS will affect all nationals of countries enlisted in the Schengen visa-waiver agreement. Other passport holders wishing to travel to Iceland will have to apply for an Icelandic visit at the corresponding embassy or consulate. Meanwhile, visa-exempt countries such as Canada, the US, and Australia, will need to fill out an online application if coming to Icelandic territory. As soon as the ETIAS is accepted, the traveller will be able to visit all Schengen countries for no longer than 90 days in each consecutive 180-day period.