New EU student and researcher visa regulations explained

New EU student and researcher visa regulations explained

For the past weeks the debate in international education in Europe has been coloured by Brexit, the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the EU, and its implications for research cooperation and mobility. Despite prevalent anti-immigration sentiments in many parts of Europe and a bleaker view on the future of European integration, new streamlined EU regulations on entry and residency of third country students and researchers have been agreed on in May 2016. We take a closer look at what these new rules entail and why they matter.

Student and researcher mobility procedures are cumbersome in the EU. They can be an impediment for prospective students and scholars as well as a daily challenge for the administrators working with them. The EAIE Barometer study revealed that dealing with student mobility procedures and regulations is the fifth largest challenge for internationalisation practitioners at European higher education institutions. Consultations conducted by the Commission showed that non-EU students called for better job-seeking possibilities after graduation and improved rights to work during their studies. In addition, mobility within the EU-28 and admissions procedures for non-EU students and researchers were seen as unnecessarily burdensome. According to statistics collected by Eurostat in 2014, more than one fifth or almost half a million of first residence permits issued to non-EU citizens in the EU were for education reasons. A change is thus very welcome.

Streamlined and simplified regulations

The aim of the new visa regulations for non-EU students and researchers entering the EU is to simplify and streamline the existing procedures in order to make the EU a more attractive place to study. To achieve this, the existing two Directives regulating non-EU student and researcher residence have been merged, and the provisions in them amended. In practice a number of key changes have been made that have practical consequences for third country students and researchers. Here are five facts that will help you understand the new student and researcher residence rules:

1. Prolonged residence to find work after graduation

Non-EU students and researchers have been given the right to reside for a minimum of nine months after finishing their studies or research in order to look for a job. This right is, however, not absolute. The individual Member States may set a minimum level of education for those benefitting from this right.

2. Easier intra-EU mobility

Provisions have been included that facilitate the movement of non-EU students and researchers between the Member States. They will no longer be required to file a new visa application, but simply notify the Member State they are moving to as long as their stay does not exceed 360 days.

3. Right for researchers to bring their family members

Third country researchers have been given the right to bring their family members with them during their research period. The family members have also been granted to right to work in the EU during their stay.

4. Extended right to work during studies

The right to work during their studies has been prolonged for non-EU students from the former 10 hours per week to 15 hours per week. Previously, the Member States had the possibility of restricting the right to work during the students’ first year of residence. This exception no longer applies.

5. Minimum visa requirements

The Directive lays out the minimum requirements for Member States to adhere to, allowing them to legislate on more favourable conditions should they so wish. If more favourable bilateral or multilateral agreements exist between the EU and/or Member States and third countries, these will not be affected by the Directive.

Two years to implement

The Member States now have two years to implement the changes into their national legislation. Due to previously granted exceptions three countries, namely the UK, Ireland and Denmark, are not taking part in the adoption of this Directive. Student and researcher volumes are at the discretion of the individual Member States.

Read the full Directive.

Anna-Malin is Policy Officer at the EAIE.

Anna-Malin Sandström
EAIE, the NetherlandsAnna-Malin is Policy Officer at the EAIE.