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ESU’s response to the public consultation on the future of the visa policy

European Students’ Union’s vision is to achieve equal educational and social opportunities in an open and democratic Europe where students shape a sustainable future. With increasing number of learners from third countries studying in Schengen countries, and elsewhere in the European Union, free movement, including for students on exchange studies, for staff and researchers must be ensured.

ESU has raised its concerns about the EU visa policy in 2015, highlighting four priorities that must be ensured to third country nationals.

  • Firstly, visa and resident permits must be granted for the entire duration of the study programme.
  • Secondly, all groups of students should be informed of the decision on their application within maximum 30 days.
  • Thirdly, students from third countries must be granted the right to work and study in the hosting country on the same level as domestic students.
  • Lastly, a solution must be found for those students, whose visa wasn’t approved before the beginning of the study programme.

The above mentioned points are still crucial for all the applicants.

As the voice of students in Europe, we are disheartened, that these priorities outlined years ago, are still not a reality in Europe. Currently, students engaging in international mobility, which has been a priority in higher education for a long time, face serious setbacks, disadvantages and discrimination in regard to their freedom of movement.

ESU welcomes the open consultation on the future of the visa policy, and hereby calls on the following to be considered when developing a new proposal of the visa policy:

Study visa shall stay applicable to the scope of defined receivers, such as students, researchers, volunteers, school students, trainees and volunteers. The visas provided for students must cover the entire period of study and include a period after graduation allowing for entering the job market. Forcing students already enrolled in formal education to re-apply for the same visa multiple times is an unnecessary burden to students and creates unnecessary stress for the applicant while waiting to be re-granted for the same study program. While the principle of having student visa granted for the entire period of study has been widely discussed before and agreed upon by several parties, this has not been implemented.

Visa procedures go hand in hand with the right to work and study in different countries, being able to access the opportunities that mobility programmes can ensure, enriching people’s abilities and experiences. It is unfair that mobility programmes are a privilege for those who can afford it or who come from a country where it is easier to access visa procedures, or who can afford the access to visa. The visa fees must be affordable and take into account differences of income and living costs in respective countries. Access to Visa procedures should be fair and equal for all citizens and the same right needs to be ensured to those that, for many reasons, chose a country different than the one where they were born.

The procedures to recognise one’s refugee status are extremely time consuming and they affect people’s right to live normally and safely. They especially affect refugees’ rights to education. Not only do these procedures have to be shortened and simplified, it is also very urgent that Higher Education Institutions can accept asylum seekers as students even during the waiting period. Similarly, it is important to protect migrants’ and refugees’ rights and allow them to safely and quickly apply for a visa and go on mobility, thus being able to study and work with the exact same rights as every other student.

Students on study visas must be granted the right to stay in the country in which they studied for at least 12 months after graduation to ensure ample time for job-seeking in a relevant field of work.

All visa application procedures for third country nationals wishing to engage in international mobility must be both affordable and accessible to all. Visa application processes must not be seen as a deterrent to people from less advantaged backgrounds. Using visas as a selection method for international students separate from higher education institutions is fundamentally flawed.

Increasing accessibility to obtain visa lies within simplifying procedures leading to it. Nowadays, usually official translations of all documents are needed. This creates an additional financial burden for applicants. We believe that the entire visa application with supporting documents can be submitted in EU procedural languages. The visa processes must go through a process of reducing the number of unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, such as repeated resubmission of already submitted documents.

Accessibility of studies has the same importance as accessible and reachable visa application points in foreign countries. Not every EU member state has its embassy in every country in the world. Especially in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, an applicant needs to reach long distances, or cross multiple borders. We believe that all applicants should be able to apply at any Schengen country embassy regardless the country of study.

Digitalisation becomes a substantial part of Visa policy modernisation, therefore the online visa application, together with uploading supporting documents and tracking of the visa application status, should be secured. The online tools used for visa processes should be both accessible, based on universal design principles, and easy to use.

Various conditions and supporting documents need to be delivered along with the visa application. Some of these conditions are very limiting, especially those documents meant to prove the applicant’s financial status. We encourage EU member states to accept all the documents proving income based on future scholarship, government support, and other relevant incentives related to student status.


The European Students’ Union (ESU) is the umbrella organisation of 46 National Unions of Students (NUSes) from 39 countries. The NUSes are open to all students in their respective country regardless of political persuasion, religion, ethnic or cultural origin, sexual orientation or social standing. Our members are student-run, autonomous, representative and operate according to democratic principles.


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