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Attracting foreign students to the EU

25 March 2013

At Monday's press conference in Brussels: Bellarminus Kakpovi, PhD student from Benin, and Fatma Abidi, Masters student from Tunisia told about their experiences. To the right is Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. Photo: European Commission

The EU needs to attract talented non-EU students and researchers who can contribute to our growth and competitiveness with their knowledge and skills. However, far too many of them have to face unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles when trying to study or conduct reseach in Europe.  Today the Commission proposed to make it easier and more attractive for non-EU national students, researchers and other groups to enter and stay in the EU.

The new legislation will set clearer time limits for national authorities to decide on applications, provide for more opportunities to access the labour market during their stays and facilitate movement within the union. Current rules for obtaining a student visa or a residence permit are often complex and unclear; procedures can be lengthy and vary considerably across Member States. This hampers the possibility to provide EU countries with a greater pool of talent and reduces the appeal of the EU as a world centre for excellence.

"Coming to the EU for research or study is far more difficult than it should be. We have to remove these obstacles to make the EU more open to talents. Such mobility benefits the EU and our economy through the circulation of knowledge and ideas", said EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström.

Moving to Europe temporarily is an opportunity embraced by over 200.000 students and researchers from outside the EU every year. The Commission is now proposing to set clearer, more consistent and transparent rules, for example through a 60-day time limit for Member States' authorities to decide on an application for a visa or residence permit, which will make the application process more straightforward and transparent. Also, the Commission is proposing simpler and more flexible rules to make it easier to move within the EU. Students should also be allowed to work for a minimum of 20 hours per week so that they can support themselves adequately and contribute economically. Furthermore, researchers and students will be able to remain for a period of 12 months under certain conditions on the territory after finalisation of their studies or research, to identify job opportunities or set up a business.

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A longer press release is available, along with more questions and answers, and reports on the immigration of international students to EU Member States. There are also photos and a video from Monday's press conference, and the full text of the proposal is available in PDF.