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Study or training

One of the objectives of EU action in education is to promote Europe as a whole as a world centre of excellence for studies and vocational training. Bringing more non-EU nationals into the EU for studies is a key factor in that strategy. Migration in this case clearly constitutes a form of mutual enrichment: for the migrants concerned, their country of origin and the host EU State, and helps to promote familiarity with other cultures.

Common rules for admission of students

The EU applies common rules of admission for non-EU nationals who request admission to an EU State for one of the following: studies leading to a higher education qualification (students); to follow a recognised programme of secondary education (pupils); to pursue a training period without remuneration (unremunerated trainees); or to take part in a national or EU volunteer programme. These common rules are laid down in the 2004 Directive on the conditions of admission of non-EU nationals for the purposes of studies, pupil exchange, unremunerated training or voluntary service . In March 2013, the Commission made a proposal pdf - 314 KB [314 KB] Deutsch (de) français (fr) to further improve current rules, including by setting clearer time limits for national authorities to decide on applications, providing for increased access to the job-seeking markets, and facilitating intra-EU movement.

Conditions of admission

The conditions of admission are twofold. The general conditions, common to all four groups of non-EU nationals, include, for instance, a requirement to have health insurance or – in the case of a minor – parental authorisation. The specific conditions, which apply to individual groups, cover, for instance, the need to prove either the availability of sufficient resources to cover subsistence or, if the EU State so requires, sufficient knowledge of the language. Some of the conditions provided for in the Directive are optional and their imposition is left to the discretion of the EU State.

Residence permit

Once they have met the relevant conditions, the applicants are entitled to a residence permit. The duration of the residence permit and the admissibility of renewal differ depending on the purpose of migration. For instance, a student residence permit shall be issued for a period of no more than one year. For unremunerated trainees it shall correspond to the duration of the placement or a maximum of one year, and it may be renewed once. The rules on duration and renewal are more flexible in the case of students.

Additional entitlements for students

Under certain conditions, students are entitled to travel within the EU in order to follow or complement their studies. This right depends, amongst other conditions, on a student’s participation in a Union or bilateral exchange programme, or on them having been allowed entry to an EU State as a student for not less than two years. Moreover, non-EU students are entitled to be employed in the host EU State or to exercise self-employed activity. This enables them to cover part of the study costs. This right may be subject to certain requirements or limitations (including a work permit, limitations on the number of working hours, etc.). However, EU States must allow the students to work at least 10 hours per week.


The Directive introduces general rules on procedures for assessing the non-EU nationals’ applications. It also provides rights should, for instance, an application be rejected or a residence permit withdrawn.

Additional tools


Work permit

A legal document issued by a competent authority of a State giving authorisation for employment of migrant ...


Unremunerated trainee

A non-EU national who has been admitted to the territory of an EU State for a training period without remuneration ...



Workers whose presence in the territory of an EU State is strictly limited in duration and closely connected ...


Student residence permit

An authorisation issued by the authorities of an EU State allowing a non-EU national, accepted by an ...



A non-EU national accepted by an establishment of higher education and admitted to the territory of an EU State ...


Residence permit

Any authorisation issued by the authorities of an EU State allowing a non-EU national to stay legally in its territory,...


Non-EU national

Any person not having the nationality of an EU State.



A person who, according to the law of his/her respective country, is under the age of majority, i.e. is not yet entitled ...



The movement of a person or a group of persons, either across an international border (international migration),...



A broader-term of an immigrant and emigrant, referring to a person who leaves one country or region to settle in ...


Host country

The EU State in which a non-EU national takes up legal residence.



Any entrance of a person from one country to another, whether voluntary or involuntary, authorised or unauthorised.


Country of origin

The country that is a source of migratory flows (regular or irregular).