One of the objectives of EU action in education is to promote Europe as a whole as a world centre of excellence for studies. 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.
The EU also has specific rules to facilitate the admission of third-country national researchers who wish to carry out a research project at a public or private research institution in the EU.
The EU applies common rules of admission for non-EU nationals who request admission to an EU State to carry out studies leading to a higher education qualification (students). These common rules are laid down in the 2016 Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of non-EU nationals for the purposes of research, studies, training, voluntary service, pupil exchange, schemes or educational projects and au pairing. Member States are free to transpose the provisions for pupils, volunteers outside of the European Voluntary Service and au pairs.
The conditions of admission are twofold. The general conditions, common to all six 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 the acceptance by the higher education institution 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.
Once they have met the relevant conditions, the applicants are entitled to an authorisation, either in the form of a long-stay visa or a residence permit. The duration of the authorisation and the admissibility of renewal differ depending on the purpose of migration. For instance, a student authorisation shall be issued for a period of at least one year, or for the duration of the studies if it is shorter. For au pairs it shall correspond to the duration of the placement or a maximum of one year, and it may be renewed once for a maximum period of six months.
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. Moreover, non-EU students are entitled to be employed in the host EU State or may be authorised to exercise self-employed activity. This enables them to cover part of the study costs. EU States must allow the students to work at least 15 hours per week.
The above Directive also establishes a special admission procedure and the conditions of entry and residence for non-EU researchers in the EU. The Directive concerns stays of more than three months. It also lays down the rules that apply when a third-country national researcher moves from one EU Member State to another one.
A third-country national must fulfil all conditions outlined in the Directive in order to be admitted as a researcher in the territory of a Member State, for example, that they have a valid travel document and sickness insurance. A hosting agreement must be agreed between a research organisation and the researcher, it must contain information on essential issues such as the research project itself as well as the estimated duration of the research activity.
An authorisation, either in the form of a residence permist or a long-stay visa, is issued to third-country national researchers for a period of at least one year if all the relevant conditions are met. There is no need for a work permit in addition to the authorisation.
A researcher may carry out his/her research not only in the country where he or she holds the authorisation, but also in other EU Member States. If the research in the second Member State goes on for up to 6 months, no new application process needs to be made. For stays beyond 6 months, Member States have the choice between either allowing the research to be carried out on the basis of a notification, or to ask for a new simplified application.
Researchers admitted under the terms of the Directive are entitled to the same rights as EU nationals when they are in a comparable situation in a number of important areas, such as diploma and professional qualifications recognition, working conditions, social security benefits and access to goods and services.
Students who graduated and researchers who finished their research activity are able to stay for 9 months to look for a job or to set up a business in the Member State where they did their studies/research.