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Posted on December 07 2015

EU to ease entry rules for researchers, students

By  Editor
Updated April 03 2023
European Union Justice and Home Affairs ministers on Friday agreed on common entrance and residency rules aimed at making the European Union more attractive for students and researchers from third countries. The agreement now requires only the formality of being voted on, first by a plenary session of the European Parliament, which is expected to happen after New Year, with the parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee having already agreed to the text on 30 November, and then by the Council of Europe. The directive's objective is to advance the European Union in the global competition for talent and to promote Europe as a world centre of excellence for studies and training. Highly skilled people form the EU's key asset in strengthening its competitiveness, boosting growth and creating jobs. European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Friday: "I am very pleased with today's political agreement on modernising EU-wide rules for welcoming talents from abroad. “While we are focused on addressing the current refugee crisis, today’s agreement shows that the EU is not losing sight of legal migration channels. This legal path can help to divert people away from irregular migration channels. “Hosting more students and researchers is good for the EU economy, promoting more contacts between young people from different educational and research cultures." The new directive, agreed on 4 December, will cover admission conditions, rights and intra-EU mobility of the groups concerned. The new rules will also make it easier to retain these talented people and their skills in the EU economy. Students and researchers will be able to stay for nine months after their graduation or research project to look for a job or set up a business in Europe. The decision on whether to grant access to the labour market, however, will remain a national competence. According to the European Commission the reformed rules are an important part of the EU’s attempts to create a well-managed system for legal migration across the EU. The rule changes were first proposed two years ago and now that they have been formally adopted, member states will have two years to build the rules into national law. Based on 2014 figures, the new rules will affect around a quarter of a million students and researchers. In 2014 a total of 228,406 third-country national students received a study permit in an EU member state; and 9,402 permits were granted to third-country national researchers. Changes introduced The changes being introduced include better access to the jobs market, easier access for researchers’ families, an end to restrictions on applying when already in the EU, and ease of movement between EU states. Previous weekly working hour limits for students during their studies have been raised. Member states no longer have the possibility to block access to the labour market entirely during the first year of studies. Researchers' family members are allowed to accompany researchers, and are allowed to take a job. This is an important element in attracting and retaining highly qualified researchers from outside the EU. Applicants have the right to submit applications from within the EU, where previously they had to be based outside, or travel back to their country of origin to submit an application. Researchers, and their family members, will be able to spend up to 180 days in a second member state based on simplified intra-EU mobility rules. Also, students participating in programmes such as Erasmus+ will be able to move more easily within the EU to carry out part of their studies in a different member state. Students will have the right to work at least 15 hours a week outside of their study time. Students and researchers will have the right to stay at least nine months after finishing their studies or research in order to look for a job or to set up a business, which should also ensure that Europe benefits from their skills. Today, it is individual EU member states which decide whether students and researchers from third countries may stay on after their studies or research have ended. It will be easier for students and researchers to move within the EU during their stay. Under the new rules, they will have to notify only the member state to which they are moving, for example to do a one-semester exchange, instead of having to submit a new visa application and wait for it to be processed, as is the case today. Researchers will also be able to move for longer periods than those currently allowed. The deal also has provisions to clarify and improve conditions for non-EU interns. When the rule changes were informally agreed by Members of the European Parliament, or MEPs, and ministers last month, Cecilia Wikström, the European Parliament’s lead MEP on the issue, said: “Today’s agreement means without a doubt that our European universities are strengthening their competitiveness in the global arena, becoming more attractive than ever for talented, ambitious and highly educated people from other countries, who will receive considerably improved conditions here. The rationale for the directive was laid out in the draft. “In the context of the Europe 2020 Strategy and the need to ensure smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, human capital represents one of Europe's key assets. Immigration from outside the EU is one source of highly skilled people, and third-country national students and researchers in particular are groups which are increasingly sought after,” it says. The objective is to “support social, cultural and economic relationships between the EU and third countries, foster the transfer of skills and know-how and promote competitiveness while, at the same time, provide for safeguards ensuring fair treatment of these groups of third-country nationals”. The Europe 2020 Strategy and its Innovation Union flagship initiative set the goal of increased investment in research and innovation, requiring an estimated extra one million more research jobs in Europe. This proposal is also in line with one of the objectives of the EU action on education, which is to promote the European Union as a world centre of excellence for education and international relations and to share knowledge better around the world as a means of helping to disseminate the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. “Immigration from outside the EU is one source of highly skilled people, and third-country national students and researchers in particular are groups which are increasingly sought after and which the EU needs to actively attract. Third-country national students and researchers can contribute to a pool of well-qualified potential workers and human capital that the EU needs to cope with the above-mentioned challenges,” the draft directive said. It is also believed that allowing third-country nationals to acquire skills and knowledge through a period of training in Europe will encourage “brain circulation” and support cooperation with third countries, which benefits both the sending and the receiving countries. Trainees and volunteers The rules also apply to trainees and to volunteers who come to the EU under the European Voluntary Service scheme. Member states may decide to apply the new EU rules also to third-country nationals applying for participation in a pupil exchange scheme or educational project, volunteers other than those taking part in the European Voluntary Service or au pairing.



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