European student visas should be egalitarian – ESU

There is still work to do to ensure student visas “achieve equal educational and social opportunities” across the EU for third-country nationals, the European Students’ Union said in response to the European Commission’s call for a public consultation on the future of the Schengen visa.

In a statement that was widely welcomed by its 46 members, ESU highlighted concerns around student visa duration, free movement, post-study work rights and advocated for a streamlined system to allow refugees to enter higher education.

According to ESU’s vice president Caroline Sundberg, the current visa policy is limiting universities’ global reach.

Student visas for non-EU nationals, ESU said, should cover the entire duration of the course, include access international mobility within the EU and allow students to stay in the EU for 12 months to seek “relevant” employment.

Along the same line, the Union’s response advocated for visa applications to be more affordable and accessible for all students, suggesting a simplification of the bureaucratic hurdles students are subjected to such as multiple document submissions and translations.

The single biggest problem for non-EU students applying for a student visa is being able to meet financial criteria, Sundberg explained. “It’s not always common that students have their own bank account or have the amount of money that is expected when applying,” she said.

“We think merit, qualifications and interest in the study program should play the most important part for the study admissions, not nationality and visa application procedures,” she concluded.