European Union: EU moves to harmonize regulations for non-EU students and researchers

The European Union has adopted rules that will make it easier for non-EU students, researchers and their families to enter, remain and work in most EU countries. Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom are not part of the agreement.

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What does the change mean? The directive instructs all opted-in EU countries to ensure that their national laws comply with the new regulations within two years. Under the new rules, non-EU students and researchers will be allowed to remain in the EU for nine months after completing their coursework or research and will be afforded greater mobility within the EU without having to apply for a new student or researcher visa each time. Family members will be permitted to work and reside in Europe during a researcher’s stay. Students will be permitted to work for at least 15 hours per week.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing. EU member states have until May 21, 2018 to incorporate the rules into their national laws.
  • Who is affected: Non-EU students and researchers studying or working in mainland Europe.
  • Impact on processing times: Non-EU students, researchers and their families should save time if they are relocating within the EU because they should be exempted from multiple work permit or visa requirements following an initial grant.
  • Business impact: The changes will benefit individuals, universities and other research institutions, including private-sector companies that engage in research, provided they are identified as an approved research organization in national laws.

Background: The directive was proposed in 2013 to harmonize existing EU law on students and create a single approach to visas for non-EU student and researchers. The directive was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on May 21, 2016 and requires participating EU member states to incorporate the following into their immigration laws:

  • Students and researchers will be able to remain at least nine months after completing their studies or research projects to find a job or start a business.
  • Students and researchers will be able to move from country to country within the EU for longer periods of time without having to apply for separate visas.
  • Family members of researchers will have the right to work and reside for the duration of the researcher’s stay (This provision will not apply to students’ family members).
  • Students will be allowed to work 15 per hours per week, in addition to their study.

BAL Analysis: This harmonization of the rules should make it easier for non-EU students and researchers to move to, remain and work in most EU countries. The changes will benefit students and researchers, higher-education institutions that recruit them, and European employers that rely on student and researcher labor and expertise. The rules are of particular interest to research and development companies and departments in the technology, engineering and pharmaceutical sectors, either working in collaboration with higher-education institutions or as private research organizations. Policies may differ among EU countries, as each country will approve a list of research organizations under its national laws. Because member states have two years to incorporate the directive into national law and many specifics have been left to national interpretation, the new rules may not provide an immediate benefit. Students and researchers in Denmark, Ireland and the U.K. will continue to be managed under those countries’ respective national immigration rules because the three countries have opted out of the directive.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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