Prior to ETIAS, third-country students were fully entitled to further their education in any of the EU or Schengen states with no need for any special documentation. The simplicity of this arrangement is set to change from the end of 2022 when third-country travellers to Europe (be it for business, pleasure or study) will require ETIAS approval to enter many European countries.
ETIAS, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System, is set to come into effect in the second half of 2022 and will become mandatory in early 2023. At this point third-country visitors to Europe will need to be in possession of a valid passport and to have applied for and received ETIAS approval. Without this approval it will no longer be possible to embark on any trips into Europe for any reason or for even the shortest period of time. This will have a knock-on effect for students wishing to enrol in European universities, colleges, trade schools or any educational establishment.
Winds of change for student permits
ETIAS is being introduced to strengthen security across Europe. This will be achieved by having non-EU nationals from what are deemed “third countries” fill out an online application form in order to secure ETIAS approval.
Before ETIAS it was possible for third-country students to attend colleges or universities anywhere in Europe for the required number of years simply by possessing a valid passport. Now, however, what was once a simple exercise has become somewhat more complicated with the upcoming introduction of ETIAS.
Exactly what documentation and permissions will be required will depend on the location and duration of the courses being undertaken. Third-country citizens wishing to study in Europe will definitely need ETIAS approval before commencing any educational courses but may also require some form of visa or permit to study in a particular country as different nations apply different regulations.
European education highly regarded
Millions of students from countries outside the EU enrol in European universities and colleges every year. It is an ideal situation for language students who can acquire not just a qualification in their chosen language but also gain invaluable experience in using the language every day with native speakers. Even students who have no interest in learning a new language can enrol in one of the many top quality English-speaking universities which provide exceptional curriculums and highly qualified teachers.
A European education is highly regarded in the United States and Canada with universities in Germany, Spain and France among the top choices for American and Canadian students. Many of the European centres of education are held in high esteem by employers and qualifications from these schools are of tremendous value to job-seeking students.
Europe and Canada, along with approximately sixty other nations, currently enjoy visa-free access to the EU and Schengen Area which makes a European education very attractive and accessible to students from these countries. However, once ETIAS takes effect, obtaining places at European institutes of learning may not be such an easy alternative to studying in one's home country.
Study permit required?
ETIAS approval or a Schengen Visa entitles the holder to spend 90 days in a given 180 day period within the EU and Schengen Area. Clearly, for students enrolled in a three year university or college course this will not cover the time span needed for completion and further permission will be required. On top of this an ETIAS is only valid for a period of three years and some university degree courses may take longer.
The rules regarding student visas vary from country to country but the most likely scenario is that students intending to study abroad will require a visa of some sort and not just ETIAS approval. Unlike the ETIAS application which is filled out online any form of student permit or visa will usually entail a personal appearance at the relevant embassy or consulate as well as supporting documentation. This documentation will most likely include:
- Proof of enrolment
- Proof of adequate funding and finances
- Appropriate health insurance.
These are expected to be minimum requirements but it is possible the consulate representative may also require additional documentation regarding the applicant's personal and educational background. A study permit or visa will be needed for long-term studies but not for short courses overseas. One week, two week or month long language courses for example would not exceed the permitted time limits and an ETIAS approved passport would be sufficient for such short-term studies.
Numerous educational establishments across the European Union offer a wide array of short-term courses that do not exceed the 90 day limit ETIAS imposes on third country nationals. Short courses are available on a myriad of subjects ranging from the sciences, technology, politics and the arts to basic cookery or even cordon bleu cuisine. One of the most popular subjects for overseas students is, of course, language learning. While many students will be enrolled in a university a significant proportion will only be interested in a short introductory or refresher course and many of these run for a month or less.
Attending short-term courses lasting weeks rather than months is well within the scope of an ETIAS and no further approval or permits are required. It is only when the course runs for 90 days or more that problems may arise.
It should also be noted that a valid ETIAS allows the holder to return to the EU as often as desired as long as a single stay does not exceed the 90 day limit. It is therefore technically possible to take a longer-term course by leaving the Schengen Area after reaching the 90 day maximum and then returning almost immediately. This situation could be problematical, however, as many of the European colleges offer a complete package which includes tuition and accommodation. As part of the booking process the college will check the student's ETIAS and may decline the application if the course is due to run for longer than a block of 90 days.
ETIAS, Visa or Permit?
There is no one rule fits all when it comes to what is required to undertake a course of study in the EU. The only certainty is that all intending students who are not citizens of a EU or Schengen Area country will require ETIAS approval before even attempting to enrol on any course based in Europe.
Whether an ETIAS approved passport is sufficient or the student will require a visa or study permit basically depends upon:
- The student's nationality as stated on the passport
- The duration of the course applied for
- The location of the college or university
As outlined previously, short-term term courses (courses lasting no more than 90 consecutive days) pose no problem for intending third country nationals as an ETIAS approved passport is sufficient. Students from outside the EU and whose country is not on the existing list of ETIAS eligible countries will need to acquire a suitable visa to enter and study in the European zone. It may also be necessary to secure a student permit but this regulation can vary from one EU member state to another.
As a general rule, third-country students will:
- Require ETIAS approval for short-term courses (under 90 days)
- Require ETIAS approval AND a student visa or permit for longer-term courses
It is not possible to apply for a combined ETIAS and student visa at the same time as the two are completely separate entities. ETIAS approval is an online process which when granted is electronically linked to the applicant's passport. The passport holder is then entitled to travel to and remain within Europe subject to the 90 day limit. This time limit allows the traveller to remain for the duration of a short course but not for the full term should it exceed 90 days.
Whereas applying for an ETIAS is a relatively simple and quick online process the student visa application is not. Depending on which country the student is applying to, the whole process can take weeks (or longer) to complete. Visa applications can only be submitted at the relevant country's embassy or consulate and documentary proof of the applicant's academic history, college acceptance, adequate health insurance and funds will be asked for. Other additional documentation may also be required and this will need to be clarified with the embassy staff before the necessary paperwork is collected and an interview arranged.