Advocacy on Visas in Germany

Youth and exchange organisations met with the German Ministry of Interior and called for improved provisions for long-term visas. The German government is currently against improving common legislation for learners come to the EU for learning purposes, despite Germany’s Welcome Culture policy (willkommenskultur).   Advocacy is crucial to change the situation in favour of millions of non-EU young people.

What about the meeting?

YFU Germany was amongst the participants in the meeting with the German Ministry of Interior, held on October 8th in Berlin. The meeting, co-ordinated by the European Youth Forum, saw the participation of DNK, AFS, AJA, AEGEE, BDKJ and AGDF (all youth organisations working with students, pupils and volunteers). EEE-YFU facilitated the participation of YFU Germany and helped co-ordination. The meeting provided the opportunity to youth organisations and German authorities to share opinions and present their own stands regarding the ongoing process of revision of the EU Visa Directive.

What is the Visa Directive and why is Germany reticent?

The Visa Directive is the piece of EU legislation which sets out the rules for the entry and the stay in the EU of students, pupils, volunteers, interns and au-pairs for a period more than three months (the so called “long-term stay”). This Directive has been negotiated by the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. The Council’s position, adopted in December 2014, not only removes many of the positive provisions proposed by the Commission and by the Parliament, but also makes the Directive mandatory only for university students and researchers, while excluding pupils and volunteers! This means that the EU is creating a double standard for learning mobility, with differentiated conditions for categories.

A strong voice in this process is Germany: using the argument that a favourable national legislation already exists in Germany, German authorities are opposing the revision of the Visa Directive, which is not needed in their perspective.

What did youth organisations call for?

The European Union as a whole would benefit from an improved common framework, since it would become a more attractive destination for education and training purposes. Those countries, like Germany, which proud of their national legislation on mobility, should support other Member States to adopt equally favourable legal provisions.

Therefore, youth representatives in the meeting called for:

  • Inclusion of pupils and volunteers in the new proposed EU visa rules – learning mobility should be for everyone!
  • No visa fees for participants in non-profit activities – learning mobility should be more accessible and more inclusive!
  • Possibility of intra-EU mobility for those that have been granted a Visa – we need to promote the whole EU as a destination of learning mobility!

What’s next?

Germany is considering its position and is open to further discussion with civil society and youth representatives about international youth mobility. Policy makers want to hear evidence-based arguments why the directive should include pupils and volunteers, with examples of benefits and impact on society, economy, and attractiveness.

It is important to continue advocating at the national and at the European level, both towards policy-makers and within networking platforms.

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