As of the 2nd of March, a new Belgian visa law makes it now more difficult to come to Belgium for foreigners from outside the European Economic Area, including for students and volunteers. In addition to the €180 handling fee, when applying for visa, young students over 18 will need to pay an additional €160. Volunteers will need to pay a whopping €215!
According to the European Youth Forum, increasing these fees for students and volunteers will not only possibly reduce the number of young people coming to Belgium, it could also put an additional burden on volunteering and student programmes financed by Erasmus+ with a net result of fewer mobile young people.
The new law, proposed by Theo Francken, the Belgian Secretary of Asylum and Migration, has been criticized that it is not inline with EU Directive 2004/114 because the funds raised will go to the Ministry of Home Affairs and not the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to Avenir.net, the 9 million euros generated per year could be used to create an addition 100 places in immigration detention centres and more than 1000 repatriations.
EEE-YFU believes that international long-term mobility, especially for the purposes of studying and volunteering can create bridges of intercultural understanding. The EU Directive 2004/114 also proposes to make the EU an attractive place for studying and volunteering. Thus, the new Belgian law seems to be contrary to both promoting mobility as a vehicle for intercultural understanding and the EU as an attractive centre for studying and volunteering.
For more information
Belgian visa tax use (French)
European Youth Forum Policy Watch (English)