Visa Directive


Visa Directive: relevance for exchanges

The revision of the Directive was thus expected to have a positive impact and simplify the procedures for obtaining visa and residence permits for exchange students coming to the European Union. This was especially necessary as for many YFU organisations around the world as visa and residence permit applications tend to be very costly in terms of effort and time.

The process towards the new Directive

Since the beginning of this legislative process, EEE-YFU has actively contributed to the process by raising awareness among member organisations and external partners, as well as advocating towards the European institutions.

  • March 2013: the European Commission publishes a proposal for a revision of the Visa Directive.
  • April-May 2013: EEE-YFU and EFIL releases a joint reaction to the Commission's proposal.
  • February 2014: the European Parliament adopts its report on the revision of the Visa Directive.
  • February –March 2014: EEE-YFU welcomes the fact that the EU Parliament’s report includes many of the suggested amendments.
  • December 2014: the Council of the European Union adopts a common position that marks a major step back.
  • January- February 2015: the European Youth Forum and EUCIS-LLL release a reaction against the Council’s position, supported by EEE-YFU.
  • January- February 2015: EEE-YFU and its partners decide to focus advocacy efforts in keeping volunteers and pupils within the scope of the Directive.
  • February 2015- December 2015: Negotiations between the three EU institutions (Commission, Parliament, and Council) continue.
  • October 2015: a mission to the German Ministry of Interior is organised by the European Youth Forum; YFU takes part in it.
  • Fall 2015: EEE-YFU and is partners are in contact with some relevant Members of the EU Parliament to ensure they keep their position.
  • December 2015: A final, informal agreement is reached
  • May 2016: the final text, result of a compromise, is adopted by the EU Parliament.

The EU Visa Directive

The Visa Directive is the piece of EU legislation that sets the conditions for how non-EU nationals can come into the European Union for research, studies, pupil exchange, training, volunteering or au-pairing.

The recast of the Visa Directive 2004/114 was initiated in 2013, with the purpose of making it easier for third-country nationals to enter and stay in the EU for learning and researching reasons.

After long negotiations, on 11 May 2016, the European Parliament adopted the new Visa Directive. The final text is a compromise between the different positions of the European Commission, the European Parliament (more progressive), and the European Council (more conservative).

The new Visa Directive at a glance

The new Visa Directive will be mandatory only for university students, researchers, and EVS volunteers. EU Member States will decide whether to apply the provisions of the Directive also to secondary school students (“pupils”) and other volunteers.

In comparison with the current 2004 Visa Directive, the new version will bring improvements for university students and researchers (such as the right to move within the EU for study and research, the right to family reunification, the right to work while studying, etc.), but only very small advances for exchange students and other categories.

A few good provisions that could benefit exchange students too

  • The period of validity of an authorisation for exchange students shall be of equal duration to the exchange scheme.
  • If an address has to be provided at the time of the visa application, Member States shall accept a temporary address.
  • Exchange students shall be entitled to equal treatmentin relation to access to and supply of goods and services made available to the public in the country where they are.
  • The written notification of the result of the visa application shall specify the court or administrative authority with which an appealmay be lodged and the time-limit for lodging the appeal.
  • Member States may decide to put in place an approval procedurefor education institutions, education establishments, and exchange organisations. Approved entities will have access to a faster visa procedure.

Delays, fees, and the reciprocity principle may still hinder mobility

  • Member States may require the applicant to present documentary evidence in an official language of the Member State concerned.
  • Member States may limit the admission of exchange students participating in an exchange scheme or educational project to nationals of third countries which offer the same possibility for their own nationals.
  • Delays remain quite long: a decision on the application shall be adopted not later than 90 days from the date on which the complete application was submitted.
  • The level of visa fees is not set. The Directive only says they shall not be disproportionate or excessive, giving each Member State possibility to choose what is proportionate.
  • Member States will have the right to determine the volumes of admission of volunteers, researchers and trainees, if they are considered to be in an employment relationship.

Member States have two years to transpose the Directive

EU Member States have two years to adopt national laws and regulations that comply with the Directive.

During this time, EEE-YFU and its member organisations will make sure the voice secondary school students in heard at the national level, in order to:

  • call for the application of favourable provisions included in the Directive also to “pupils”, even though they are an optional category;
  • monitor how Member States put in place the approval procedure for host entities, so to make sure that the procedure is clear, transparent, and based on quality criteria.

Resources on the Visa Directive

Fact Sheet- Why should the Visa Directive cover pupils and volunteers? (2015)

The European Youth Forum, with the support of EEE-YFU and other member organisations, released this Fact-Sheet with information and data about the value of pupils and volunteers mobility.

Towards an improved European Framework - the Revision of the Visa Directive (2015)

EFIL and EEE-YFU sum up the main issues raised by the current Visa Directive and present some concrete examples from young people who faced problems in entering and/or staying in Europe.

Joint reaction to the Position of the EU Council (2015)

The European Youth Forum (supported by EEE-YFU, EFIL and ESN) published a Reaction on the conservative position of the Council.

Position of the EU Council (2014)

On 9th December 2014 the EU Council has agreed on a conservative common position on the proposal published by the European Commission in 2012. The EU Council wants to limit the scope of the directive to students and researchers and leave out pupil exchanges and volunteers.

Resolution of the EU Parliament (2014)

The Parliament’s resolution included many of the amendments suggested by EEE-YFU and the European Youth Forum.

EEE-YFU and EFIL Reaction to the Proposal of the Commission (2013)

EFIL and EEE-YFU welcome the fact that under the Commission’s proposal, pupil exchanges are covered by the scope of the directive with mandatory provisions.

Proposal of the EU Commission (2013)

The proposal establishes the conditions of entry and residence of third-country national researchers, students, pupils, remunerated and unremunerated trainees, volunteers and au pairs to the territory of the Member States for a period exceeding three months.

Visa Directive News


“Easier Visa and residence permits policies are necessary to allow mobility, which brings possibilities for intercultural learning, personal development and many other great things, which are experienced living abroad for a longer period of time. I went on exchange both during secondary school and during the University and I had no trouble, because I am EU citizen; I would like that it becomes easier for everyone else outside EU too.” (Ieva, Lithuania and Denmark)