The Directive also provides that Member States are free to apply the rules to school pupils, volunteers coming to the EU outside the EVS scheme and, for the first time at EU level, au-pairs.
Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said: "I am very pleased with today's political agreement on modernising EU-wide rules for welcoming talents from abroad. For the first time, we will also have common immigration rules across the EU for trainees and volunteers who participate in projects funded by the European Voluntary Service. While we are focused on addressing the current refugee crisis, today’s agreement shows that the EU is not losing sight of legal migration channels. This legal path can help to divert people away from irregular migration channels. Hosting more students and researchers is good for the EU economy, promoting more contacts between young people from different educational and research cultures."
The new Directive will cover admission conditions, rights and intra-EU mobility of the groups concerned. The new rules will also make it easier to retain these talented people and their skills in the EU economy. Students and researchers will be able to stay for 9 months after their graduation or research project to look for a job or set up a business in Europe. The decision to grant access to the labour market remains a national competence. The reformed rules are an important part of the EU’s overall migration policy, aiming at a well-managed system for legal migration across the EU. As announced in the European Agenda on Migration, the Commission plans to present a comprehensive legal migration package in March 2016.
In 2013 the European Commission proposed to reform and merge the Students and Researchers Directives, having identified a number of weaknesses of these instruments. The EU is an attractive destination internationally for students. In 2014, 228,406 third-country national students received a study permit in an EU Member State, For third-country national researchers, 9,402 permits were granted by Member States in 2014.
The reformed Directive adopted today will harmonise rules across the EU for third-country national trainees and for volunteers participating in projects funded by the European Voluntary Service (EVS). Also for the first time there will be common rules for au-pairs which Member States can transpose into national law. Optional rules are kept for school pupils and volunteers who come to the EU outside of the EVS scheme.
The following changes are also introduced by the new Directive:
- Access to the labour market for students during studies: Previous weekly working hour limits have been raised. Member States no longer have the possibility to block access to the labour market entirely during the first year of studies.
- Researchers' family members are allowed to accompany researchers, and are given access to the labour market. This is an important element in attracting and retaining highly-qualified researchers from outside of the EU.
- Applicants have the right to submit applications from within the EU (previously they had to be based outside, or travel back to their country of origin to submit an application).
- Researchers, and their family members, will be able to spend up to 180 days in a second Member State based on simplified intra-EU mobility rules. Also students participating in programmes (such as Erasmus+) will be able to move more easily within the EU to carry out part of their studies in a different Member State.
Once the Directive is formally adopted, Member States will have 2 years to transpose the rules into national law.