Entry of third-country nationals for research, studies and training

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On 12 May 2016 a new directive on conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies, and training entered into force. Member states have until 23 May 2018 to translate the directive into national law.

Why do we need it?

Key facts in 2014

  • 476 817 first permits were granted for educational reasons
  • 422 623 of these were for studies
  • as of 31 December 2014, 1 063 412 people held a permit for educational reasons

The EU is facing important demographic and economic challenges. Its working age population has practically stopped growing and will probably start shrinking over the next couple of years, and thousands of the best researchers and innovators are moving to countries where conditions are more favourable.

Allowing third-country nationals to acquire skills and knowledge through a period of training in Europe can contribute to a pool of well-qualified potential workers and encourage brain circulation, supporting cooperation with third countries.

However, previous rules regulating access for some of these groups were insufficiently clear and did not address some of the practical difficulties faced by applicants. By amending the student directive (2004/114) and researchers directive (2005/71), the directive seeks to improve the conditions of entry and residence of third-country researchers, students, trainees and volunteers.

In detail

The directive covers several key aspects related to the entry and residence of third-country nationals for research, studies trainees and volunteers taking part in the European voluntary service. It can also apply, for member states who so decide, to third-country nationals accessing the EU for pupil exchange, an educational project, other types of volunteering or au pairing.


Applicants who fulfil the general and specific conditions set out in the articles will be granted an authorisation. The limits on the duration of the authorisation are in line with the limits established in previous directives.

Right to work

The provisions regarding the right of researchers and students to work follow the line of previous directives (with an increase in the minimum hours allowed for students to 15 hours per week). However, the agreed text also adds the possibility for students and researchers to stay at least nine months after the finalisation of their research or studies in order to look for work or set up a business.


This chapter seeks to simplify and facilitate the mobility of third-country nationals between member states. Researchers and students in one member state may, in certain cases, carry out part of their research or studies in another member state upon simple notification. 

The period of mobility for researchers has also been increased, up to six months. Family members of researchers will also be allowed to accompany them and benefit from the improved right to mobility within the EU.

Procedure and transparency

The proposed changes establish specific time-limits for the member states to decide on an application and to notify the applicant. They also require member states to make available information on entry and residence conditions, including the minimum monthly resources required or the host entities approved.  The proposal also limits the fees that member states may charge for the processing of applications.

Timeline in the Council


23 May

Deadline for member states to translate the directive into national law.


12 May

The directive enters into force, one day after publication in the Official Journal of the EU.


4 December

Council adopts a political agreement on the text.

26 November

Council confirms the deal reached with the European Parliament.


10 December

Coreper agrees on a text and gives the Council presidency a mandate to engage in negotiations with the European Parliament.


25 March

The European Commission presents a proposal for a directive on conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies, and training.