ESU welcomes ECJ ruling on third-country nationals

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The ECJ The ECJ is located in Luxembourg. Photo: Rob Sinclair/Wikimedia Commons

LUXEMBOURG - The European Students’ Union (ESU) strongly supports the recent ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) that facilitates the studies of third-country nationals within the European Union (EU).

Visas and residency permits are among the largest obstacles that non-EU nationals face when seeking studies in the EU. Simpler administrative immigration procedures can greatly increase the participation and mobility of non-EU countries and students that are involved in the Bologna Process, such as the Western-Balkans, Eastern Europe and Southern Caucasus.

This is an essential step towards a balanced and indiscriminative mobility among students within the European Higher Education Area. It is also key in reaching both the goals of the EU and European Higher Education Area that by 2020 at least twenty per cent of graduates have been abroad at some point during their study period.

Everyone should have a guaranteed access to higher education, regardless of their nationality. We believe it is impossible to reach the EU’s objective, which is ‘to promote Europe, as a whole as a world centre of excellence for studies’, without reducing the administrative obstacles that are currently in place. Visa and residency permit procedures for non-EU nationals must be simplified. This case now gives Europe the opportunity to improve its challenges through cross-border mobility and by making it a more attractive study destination,” says Erin Nordal, Vice-Chairperson of ESU.

Background information

On 10 September, the ECJ ruled that non-EU nationals must be treated in a fair and non-discriminatory manner. The case C-491/13 Mohamed Ali Ben Alaya v. Germany was concerned with the implementation of the European Directive 2004/114/EC on the conditions of admission of third-country nationals for the purposes of studies, pupil exchange, unremunerated training or voluntary service.

German authorities believed that the applicant’s motivation to study in Germany was insufficient and that there was a weak link between his selected course of study and his intentions for a professional career. His application for a residence permit, necessary for him to start his Bachelor’s study at the Technical University of Dortmund, was therefore rejected.

The ECJ stressed that no biased evaluation of applications from non-EU citizens that want to pursue higher education in Europe can be considered as grounds for refusing to issue student residence permits or respective visas. The only exceptions are threats to national security or public health.

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For more information, please contact:

Erin Nordal, ESU's Vice-Chairperson: +32/479.126.390 // or Robert Hlynur Baldursson, ESU Communications Manager: +32/473.669.894 //

The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.



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