Oct 09 2018

Many EU Countries Implement Students and Researchers Directive

European Union

The situation

Many EU countries have now implemented the EU Students and Researchers Directive, harmonizing and simplifying rules on stay, labor market access and intra-EU mobility for qualified researchers, students and trainees.


The EU Students and Researchers Directive aims to attract and retain talented foreign nationals by simplifying and standardizing immigration requirements in the European Union for researchers, students and trainees. It also seeks to harmonize national residence or stay provisions, enhance labor market access and improve mobility within the European Union once a permit is obtained. The European Commission pushed EU countries to implement the Directive in July 2018.

A closer look

The Directive has been implemented in Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain. Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom have opted out of the Directive. National legislation implementing the Directive has covered the following topics:

  • Researchers. The Directive harmonizes eligibility criteria for researchers and lists new benefits which EU countries should introduce if not yet available, such as the right to sponsor eligible dependents, move within the European Union, teach, search for a job or set up a business after completing their research activity.
    • Implementation. Most countries have taken the opportunity to implement a favorable research permit scheme, with a long permit validity and job search options, simple mobility mechanisms and options for accredited private companies to sponsor research. National implementing legislation varies the most in the duration of time permitted for job searches.
    • Mobility. Under the Directive, eligible research permit holders can work up to 180 days in a 360-day period in another EU country. All countries have so far implemented this provision as the Directive states.

  • Students. The Directive generally unifies eligibility criteria for students, making the student permit approval process more predictable and straightforward. The Directive lists some new benefits which must be introduced if not yet available, such as a work option for at least 15 hours per week, the right to move within the European Union, search for a job or set up a business after completing studies.
    • Implementation. There is a significant split between how countries are interpreting and implementing the Directive on topics such as permit validity, application processes and work access requirements.
    • Mobility. Under the Directive, eligible student permit holders can study for up to 360 days in another EU country. All countries have so far implemented this provision as the Directive states.  

  • Trainees. The Directive requires EU countries to offer a trainee category in addition to the EU ICT Permit trainee option, whereas prior EU rules allowed this category to remain optional. The Directive leaves considerable freedom to EU countries in setting the eligibility criteria and process for trainees. The Directive does not require EU countries to allow accompanying dependents, facilitated intra-EU mobility or job search.
    • Implementation. Many countries retain a restrictive approach for this category, with limited permit validity, unchanged application processes, and with some countries even barring job searching. Fragomen expects that this may be linked to concerns about fair wage payment and unfair competition with local staff.
    • Mobility. Mobility for this category is not regulated under the Directive.



Recruitment of foreign students, interns and researchers should be facilitated in the countries that have implemented the Directive.

Background on EU Directives

The Students and Researchers Directive is one of several directives that exist in the European Union. A directive instructs EU Member States to which it is addressed to take certain action, while allowing each Member State freedom to enact the exact implementing rules. 

For example, the Posted Workers Directive concerns notifications required by EU-based employers who send non-EU or EU employees to provide services to another EU Member State. EU Member States had until June 18, 2016 to implement this Directive into their national legislation. That Directive was amended in September to reduce differences in employment conditions between posted and host country workers.

Additionally, a 2014 Directive required EU Member States to transpose certain rules for intracompany transferees (ICTs) into their national legislation by November 2016 in order to align rules for ICTs with EU-wide policy. The majority of EU countries have now implemented this Directive in their national laws (with the exception of Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom, where it will not apply).

Looking ahead

For some countries such as France and Portugal, legislation was adopted but is not yet in effect during the drafting of further implementing decrees.

The following 13 countries have yet to implement the Directive: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic (legislation pending with parliament), Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Sweden.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to [email protected] or [email protected].