Finally Good News for Language Students

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It seems Brexit travel restrictions are easing. Currently, British travellers can spend up to 90 days within a 180-day period in the Schengen Area. This means within six months, you can spend up to three in most European countries. For language students at Durham this has massively altered their freedom and greatly increased the bureaucracy.

But in the final months of 2023, there’s been a stir as some local politicians in France have been campaigning for their government to make it easier for British property owners to stay longer than 90 days. And they were successful. In December the immigration bill was amended in French Parliament to six months rather than three without a visa.

This is because UK citizens with second homes in France are a very useful contribution to social and economic to communities, especially in rural areas. Reducing the time they can spend in France prevents them spending money in the locality, supporting businesses and cultural events.

Although France is mainly targeting second home owners, this could be the brink of reform for all travellers.

Indeed, this sentiment is spreading across the continent. In Spain, the acting Minister of Tourism Hector Gomez wants change and forgo the 90-day rule due to the importance of British tourists for their economy.

For language students like myself this is music to my ears. Easing the rules would give more biting time for students applying for visas. French and Spanish students can, although after an arduous lengthy wait delaying the start of their year abroad for many, thankfully apply for visas before leaving which is advised by the departments at Durham. Students going to Germany however, like myself, were told to apply in when we get there at immigration offices.

For language students like myself this is music to my ears

The task of acquiring my German residency permit clouds my first experiences in Germany. It had been sat obstructively at the forefront of my mind for a couple of weeks before I came to Germany and knew it was something I wanted to tick straight off. The first task is to register as a new resident which, with all the right documents printed off, went well. My worst fears however were realised as, when I checked the appointments for the next step—the Aufenthaltserlaubnis or residency permit— they started in December. In disbelief, I spiralled into imagining a Christmas alone and while holding back tears, rang the immigration office and desperately tried to summit my documents online. It is an overwhelming feeling not knowing how long it will take to be able to go home. I did luckily, after uncountable persistent calls, manage to find a cancellation slot I could take, but for others, they were not so lucky. I met many in my year who were unable to go home until March.

The German system means you must reapply if you move states thus in Freiburg, with dread, I started the process started again. Here, I spent early mornings queuing for slots with a mind full of the horror stories that in Baden-Wüttemberg, the bureaucracy is one of the slowest. Here, it is a problem with Germany’s system and I acknowledge my privilege that I am apply for a visa for studying and travelling unlike many others in the queue. I have found the experience of visa applications a unifying topic of conversation but I would not wish it on anyone else. Hopefully this will be the case soon for Germany.

Images by: Rakoon and Kaihsu Tai via Wikimedia Commons

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