22-AUG-2022 | The Spanish government wants to remedy some of the logistical challenges international students face while studying in Spain. Pending new legislation, the Spanish government intends to grant residence permits to foreign students for the duration of their studies and to extend work rights for one-to-two years after graduation.
International students hoping to pursue a higher education degree at one of Spain’s 76 universities may soon find it easier to do so. The Spanish government is legislating a new University System Law to allow students from countries outside the European Union to:
- hold residence permits for the duration of their studies, and
- automatically be granted the right to remain in Spain for one-to-two years after graduation.
The new legislation is being prepared by the Spanish government and will require parliamentary approval before being passed into law. If passed, the new rules are expected to come into effect in 2023.
Currently, non-EU students who are studying in Spain are granted residence permits for only one year and must apply for an annual extension to continue their studies. After graduation, students can apply for a post-study work visa to remain in the country for a year to look for a job, but they are not permitted to work within those 12 months. This rule makes it difficult for non-EU students to remain in the country unless they have sufficient financial resources.
There are other challenges that international students studying in Spain are facing, such as red tape. If there is no reciprocity agreement it can take years for a student’s prior qualifications to be validated before being allowed at a Spanish institution.
Those issues have limited Spain’s ability to compete for international students as effectively as countries like Canada, the UK, France, and Germany, even though Spain offers relatively low tuition fees. On average, annual tuition for a bachelor’s degree at a public Spanish university is €550 to €3,500, while tuition for a master’s degree is €750 to €4,000. Private colleges set their own rates, so fees can be higher in that sector. Just under 10% of students in Spanish universities in 2021 were from other countries.
The ability to attract international students is becoming increasingly important to the Spanish government. Graduates of Spanish universities often leave to work in other countries such as the UK and Germany. Over the past two decades, so-called “brain drain” has affected Southern and Eastern European countries such as Spain, Italy, Romania, and Greece more than those in Western and Northern Europe. The exodus of youth to other European countries has been severe enough to prompt the governments of Italy and Greece to offer tax incentives to encourage citizens who have left the country to return. Spain has its own “Return to Spain” strategy that offers grants and discounts for scientists and entrepreneurs.
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