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Germany: visa waiting times “discouraging and demotivating”

Prospective students seeking to study in Germany were affected by multi-month visa waiting times at embassies around the world in 2019, with students in India, Morocco and Cameroon being affected by waiting times up to one year.

Germany - international student visa waiting times should be reducedOf the 375,000 international students in Germany in 2018, 282,000 were Bildungsauslaender – those students who completed their university entrance education overseas. Photo: pixabay

One in 10 international students in Germany comes from India, Cameroon and Morocco

According to the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, students applying at 24 embassies and missions had to wait over eight weeks to receive an appointment to apply for a visa.

“Multi-month visa waiting times are unacceptable and have a discouraging and demotivating effect for international talent,” Kai Gehring, the Greens’ spokesman for research and higher education policy, told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

Egypt, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were the only countries where students did not suffer from long delays at German embassies.

“Visa wait times of a year and more can hurt Germany’s appeal as a destination for international students,” Study.EU founder and CEO, Gerrit Bruno Blöss said.

“Multi-month visa waiting times are unacceptable”

“The problem is exacerbated by Germany’s commonly late application deadlines. For most courses, applications close from late May to mid-July, and offers are sometimes not sent before August.”

A Stifterverband policy paper, released in September 2019, found that long visa waiting times contributed to 38% of non-EU students it surveyed arriving in Germany after the start of the semester.

Of the 900 students asked, 18% arrived more than two weeks after the semester had begun in 2018.

“The government has started prioritising “highly qualified” applicants,” Blöss explained.

Students applying at the New Delhi embassy in India waiting times dropped from 28 weeks to 3 weeks if the applicant was qualified, a researcher or a scientist, data revealed.

Similarly Pakistani students applying in Islamabad waited for 42, while qualified students, researchers and scientists were waiting 37, 15 and 1 week(s), respectively.

Speaking with The PIE News, executive director of MyGermanUniversity Tobias Bargmann called on Germany’s five missions in India “to standardise and considerably simplify the process of obtaining a visa for Indian students”.

“It is a scandal why an Indian student – depending on the consular jurisdiction in which he or she falls – has to wait twice as long for a visa appointment,” he told The PIE.

The issue also results in some students missing preparatory language courses

Of the 282,000 Bildungsauslaender in 2018 – international students who completed their higher education entrance qualifications outside of Germany – India was the second largest source country after China, sending more than 17,000 students.

The visa waiting time problem is worrying, Bargmann added, since one in 10 international students in Germany comes from India, Cameroon and Morocco.

More broadly, the proportion of students reporting that they had very long visa waiting times to MyGU counsellors doubled in 2019.

The issue also results in some students missing preparatory language courses or orientation weeks, meaning they “start at a disadvantage from the outset”, Bargmann indicated.

“Due to the long waiting times when appointments are made and until the visa decision is made, it is virtually impossible for many students to plan their studies, so that they decide to study in other countries,” he said.

Chair of the German Association for International Education (DAIA) Martin Bickl said it is clear that German embassies must follow due process in granting visas.

“This may involve extensive background checks that may take a little longer,” he said.

“What is unacceptable, though, is that a small number of embassies make prospective students wait months for their first appointment in which evidence is submitted or verified.”

“How can a student convert an offer into an enrolment within four months when the waiting time for a first appointment is half a year?,” he asked.

The times also “send out a message of international students not being welcome, not being a priority for Germany”.

“[This] is what worries us most as Germany puts its reputation at risk,” he said.

“Students not being able to enrol is a personal loss for them but also a loss for Germany as a country looking to attract the world’s brightest minds to further advance its excellence in science and research.”

However, the organisation recognises the effort the Foreign Office is making to shorten visa appointment waiting times, Bickl said.

“I think we are on the right track. It will take a while for measures like additional visa processing staff to kick in but I am confident that within a couple of years Germany’s visa processing times will be back in line with its excellence in science and research,” Bickl noted.

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) must improve cooperation with German missions abroad and German universities on the subject of visas, Bargmann added.

“All those involved must pull together on the visa issue,” he said.

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