Indian students in Galway call for easier access to the Schengen area

After Croatia joined the Schengen area in January 2023, only Ireland and three other EU countries are left out of what is defined as the “World’s Largest Visa-Free Zone”.

But while Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus are candidates to join, Ireland won’t have any chance to be included in the European free-travel area since Brexit happened: the necessity to keep the border with the UK open poses an insuperable barrier.

However, because of this peculiar Irish condition, some international students’ freedom to travel during their time in Ireland is relevantly restricted.

“Stamp 2”, the Irish student visa for Indian citizens, is only valid to study, work, and live in Ireland, but doesn’t allow them to travel to the Schengen area, even if the borders are open for anyone living in the EU. If they want to make a leisure trip or visit friends and family in another European country, they’ll have to go through an additional Schengen visa application.

Travelling during breaks

Suhasini Srinivasaragavan, an Indian student at the University of Galway, explained how the possibility to travel outside of Ireland during the Christmas break would have improved her well-being and her student experience.

“I couldn’t go back home for the break, which I spent alone. Some friends living in Scandinavia asked me to go visit them and I would have liked to spend Christmas with them. I just couldn’t.

“As long as I think Ireland is a beautiful country, having the chance to travel and learn from different cultures is an important part of our educational experience,” she added.

“I wouldn’t say we are stuck,” said the President of the Indian Society at the University of Galway, Raunak Bhagwani, “But I’d definitely like to be able to make some trips during the breaks and holidays.”

Headache paperwork

The application, like the one these students had to go through when applying for Stamp 2, requires personal financial data and other “headache” documentation.

Suhasini explained: “From what I’ve heard, applying for a short-term Schengen visa when you are already in Ireland is not that hard, but it still is a long process.

“It involves back and forth trips to Dublin, more money to invest, getting additional insurances and so on.”

The visa alone would cost around 300€, more than the trip to another European country itself.

Although the University easily provides students with the required college-related documentation, they still have to figure out the rest of the process themselves.

Harshit Thakkar, another Indian student at the University of Galway, highlighted how the freedom of movement throughout the EU is not exclusively about leisure trips and visiting friends. It’s also about work and opportunities for their future.

“We came all the way from India to study in Ireland: we might as well be interested in applying for jobs in other EU countries, like every EU student can do,” he said, “But we need to be able to visit them, before we can even consider moving there.”

Financial discrimination

The students also expressed their doubts about the way some international students are more favoured than others.

For example, students with an American or Canadian passport are not required to get a visa to travel to the Schengen area for tourism purposes. If anything, all they’ll have to do is to fill an electronic travel authorisation online.

“I understand that these regulations have to exist, but I just don’t understand why they would affect more negatively people from Asian and African countries,” said Suhasini, “If the West considers us economically backwards, why are we asked to pay and struggle more?”

“I wonder if the financial conditions of the country you come from are the only thing that matters,” added Harshit.

At the moment, there’s no evidence that either Ireland or the EU are planning on changing these travel regulations. Oisín Johnston, from the office of Irish MEP Maria Walsh, said: “We will look into this matter both at a national and European level, and we will return to this topic when we have carried out our research.”

2 thoughts on “Indian students in Galway call for easier access to the Schengen area

  1. Not allowing international students in Ireland visa free travel to Schengen area is a negative point and it is taken care of it will benefit Ireland as it will attract more international students.

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