British students due to start university in Spain this September are facing visa delays. Many are unsure whether they will still be able to take up their places.
Spain is now the top destination for UK students wanting to study abroad for a year. There are around 4,500 students studying in Spain each year.
However, Brexit means they now require visas to do so. Some have waited over a month for a visa appointment.
Students visas priority for Spanish Consulates
The Spanish authorities said universities and students need time to adapt to the new system. They added, student visas are a priority for all Spanish Consulates.
To help deal with the backlog, Universities UK International has written to the Spanish embassy and the Foreign Office, asking if students can apply in Spain. A UK government spokesperson said visa applications were a matter for Spanish immigration authorities. They added the issue was raised with the Spanish government.
Student visas have to be issued within 90 days of departure. This meant the process needed to start in June.
Document dossier required
Some students have yet to book their flight or accommodation due to the visa delays. Post Brexit, students wanting to study in Spain have to compile a dossier of documents. These include:
- a medical certificate
- proof of income
- a criminal-record check
- proof of acceptance at a Spanish university
The documents must be translated into Spanish and go through a legal process called Hague apostille to verify them for international use.
Many of the Spanish universities have said they cannot offer online learning if the student is not present in time.
Is a tourist visa a temporary option?
Vivienne Stern, of Universities UK told the BBC, “Delays in visa processing this year are causing real anxiety among students who are due to travel to Spain soon.”
Ms Stern wrote to both the Spanish embassy and the Foreign Office asking them to work together to resolve the issue. One temporary solution her letter proposed would allow students to travel on a tourist visa for the start of term and then submit their paperwork in Spain.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain said: “This is the first academic year that student visas are needed after Brexit. Therefore, British students and universities need to get used to the new regulation and the necessity of applying for a visa, and some adaptation time is still needed.
“All Spanish Consulates are offering all the facilities in order to speed up the visa procedures.”