British students, due to begin a university year in Spain in a few weeks, are facing visa delays, with some unsure whether they will be able to start an academic year at all.
Spain has surpassed France as the most popular destination for British students seeking a year abroad, with 4,500 students departing each year.
However, as a result of Brexit, they now require visas. Some people have been waiting for a visa appointment for more than a month. According to Spanish authorities, universities and students will need time to adjust to the new system, and student visas are a top priority for all Spanish consulates.
Universities UK International, on the other hand, has written to the Spanish embassy and the Foreign Office to inquire whether students can apply in Spain.
According to a UK government spokesperson, visa applications are handled by Spanish immigration authorities, but the UK has raised the issue with the Spanish government.
Ella Perret is set to travel to Madrid next week to complete a year of law school there.
“I haven’t booked a flight or accommodation because I don’t know if I’m going,” she says.
Ms Perret, like most students, began the process in June, as visa documents must be issued within 90 days of departure.
Because the United Kingdom is no longer a member of the European Union, UK students wishing to study in Spain must assemble a dossier of documents, which includes: a doctor’s certificate,
proof of income, criminal background check and an acceptance letter from a Spanish university.
To be valid for international use, documents must be translated and go through a legal process known as a Hague apostille.
Ms Perret claims it has cost her hundreds of pounds, but she is no closer to realizing her dream of studying in Spain. “I’ve been tempted so many times to just say I’m not going,” she says.
‘It appears unlikely.’
Sam Downes, an economics student with a place to study in Granada, southern Spain, has received no response since requesting an appointment in June. “I paid September’s rent and my deposit for my accommodation – but it’s looking unlikely that I’ll be able to leave in time,” he says.
The university in Granada has stated that if Mr. Downes does not arrive on time, he will not be able to participate in online learning. “So I might have to decide whether to cancel the entire year abroad in the next week or two,” he says.
After weeks of sending emails and receiving no responses, some British students have arrived at the consulate in London and waited for hours in the hope of securing a firm appointment. This week’s group included Laurie, who refused to give his surname because he was concerned it would jeopardize his visa application.
He has a flight and hotel reservation in Spain for September 6, but he is unsure whether he will be able to travel in time. Laurie took a year off last year to work and save for his year abroad.
The process, however, has been exhausting and frustrating. “Jumping through all these hoops is difficult and annoying enough,” Laurie says, “but not getting a response from the consulate is dreadful.”
He is hoping to receive email confirmation of a visa appointment soon after speaking with staff at the Spanish consulate.
“Delays in visa processing this year are causing real anxiety among students who are due to travel to Spain soon,” said Vivienne Stern of Universities UK.
She has written to the Spanish embassy and the Foreign Office, requesting that they collaborate to resolve the problem.
One temporary solution suggested in her letter is for British students to travel on a tourist visa for the start of the semester and submit their paperwork in Spain.
“This is the first academic year that student visas are required 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 required,” a spokesman for Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.