In a joint statement on June 12, Jean-Yves Le Drian, minister for Europe and foreign affairs, and Christophe Castaner, minister of the interior, said France will begin border reopening from July 1 “according to the health situation of different countries”.

“We are proposing a clear and flexible approach towards removing restrictions on travel”

“Given the challenges of university attractiveness, international students will be allowed, whatever their country of origin, to come to France and the arrangements for their reception will be facilitated,” the statement explained.

France is among the EU countries that the European Commission has advocated reopening to international visitors as of the start of July, advising that visa processing and arrangements for incoming international students be looked at as a priority.

The EC suggested that members “should agree on a common list of non-EU countries for which travel restrictions can be lifted”, adding that “where the travel restrictions continue to apply, member states should ensure that those travelling to study are exempted”.

With other top destinations still lacking a definite date for the end of the lockdown, stakeholders in France say this is an important signal to international students.

“The French government is pursuing its ambition to welcome more international students,” said Campus France spokesperson, Florent Bonaventure.

“Giving them priority shows its commitment to the Bienvenue en France strategy. It recognises their important contribution to the excellence of our universities and research.

“We are all eager to welcome them for the start of the academic year,” he added.

European commissioner for home affairs, Yiva Johansson, said that they are proposing a clear and flexible approach towards removing restrictions on travel to the EU.

“While we will all have to remain careful, the time has come to make concrete preparations for lifting restrictions with countries whose health situation is similar to the EU’s and for resuming visa operations.”

According to Eurostat, in 2017 1.7 million students from abroad were studying at the university level in the EU-28 (including the UK).

Around 38% of the students came from elsewhere in Europe, 30% came from Asia and 13% from Africa.

The EC further called for members to “synchronise the resumption of visa operations with the lifting of travel restrictions”.

Lack of visa processing services and uncertainty over what studying in Europe will look like come the new academic year has made would-be international students hesitant to commit to overseas programs.

However, many European countries have resumed visa services in popular international students markets over the last few weeks.

Sweden resumed scaled back services in China, as well as in Nigeria along with Denmark, Portugal, and Norway. On June 9 the UK resumed services in eight Asian countries.

Visa and entry situations in Europe vary from country to country, with some like the UK having never closed their borders and others taking different approaches to different nations.

The Czech Republic, for example, allows travel from 26 Europe states but continues to keep bans on people from Belgium, Portugal, Sweden and the UK, while Greece is allowing travellers from as far away as Australia and South Korea.

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