A new student visa policy has been launched, with the aim of making Malta more competitive as an education jurisdiction while maintaining the strong reputation of the local education sector.
The policy provides clear guidelines for the facilitation and streamlining of the immigration process for third-country nationals (TCNs) studying in Malta.
Students coming from non-EU countries may require a visa in order to come to Malta for educational purposes. Such visas may be extended by a national visa or a residence permit, in accordance with the length of the course.
There are two main categories of students, namely higher education students who are pursuing a course at Malta Qualifications Framework Level 5, and other students who are not pursuing a higher education certificate, including English language students.
Private operators in the education sector often find it difficult to tap into certain foreign markets due to Malta’s limited consular representation. Although Malta has a number of consular agreements with other member states, the current set-up is not being fully effective in providing a convenient and efficient service to TCNs wishing to study in Malta, which may be harming Malta’s potential in the education sector and prejudicing the significant investment of educational establishments in the Maltese economy.
It is also limiting the efforts of these institutions to promote the country as a competitive education jurisdiction within the European Union (EU).
The new policy will bring about significant changes in terms of:
1. Managing the admittance of English language students by means of a national visa instead of a residence permit. These students stay in Malta for a temporary period, so it is recommended that their original authorisation to stay in Malta be extended by means of a national visa. These students will only be required to apply for a residence permit if their stay in Malta is going to exceed one year;
2. Reaching out to jurisdictions where Malta is not represented by a consular mission or a visa office. The said objective will be achieved by, (i) giving students the opportunity to submit a visa application without the need to present themselves in person, and, (ii) making more efficient use of External Service Providers who are present in countries outside the territory of Maltese consulates abroad;
3. Ensuring that only bona fide students are issued with a visa in order to travel to Malta. The policy also requires the Ministry for Education and Employment, Identity Malta and the police to maintain a system of data sharing on students and educational institutions;
4. Giving all non-EU students in Malta access to the labour market as well as encouraging them to start a career locally. TCNs pursuing a full-time course (exceeding 90 calendar days) leading to a higher education qualification recognised by MQRIC may take up employment for a maximum period of 20 hours per week, starting from their first year of studies. Moreover, TCNs who obtain a higher education qualification in Malta recognised by the MQRIC may extend their stay in Malta by six months. The new arrangements will make it possible for the country to retain the talent of highly skilled third-country nationals.