In the era of movement restrictions, social distancing and quarantine, social media have become a strong tool for many to bring attention to the struggles they are facing.
International students set to study in Germany this year, who have been widely affected by the EU-wide travel ban imposed in Germany and the whole Europe in mid-March this year, are using social media to ask -the German authorities to prevent them from losing the chance to study in Germany.
Under the hashtag #EducationIsNotTourism, students from third countries who have been admitted at German universities are demanding from the German embassies to resume student visa application processing, so they can get their visas on time to attend their studies in Germany.
Back in March, all German embassies abroad closed and halted visa processing. While some of them have already resumed work, student visas are not being processed, despite that the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs lists “foreign students whose course of study is not fully possible from abroad” as persons with an essential reason of entry to Germany.
According to a statement of a German Federal Foreign Office spokesperson for Erudera College News, the Federal Foreign Office and its missions abroad are working diligently to issue visas to persons exempt from current restrictions on entry to Germany as quickly as possible, including visas for foreign students whose course of study is not fully possible from abroad.
“Due to the COVID-19 situation and ongoing restrictions in public life in many countries, a number of our visa sections remains closed until further notice while others can only provide a limited number of appointments,” the spokesperson said, claiming that the strict security measures as shift work, minimum distance regulations for application counters and waiting areas have affected processing capacities of the German embassies abroad.
Yet, several German embassies not processing student visas, are already processing work visas, and short-term visas for meeting an unmarried partner in Germany. Students abroad are mainly showing their discontent with the issue on social media, claiming the embassies are ignoring their requests.
One of the most active national groups of students is of those from Bangladesh, as the German Embassy in Dhaka has still not resumed student visa application processing, while hundreds of students wait for a visa response, an interview, and in many occasions even an appointment.
“I have applied for visa appointment on March 11 2020. Already I have missed summer semester 2020. Please restart visa interview ASAP,” a Twitter user under the username Farhana tweeted to the German Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Fahren but received no response.
According to an Embassy statement, the Embassy is granting visas only for essential purposes for travelling to Germany, which means that by now it should also process student visa applications as the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs lists entering Germany for study purposes as an essential purpose of entry.
“We have proactively implemented measures and developed plans to prioritise the health and well-being of our team and our customers and will therefore discontinue non-essential visa and consular services until further notice. Appointments for national visas already arranged during this period will be re-scheduled by the Embassy,” the Embassy notes, leaving hundreds of students to Germany unable to get their visas on time for this academic year.
In India, the problem is the same, as in most other third countries when it comes to applying for a student visa amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Embassy has published a notice in its website, noting that due to the especially bad situation in India regarding the pandemic, the German Embassy and consulates are “constantly balancing between health protection of Indian and German Embassy staff on the one side and providing as much consular- and visa services as possible under those conditions on the other side.”
“Major VFS centres are open for new visa applications for scholarship holders, PhD students/PostDoc studies/guest scientists, students, transit visas and seafarer visas,” the same notice reads, published on September 7.
“VFS is also gradually opening selected Visa Application Centres for visa stamping for highly qualified employment visas (skilled workers with an academic degree and BlueCards) and for new applications from students, with an outstanding academic record as a priority. Visa appointments will be limited due to restricted processing capacities under COVID-19,” it also notes.
Prior to the publishing of this notice, many Indian students were complaining that the Embassy was making them give up on their dreams, but even after it, there are many complaints on the same issue.
“Majority of students have resigned their current jobs in order to fly to Germany. But still, visa slots haven’t opened up completely for master’s students. We all are stressed, and our education is uncertain due to this situation,” a Twitter user wrote today.
Differently from other countries, Iranian students unable to attend their studies on time have united together, and as a group are expressing their discontent with the “performance” of the German Embassy in Tehran.
“Some of us have PhD admissions and are worried about their contracts expiring. Some of us have admission in MA programs and in the winter semester of 2020, their universities did not offer online program, and they will not be able to differ their upcoming semester,” a student representing the group said.
These students also, want the German Embassy to start the process of interviewing new students as soon as possible.
The issue for Moroccan students is approximately the same. Moroccan students have recently complained that the period for getting a visa appointment has been extended from five months to at least ten months for students in “the A list”. Whereas, those in “the B list” have to wait endlessly to get their appointment, that the majority of these students just give up.
Many Nigerian students may also lose the chance to study in Germany, which means all the time, money and energy invested in university application will go in vain if the German Embassy in Abuja doesn’t resume student visa application processing.
“Please make this as easy as possible this is becoming more complicated as the year goes by, getting a student visa to study in Germany is now very difficult. I wasted the fees I paid last year because of this,” a student tweeted to the German Embassy in Abuja.
The Embassy has not published any notices in this regard recently, despite student’s demand.