Traveling and residing within the European Union’s borders is relatively easy and in theory the free movement of persons is a fundamental right guaranteed to EU citizens. The story changes substantially when one would like to enter from countries outside the EU. Citizens from privileged and prosperous countries can often enter the EU rather easily. Citizens from less affluent countries often ace much greater hurdles and many that do not come from a rich parental background might be deterred from the beginning and not even start the process of entering into the European Union.

In the context of the revision of the European Union’s directive regulating the entry and residence of third country nationals, ESN has conducted a survey that gives some valuable insight into the current situation of young people that want to travel and live abroad. We are convinced that the financial means time and energy spent on the formalities necessary to travel and live abroad should be minimal in particular for young people. Europe and the world can only grow together when individuals meet, get to know and understand each other. The consequences of not facilitating this intercultural exchange were painfully experienced in the past century.

Key Findings


  • EU/Schengen citizens perceive the visa process as more difficult than citizens from non-EU/Schengen countries.
  • On average, the requirements in terms of financial means and documentation are much stricter for non-EU Schengen citizens. While 87% of all non-EU/Schengen applicants from relatively poorer countries have to prove sufficient financial means, only 41% of EU/Schengen applicants have to do so.
  • The descriptive analysis shows that the average price of a visa is lower for EU/Schengen respondents (EUR 77.4) compared to the average costs for applicants from outside the EU/Schengen area (around EUR 100).
  • On average, a person from a relatively poorer non-EU Schengen country has to pay around EUR 270 to obtain a visa (including all costs pertaining to the obtainment of a visa). For the richer non-EU Schengen states it is around EUR 220, while EU/Schengen citizens only have to spend a bit more than EUR 152 to get their visa.
  • All in all, it takes EU/Schengen citizens substantially less time to obtain a visa. For more than 40% of non-EU/Schengen citizens it takes in total more than four weeks to obtain a visa. More than 20% of non-EU/Schengen citizens have to wait more than four weeks for their visa after submitting all documents

Residence Permits

  • Respondents from the EU and Schengen area evaluate the residence permit procedures as less difficult than citizens without EU or Schengen citizenship.
  • Obstacles most often mentioned are time-consuming, expensive and unclear rules and procedures.
  • While 50% of all EU and Schengen citizens need to prove their financial means, 73% of all citizens from outside the EU and Schengen area need to provide such documentation. In general, respondents from the EU and Schengen area need less documentation to obtain a residence permit.
  • The average price (fee only) of a residence permit is more than three times higher for citizens from outside the EU and Schengen area (EUR 167.2 for relatively poorer countries) compared to EU and Schengen area respondents.

Research report