Customised assistance: visa and residence permit

Customised assistance provided to international Ph.D. students, academics, and researchers that fits best their specific needs, especially regarding information that may not be readily available on the institution's website or checklist. Immigration issues are the most crucial area of support. This service requires well-trained support staff in this area, with understanding of legal issues, practical procedures and possibly also collaborations and contacts for exact expert information provision. The goal is to provide the highest level and quality of service. Various levels/intensities of service provision might be opted for based on specific needs and available resources.



Improved quality of service Improved procedure/efficiency Improved access to information Increased enrollment and retention

Basic information
Categories Visa, Residence & Work Permit
Mobility stages Pre-arrival phase Upon arrival
Delivery schedule Not defined
Importance Essential to have
Scale of organizational change
Target groups PhD student/Early career researcher R2 - R4 researchers Lecturers (incl. Language Teachers)
Types of contracts of researchers Full degree student Permanent employee Visiting scholar Employee in training (interns, research fellows, postdocs) Fixed term employee Exchange student
Career stages of researchers Less than 6 months 6-12-months of experience 1-3-years of experience 3-10 years of experience 10-15 years of experience More than 15 years of experience
Lengths of stays of researchers 0-3 months 3-6 months 6-12 months More than 12 months
Practice setup

The customised service could be provided in different ways of intensity/detailedness:

  • Signposting: is a referral to a specific source of information or assistance such as an online resource or specialized service office (EURAXESS service centre, IOM website, respective authority's website, etc).

  • Short inquiry response: is immediate delivery of the short information or assistance to an incoming PhD student/academic/researcher.

  • Personalized assistance: is an individual or collaborative effort which requires research and/or repeated communication/meetings with an incoming PhD student/academic/researcher and/or other parties (solutions for very specific cases, prefilling forms, counseling on respective legislation and regulations, etc.) . 

When setting up this service consider the following aspects:

Phase 1

  • Identify relevant external actors with expertise on the immigration topic (Immigration office, IOM office, relevant consulates, etc) and regularly check their resources (websites, e-brochures, info sheets, etc).

  • Create databases of experts (Immigration area, sworn translators acknowledged by Immigration offices, Labour regulation experts, etc.) and establish collaborations with them

  • Define and prepare a well-structured internal guideline on visa&residence permit topic-related procedures incl. links and contact information to the competent authorities/external experts. For a better illustration, create several personas (fictional characters representing incoming academics in various model situations) with practical solutions suggested.

  • Participate in regular trainings/webinars/workshops with the relevant external actors to create formal partnerships and build the trust

  • Prepare up-to-date resource materials for incoming Ph.D. students, researchers, and academics

  • Collect topic-related forms (e.g., application for a national visa, application for a residence permit, notice/registration of stay, health insurance application, etc.), produce bilingual versions (if they are not already available), and prepare a sample form (s) with explanations of individual fields needed to be filled in and upload them to the website. (For details see the "Bilingual internal documents/forms" practice)

  • Build up an internal database of email templates (auto texts) for various model situations based on FAQs.

  • Establish an internal online communication platform for knowledge sharing and mutual support for the staff members dealing with the international Ph.D. students, researchers, and academics on the central/rectorate and faculty/institute levels.

  • Define a code of conduct for the staff members (dedicated proactive approach, verification of the information, accuracy of information supported by the links to the official resources, tone of the language, maximum response time).

  • Define (if necessary) different intensities of customised assistance (e.g. targeted reference to applicable internet resources in advance of the arrival, provision of specific email advice, pre-check of documents before submission to authorities and pre-filling forms, personal accompanying to various authorities/offices) and make clear for what target groups they are available (e.g. based on academic ranking, research experience, or family members) and by whom they shall be delivered (e.g. support administrative staff, trained buddies) - this can help manage expectations and keep control of the workload of support staff. Optimally, however, the higher the intensity of the customised assistance the better for the PhD students, academics, researchers and their family members. For specific types/intensities of services see also below the practice delivery.

Phase 2:

  • Develop a mobility information system enabling all the relevant administrative staff members to access the data of incoming academics (IT system/database, online internal application, mobility info sheet)

  • Set the rules for timely provision of the information about an incoming Ph.D. student/academic/researcher from the host/inviting person/department to the relevant support staff/unit/department or instruct the host/inviting person/department to inform an incoming Ph.D. student/academic/researcher to contact the relevant support staff/unit/department (or register his/her details in an online form/mobility information system) to get customized assistance.

Phase 3:

  • Build up a collection of the challenging cases solutions available to all the staff members dealing with international academics for future reference

  • Develop a feedback loop for international academics to suggest improvements

Challenges (factors to consider):

Challenge 1 - Minimum service provsion

It is necessary to have in mind relevant legislation on personal data protection and ensure the security of the developed systems/databases

It is possible to provide the customized assistance without a comprehensive practice set-up system as described above, however, it makes such service:

  • more professional

  • better accessible for incoming Ph.D. students/academics/researchers

  • prevents last-minute misunderstandings and errors

  • sustainable in terms of the knowledge base of relevant support staff (especially in case of high support staff turnover)

As a minimum condition for a customised assistance to be provided is to:

  • make the incoming Ph.D. student/academic/researcher aware of the possibility to receive such a service

  • to have a qualified support staff with a client-oriented mind-set, trained in relevant legislation and practical procedures, with contacts/networks available for seeking further help.


Challenge 2 - Translation of documents

Customised assistance regarding visa and residence permit often involves securing official translations of documents that are to be submitted to the state authorities for mandatory administrative processes. Here, IRO staff members or welcome service staff members can act as reliable intermediaries between incomers and translators since the official translation typically requires the original of the (apostilled/super legalized) document (s). The scope of this practice depends on the national legislation and requirements as well as the practice of state authorities regarding the official translation of documents into the national language required also for the visa/residence permit application or qualification/diploma recognition. This is especially needed in case when the respective embassy does not provide such services and host country authorities acknowledge only documents translated by the sworn translators registered in the list of translators maintained by the national authority (typically, the ministry of justice) having their seat in the host country. This makes the whole procedure lengthy (with a risk of validity expiry of a document) and enormously costly (fees for international express delivery services).

To help secure an appropriate and timely translation, it is necessary to:

  • Check thoroughly the wording of the respective acts (e.g, Immigration Act).

  • Check whether a respective embassy/consulate provides translation services.

  • Check what the practice of the respective embassy/consulate that is not providing the translation services is and whether they can:

    • Verify the accuracy of the translation of the document pursued by a commercial translator

    • Accept the English version of the apostilled/superlegalised document to be later translated by a sworn translator for the purpose of its usage after arrival in the host country (e.g. for the purposes of the application for a residence permit)

    • Accept the scan of the document translated by the sworn/official translator

IRO office should:

  • Create an internal database of translators for the most frequent languages for easier, effective, and timely cooperation

  • Remember to check whether a document that needs to be translated meets all the requirements (e.g. date of issuance, apostille or superlegalisation)

  • Mind carefully when the document was issued/is to expire (the validity of such document (s) is usually given by national legislation)

If this is a serious issue in your country, join your forces with other HEIs, EURAXESS network, Rectors' Conference, or other relevant stakeholders to lobby the respective authorities to adopt more favorable conditions.

Challenge 3 - Prefilling of forms

As part of the personalized assistance, help with the pre-filling of required forms could be offered. This practice might involve significant institutional efforts and investment in staff time, also involving networking and consultations with other organizations and stakeholders. Where possible, a sample (s) of prefilled form (s) with explanations could well serve as a guideline.  

Cost of practice setup
Time required for practice setup
Personnel effort required for practice setup
Actors involved in practice setup
  • HR Department
  • IRO/welcome centre
  • Legal department
  • Study department
  • Research office
  • Rector's office / Vice-Rector for International Affairs
Partners involved in practice setup
  • Embassy
  • Immigration office
  • IOM migration information centre
  • EURAXESS centre
  • Other HEI/research organisation in city/region
Indicators for evaluating progress/quality of practice setup
  • User procedure and manual designed
  • Procedures or bylaws are defined or updated
  • Number of collaboration agreements with external partners

Internal actors:

@IRO/welcome centre - can take the lead in setting up the procedures for customised assirtance on visa & residence permit related topics with the mandate from Rector´s office/Vice-Rector for International Affairs

@HR Department, Study department, Research office, Legal department - can be consulted and be members of the task force

External collaborators:

@Immigration office - representatives of this office can be invited as speakers in seminars/trainings for the support staff members to deepen their expertise and build up trust and partnership. They can also be approached when consulting details of prepared resource materials on the visa & residence permit topic or any complicated case.

@IOM migration information office -  this office provides legal counselling among others on visa&residence permit& employment of foreigners. This service is free of charge. They have also access to the international database of the specimen of residence cards which might be very useful for initial orientation and identification of the current status of a third country PhD student/academic/researcher coming from another EU Member state within Intra-EU mobility, for example.

The IOM information centre also created several infosheets for easier navigation through different types of residence permits and related procedures and deadlines. 

@EURAXESS centres -  provide information and assistance among others on relocation-related topics. The centres are comprised of teams of well-informed and experienced staff. They are a valuable resource of information also for HEIs's support staff and they develop various information materials or other tools to help navigate through the visa&residence permit topic. They can also be approached with consultations on complicated/challenging cases. They might also organise trainings on the visa&residence permit topic or they can be invited as speakers to HEI's events.

Practice delivery

As a part of the customised service support staff members may:

  • Inform a respective embassy/consulate on study/research/scholarship programme based on which the PhD student/researcher/academic is pursuing their study/research in the host country (unless done by respective national authorities/funding agencies).

  • Provide the respective embassy/consulate with the list of incoming PhD students/academics with the relevant data (beginning of the planned stay, hosting faculty/institute, inviting person-supervisor, etc) - if applicable/feasible.

  • Offer the incoming PhD students, academics, and researchers your consultation on their documents required for the application for visa/residence permit whether they comply with required criteria in advance (pre-screening before submitting the application to the embassy).

  • Consult complicated cases with the relevant authorities and experts in advance, if necessary, and provide clear guidance to the incoming PhD students/academics/researchers concerned

  • Offer assistance in securing an official translation of the required documents, if needed (based on the specificities of the national legislation).

  • Offer assistance to the international PhD students/academics/researchers with the prefilling the required forms or with the online booking system(s) to secure an appointment at the relevant authority office (if applicable)

  • Offer an opportunity to accompany the international PhD students/academics/researchers to the relevant immigration office, if needed.

Ensure provision of the information and assistance ON TIME. Keep in mind personal data protection issues.

Cost of practice delivery
Time required for practice delivery
Personnel effort required for practice delivery
Actors involved in practice delivery
  • HR Department
  • IRO/welcome centre
  • Study department
Partners involved in practice delivery
  • Embassy
  • EURAXESS centre
  • Immigration office
  • IOM migration information centre
  • Eures office
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Indicators for evaluating progress/quality of practice delivery
  • Number of researchers assisted annually
  • Average satisfaction rate
  • Number of collaborative assistances carried out annually
  • Number of family members assisted
  • Number of support staff assisted

@Immigration office, Embassy, IOM migration information centre, EURAXESS centre, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Eures office -  can be approached to consult any complicated case for expert opinion or to point out to systematic challenges.

Examples of practice

Group appointments at the Immigration office by EURAXESS CZ for Prague higher education institutions


Based on negotiations and longterm collaboration with the Immigration Office in Prague the EURAXESS CZ centre arranges group appointments at Immigration offices by EURAXESS CZ for internationals from Prague higher education institutions. The EURAXESS CZ centre managed to secure even dedicated time slots for the international PhD students, researchers and academics at the local Immigration office to procced their temporary residence applications.