In some cases, there are delays in family reunification – in which students are already attending compulsory education in Portugal but the process has yet to be completed – delays in certifying documents and other situations, such as addressing problems or documentation to be finalised.

Herman Aguiar is one of these cases. The young Angolan finished his secondary education in Portugal and due to living in a student residence, the address was not considered permanent by the university and he had to enter as an international student.

“I took national exams but was included in the foreign students’ quota and I’m paying tuition fees in full”, said the Social Communication student, in Lisbon, who has the help of his parents, in Angola, to cover the tuition fees.

“It’s very difficult, but my family is making an effort to have a child with European training”, he told Lusa.

The value of international tuition fees varies between three thousand and seven thousand euros per year, an amount that was unaffordable for Pamela Stoffel, a 19-year-old Brazilian girl who has been in Portugal since the eighth grade.

“I had four previous residence permits” and “I didn’t have continuous legal time” to be considered as a national student, two years.

“The amount is impossible for me to afford” and “I had to wait another year” to meet the requirements to apply for the Legal Services course at the Polytechnic Institute of Leiria.

“None of this makes sense. I’ve been here since the eighth grade, I have a Portuguese background and Portuguese friends, and I live in Portugal. And I’m considered an international student?” – she questioned.

Geraldo Oliveira, director of the Global Diáspora association, has dedicated himself to supporting immigrants, with particular emphasis on international student exchanges.

The director pointed out the discretion of educational institutions, which often choose to condition students’ access, in accordance with the decree-law of March 10, 2014, which regulates the status of international students, and which “is outdated”.

“Regarding the access to higher education, the biggest constraint these days is due to the need to have two years of legal residence in the year the student enters higher education”, he explained.

There are also cases of parental residence processes which took four years to finalise and “it has not yet been possible to regroup the children”, who are studying in Portuguese schools.

“I accompany children of legal immigrants who have not managed to reunite” and “I have cases of students who have been studying in Portugal for several years”, but are not integrated into a family, so they have never managed to regularise.

Even in cases where young people only possess a student visa – for secondary education – this does not guarantee access to higher education as a national candidate – and “is subject to the €697 tuition fee”.

The cost of tuition fees keeps many of these young people away from higher education: “even if they have good grades in national exams, these students fall behind”.

These young people are informed they can only compete as international students at the time of registration, where they have a deadline to present an address and documents that attest to their regularisation.

“Almost everyone knows when they are going to sign up. They have already received their grades, they have already entered and it is during registration that they are confronted with a situation they did not foresee”, he stated.

“There must be information and special attention from society”, warned the leader.

“If we do not alert these students and those who are responsible for their education, we run the risk of forming an underqualified workforce” because they will then be unable to continue their studies, due to the cost of tuition fees, added Geraldo Oliveira.

“There are universities that make deadlines easier and others that don’t. There must be a single rule for these cases”, he stressed, arguing that access conditions should include “not the legal length of stay, but the time spent attending a Portuguese school”.