Law: International Migration and Refugee Law

People moving across national borders

Refugees from the Syrian Civil War who have escaped warfare are subsequently forced to navigate urgent and complex legal issues. A Filipino mother seeking reunification with her family in Europe faces similar obstacles. Both are confronted with the inter-relationships between humanitarian and human rights law, and the interactions between international and domestic legal systems.

International migration and refugee law must be therefore be analyzed from a multitude of angles and disciplines. This specialization studies international migration from the perspective of international and European law, and focuses on how they function in domestic legal orders.

The interplay between international, European and domestic law is a specific focus of this specialization and enables you to understand and analyze the complexity of the key issues of contemporary International Migration and Refugee Law.

International Migration and Refugee Law is a full-time, one-year specialization of the LLM master's programme at VU Amsterdam. The programme is structured as follows:

Four compulsory courses

Refugee and Family Migration Law
Migration and Legal Remedies
Legal Methodology
Thesis
12 EC
6 EC
6 EC
12 EC
One integration course

Philosophy of International Law and Migration
or
Transnational Human Rights and Globalization
6 EC
One elective course of the specialization

Irregular Migration
or
EU Internal Market Law
6 EC
Two of the following

Irregular Migration
EU Internal Market Law
An elective course not from this specialization
Internship
6+6 EC


The range of elective topics allows you to tailor your study programme to your particular interests.
For more information about the courses please check the studyguide.

Refugee and Family Migration Law
Legal Remedies for Migrants
These in-depth courses are given by prominent specialists in the field. They will address topical issues, which relate closely to research carried out at VU Amsterdam.

Irregular Migration
This elective course reflects the research done at VU Amsterdam on the human rights aspects of irregular migration in the Mediterranean.

Philosophy of International Law and Migration
This integration course analyses topical issues of migration and refugee law on a conceptual and philosophical level. It will enable you to critically engage with the fundamental presumptions that constitute migration law.

Migration Law Clinic
Write tailored legal advice for lawyers in the context of real cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union under supervision of the researchers of the migration law section.

For more details, consult the academic calendar of the programme.

Graduates work in the numerous international (non-governmental) organizations involved in migration, e.g. UNHCR, IOM, the European Commission, EASO and Frontex. As international and national law on migration are profoundly intertwined, solid knowledge of international migration and refugee law is also most valuable for national institutions and organizations dealing with migration law, such as migration law firms, the judiciary, national and local governments or NGOs.

As migration law is particularly complex and intertwined with other areas of international law, you will also be perfectly well-suited for careers outside migration law, but still requiring profound insight in the most basic principles and workings of international and European law.

  • This specialization is unique as it is taught by leading academics in the field, and is embedded in one of the largest specialised research groups in migration law worldwide
  • The Faculty of Law of VU Amsterdam is distinctive in having legal, empirical and philosophical approaches to migration and refugee law, all in one joint research programme. This approach allows a broad, and at the same time in-depth, analysis of transnational legal issues
  • Students can design their own programme in line with their personal preferences: international law, European law, and domestic law; human rights, and labour and social rights; practical, academic, theoretical and empirical approaches
  • You can combine this master’s specialization with another specialization within the LLM programme at VU Amsterdam, such as Transnational Legal Studies or Dutch Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • The Netherlands has a large and active community of professionals working in the field of migration and refugee law including academics, lawyers, judges, and those who work for the Immigration Service, the Ministry of Security and Justice, and NGOs. This provides many opportunities to participate in meetings and seminars on migration law topics outside the regular study programme, or to do an internship.
  • Amsterdam encompasses 177 nationalities. This makes it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Therefore, Amsterdam is a most appropriate place to study international migration and refugee law.
  • Life in Amsterdam is affordable in comparison with some other large European cities.
  • There is an easy and fast procedure for obtaining a student visa for the Netherlands
  • After you have completed your master’s programme, you can apply for a residence permit in the Netherlands for the purpose of searching a job (for a maximum of one year)

Overview Law: International Migration and Refugee Law

LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION

English

DURATION

1 year (fulltime)

TUITION FEE

APPLICATION DEADLINE

1 April for students from outside the EU. 1 June for EU students with a non-Dutch degree. 15 July for all other students.

START DATE

September 1st or February 1st

STUDY TYPE

Full-time

FIELD OF INTEREST

Economics, Business and Law

Marco Notabartolo die Sciara

Student

Marco

"IMRL focusses not only on the legal aspects, but on the social aspects of the area of migration law as well."

Internship and volunteer experience can be exceptionally valuable to your career. Our wide network of contacts in the Netherlands and abroad provides you with a broad range of internship and volunteer opportunities to get you started.

If there is an internship you want to pursue or if you are already aware of an appealing internship, get in touch with the internship coordinator, Marcelle Reneman (a.m.reneman@vu.nl).

For fifteen years now, the Migration Law research programme of VU Amsterdam has been one of the most prominent programmes in the field. It aims at tracking the multiplicity of complex developments in migration law that take place at the global, European and national levels. Research topics include asylum and refugee law, and family reunion law. This extends to research into the human costs of border control, the intersection between the family and migration law, the role of the judiciary, the relation between (irregular) migration and the welfare state, the EU principle of mutual trust and the role of time in migration law. Methods are varied, focusing on legal doctrinal, sociological, philosophical questions as well as more practice-oriented matters.

The excellent quality of the programme is reflected in the scholars’ numerous publications and in two VICI grants from NWO (the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) in 2010 (Van Walsum) and 2013 (Spijkerboer), a NWO VENI grant in 2010 (Brouwer), a NWO Research Talent grant in 2012 (Battjes and Stronks) and an ERC Consolidator Grant in 2017 (De Hart). Members have conducted research for the European Commission, the European Parliament, UNHCR, WODC and Vluchtelingenwerk.

The research group is very visible in the public debate, and its scholars are active in advisory committees to the government and non-governmental organizations and publish frequently on Verblijfblog.nl, where topical migration law issues are explained for a broader public.

Student experiences

Marco

"International Migration and Refugee Law (IMRL) focusses mainly on a thorough analysis of the legal aspects of migration, with a particular attention on the interconnection of European and International legislations on the topic. At the same time, however, it allows students to approach the subject from several angles and perspectives, thanks to a broad choice of elective courses and to the variety of nationalities represented in the classes. IMRL’s student, indeed, come from all over the world and attribute knowledge about their national legislation and earlier law education. You are given the opportunity to look further than your own perspective. IMRL provides a diverse study program with high skilled VU-based professors teaching small groups of motivated students, as well as numerous guest lectures and seminars. All this elements, together with the fact the VU one of the biggest research group on the subject of migration law, were reasons for me to apply this master’s track. I experience IMRL as an intensive, challenging and stimulating master."

Esther Umelue

"Starting the master specialization International Migration and Refugee Law (IMRL) was an eye opener for me, the challenging courses motivate me to put in my best effort. The professors are very cooperative and encouraging as well, having only a small group of students there’s a lot of interaction and opportunity to discuss or ask questions. With the VU Amsterdam having one of the biggest research groups on Migration Law there is a lot of exposure to new knowledge which makes me long for more information. What I like the most about the courses is that I’m learning the many aspects of current issues and with this gained knowledge I will be of help in society, whether that’s in an European country or in Nigeria, where I completed my earlier education. IMRL makes you aware of the present issues in everyday life and how the legislation does not cover these issues sufficiently enough."

Fiona Skevi

"With my master’s track I wanted to learn in depth about Migration and Refugee law in Europe. International Migration and Refugee Law (IMRL) is one of the few LLM master tracks that offers this specialization and gives you the opportunity to compose your own schedule by picking the courses you are most interested in. IMRL is a very demanding and intensive master’s track, but in a motivating way. The well-known professors challenge you to not only attend the high quality courses but also embark in extracurricular activities. For example, I applied and got selected for the Migration Law Clinic, in which I have the opportunity to gain but also apply knowledge in the field of migration and refugee law by doing research and writing expert legal advices on real cases. IMRL has a very informal surrounding, the teachers are very accessible and encourage you to pursue your initiatives." 

Melissa Gerber"I am a law graduate from Cape Town, South Africa. I am enrolled at the VU Amsterdam, studying an LLM programme, International Migration and Refugee law. I first came to the VU during my final semester of my bachelor degree as an exchange student, and knew instantly that I had to return to complete my masters here. The VU is multicultural, diverse and a friendly place to learn and grow as an individual. The town of Amsterdam is one of the prettiest towns on the face of this planet, and Dutch life is second to none. 

If you are looking to expand your academic knowledge, grow and learn in a multicultural society and explore the beauty of Amsterdam, the VU is the place for you!

International Migration and Refugee law is a very specialized master programme. The VU Amsterdam IMRL department offers one of the biggest and most diverse research facilities in the world. The programme delves deep into the intricate legal instruments involved in migration law and considers fundamental human rights against the backdrop of migration and refugee law."



Master's track International Migration and Refugee Law

Admission with a Dutch degree

Applicants with a Bachelor's degree in Law (LLB) or equivalent can apply to all specializations.

Applicants with a Liberal Arts and Sciences degree (or equivalent) with a legal track of at least 60 EC may be eligible for enrollment. This is determined by the Admission Board.

If you have an academic degree which is relevant for the specialization you wish to do and you have knowledge of and insight into at least one area of law to at least the level of the end-terms of the VU Law bachelor, and you can prove this through at least 60 EC in completed courses in law or knowledge and experience in the field of law equivalent to this, you may also be eligible for enrollment. This is determined by the Admission Board.

Find out if you are eligible before you apply?
Ask the Admission board (contact details under 'Contact').

Send us the following documents:

  • scan diploma or proof of enrollment
  • scan (provisonal) transcript
  • description of the relevant courses
  • optional: report on relevant experience, including specification of your responsibilities
  • Specify which specialization you wish to do
You can be admitted on the basis of an HBO-Rechten degree and the premaster: VU Schakelzone Rechtsgeleerdheid at the Open Universiteit. This premaster is offered exclusively in Dutch. This premaster is offered exclusively in Dutch. You can find more information on our Dutch website.

There is no premaster in English for this master. Admission on the basis of a different degree from a University of Applied Sciences in not possible.

To complete the master successfully, your English proficiency should be on at least C1 level. C1 level is comparable to a TOEFL iBT score of at least 100 or an IELTS score of at least 7.0.

Application is possible from 11 October. The application deadline is:

To start on 1 September:15 July
To start on 1 February:1 January

Application steps

  1. Check if you are eligible for admission. 
  2. Register for the master before the application deadline via Studielink. More information for Dutch students.
  3. After registering you will receive log-in details for VUnet.
  4. Select the specialization which you want to do on VUnet and complete your application.
  5. You can follow the status of your application on VUnet.
  6. You receive a decision within 3 weeks after your application was completed on VUnet.

More information on the application process + documents

You will receive practical information regarding the start of the programme during the summer.

Admission Boardadmission.law@vu.nl (Rianne van Empelen/Anneke de Laaf)
Details programmecontact@vu.nl
Tuition, Studielink, VUnetStudent Desk
Information days, general questionscontact@vu.nl


Information days

Visit our VU Master's event and get acquainted with our Master's degree programmes. Our students and staff are available to help you with all your questions during the information sessions and at the information market.

Admission with an international degree

Applicants with a Bachelor's or equivalent degree in Law can apply. To be admitted you need permission from the Admission Board.

Your bachelor education is compared to and valued through the UK Naric comparison system and, if necessary, through the Nuffic comparison and validation programmes. Especially students from non-EU countries should factor in the possibility that a relevant Bachelor’s degree proves insufficient to enroll in this Master in Law programme.

Please note that language requirements apply.

If you have an academic degree which is relevant for the specialization you wish to do and you have knowledge of and insight into at least one area of law to at least the level of the end-terms of the VU Law bachelor, and you can prove this through at least 60 EC in completed courses in law or knowledge and experience in the field of law equivalent to this, you may also be eligible for enrollment. This is determined by the Admission Board.

Find out if you are eligible before you apply?
Ask the Admission board (contact details under 'Contact').

Send us the following documents:

  • scan diploma or proof of enrollment
  • scan (provisonal) transcripy
  • description of the relevant courses
  • optional : report on relevant experience, including specification of your responsiblities
  • specify which specialization you wish to do

Your bachelor education is compared to and valued through the UK Naric comparison system and, if necessary, through the Nuffic comparison and validation programmes.

Please note that language requirements apply.

Admission on the basis of a degree from a University of Applied Sciences in not possible.

To complete the master successfully, your English proficiency should be on at least C1 level. C1 level is comparable to a TOEFL iBT score of at least 100 or an IELTS score of at least 7.0.

Application is possible from 11 October. The application deadline is:

To start on 1 September:1 February for international students who wish to apply for one of the VU scholarships.
1 April for students from outside the EU
1 April for EU students not residing in the Netherland who wish to apply for housing
15 July for EU students
To start on 1 February:1 November for students from outside the EU
1 Januari for EU students

Application steps

  1. Check if you are eligible for admission.
  2. If so, ask the Admission Board permission to be admitted (for contact details see 'Contact'). Send the following documents:
    • certified copy of academic degree or if not yet graduated: declaration from your home university with an expected graduation date
    • certified transcript in English of grades obtained so far
    • course descriptions of relevant courses completed
  3. Register for the master before the application deadline via Studielink. More information on the procedure
  4. After registering you will receive log-in details for VUnet.
  5. Select the specialization which you want to do on VUnet and complete your application.
  6. You receive a decision within 3 weeks after your application was completed on VUnet.

More information on the application process + documents.

You will receive practical information regarding the start of the programme during the summer.

Admission / applicationmasters.law@vu.nl (Laura Smit)
Details programmecontact@vu.nl
Tuition, Studielink, VUnetStudent Desk
Information days, general questionscontact@vu.nl


Information days
Visit our VU Master's event and get acquainted with our Master's degree programmes. Our students and staff are available to help you with all your questions during the information sessions and at the information market.