Spanish immigration law and policy for people affected by the invasion of Ukraine
Ana Garicano Solé
Spain has regulated a specific process applicable to persons displaced by the conflict in Ukraine. Order PCM/169/2022 of 9 March developed the procedure for the recognition of temporary protection for persons affected by the conflict in Ukraine, and Order PCM/170/2022 extended the scope of the protection.
The process is based on the European Council Directive 2001/55/EC on the protection of displaced persons, which will automatically allow displaced Ukrainians to reside, work or study in the European Union for one year, extendable up to three years, without having to apply for asylum.
Royal Decree 1325/2003 of 24 October 2003 approved the regulation on the temporary protection regime in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons. Articles 4 and 6 empower the Spanish government to declare the temporary protection regime operational in cases of emergency by Agreement of the Council of Ministers. Council implementing decision (EU) 2022/382 of the Council of 4 March 2022, related to the temporary protection of displaced persons from Ukraine as per Article 5 of Directive 2001/55/EC, has the aim of implementing the temporary protection mechanism.
The beneficiaries of international protection under the aforementioned orders are:
- Ukrainian nationals residing in Ukraine before 24 February 2022;
- Stateless persons and third-country nationals residing legally in Ukraine, based on a valid residence permit (such as long-term residence permits and students’ permits) issued pursuant to Ukrainian law, who cannot return to their countries or region;
- Ukrainian nationals who were under irregular status in Spain prior to 24 February, and cannot return to Ukraine due to the current conflict;
- Members of the families of the persons referred above, including:
- a spouse or the common-law partner;
- unmarried children or children of their spouses, without distinction as to whether they were born in or out of wedlock or adopted; and
- other close relatives who lived together as part of the family unit at the time of the crisis and who depended totally or mainly on the person referred to.
The international protection application must be submitted by the applicant once they are in Spain.
To enter the country, it is advisable to hold a biometric passport. When that is not available, the traveller must go to the consular post of a country bordering Ukraine for a review of their situation.
In the event a passport or travel document is not available, a birth certificate or any document evidencing the person’s identity can be submitted, together with any document proving residence in Ukraine before 24 February 2022, might be accepted.
For minors, a birth certificate or certificate proving the family relationship (or relationship with the guardians or person accompanying the minor and whom they are in charge of) must be provided.
Once in Spain, an appointment must be booked to submit the application for international protection. The applicant must submit the application in person since fingerprints are required. A receipt confirming the submission of the application and including the Foreigner’s Identity Number (NIE) will be provided on the spot.
The receipt of the application constitutes a provisional stay authorisation in the country and grants the right to receive social assistance. The application will be resolved in 24 hours from the submission of the request. The resolution by which temporary protection is granted will include the residence and work authorisation, and will have a validity of one year (automatically extendable for another year).
The main rights under the temporary protection regime are:
- to work as a freelancer or as employee;
- to access the benefits provided for in the reception system;
- to access medical care; and
- children under the age of eighteen will also have the right to access education under the same conditions as nationals of the EU host country.
According to the media, Spain has already hosted 11,000 Ukrainian refugees (at the time of writing) and the government expects around 60,000 more to arrive in future. The main challenge related to the international protection permit process is obtaining an appointment to submit the application. Nevertheless, authorities are working to resolve this issue, and are redirecting applicants from cities where relevant offices are overwhelmed due to the number of applications to bordering cities to speed up the process.
NGOs and several non-profit associations from different activity sectors are supporting applicants. The intervention of a lawyer is not requested at any point to submit the application.
Information about assistance to beneficiaries of international protection is available on the Spanish Commission helping Refugees (Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado or CEAR) website; see www.cear.es/guia-sobre-la-proteccion-en-espana-para-personas-afectadas-por-la-guerra-en-ucrania/.