How Ukrainians can get the shelter in other countries: lawyer’s advice
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How Ukrainians can get the shelter in other countries: lawyer’s advice

In this article, the managing partner of Trustme Law Firm Sergiy Barbashin and the company’s lawyer Roman Tkan explain the procedure for obtaining protection in the EU.

From February 24, 2022, the issue of obtaining protection in other countries became relevant for Ukrainians in connection with the beginning of the war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. According to the UN, almost 2 million people have already left Ukraine. In such circumstances, Ukrainian citizens, primarily women, and children have the opportunity to receive protection in neighboring countries under a simplified procedure until the end of hostilities.

Temporary protection and refugee status are different statuses

From a legal point of view, refugees are people who are forced to leave their place of residence due to extraordinary circumstances. These circumstances can be different: war, natural or artificial disaster, political repression, famine, etc.

International instruments governing the rights of refugees and guaranteeing protection include the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 New York Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

The procedure for applying for and examining an asylum seeker varies considerably from country to country, including within the European Union.

Refugee status can only be obtained in the safe country where a person first crossed the border. It is necessary to prove the circumstances under which a citizen cannot feel safe in his country. Consideration of the application may take from two months and may continue due to the need to submit additional documents proving the circumstances.

During the examination process, as a rule, the applicant cannot leave the country, it is necessary to apply for refugee status for a limited time, and in some cases, the passport may be temporarily revoked. Based on the results of consideration of the application, a decision is made on granting or not granting refugee status.

Temporary protection is regulate4d by other laws. Thus, in 2001, the EU Council adopted the Temporary Protection Directive. The directive was developed for situations of the mass influx of refugees into the EU. The idea of ​​this mechanism is to prevent the overloading of asylum systems, which cannot process a large number of applications quickly. And also to simplify the process as much as possible so that applicants have the opportunity to stay in the EU, have the chance to use the medicine, study, and obtain the necessary documents (tax and social numbers, etc.).

Unlike refugees, all citizens and residents of Ukraine can receive temporary protection on equal terms after crossing the border. The provision of temporary shelter is as simple as possible, does not require a unique package of documents, and does not restrict the person’s movement.

Guarantees of temporary protection in the EU

The EU put in place a mechanism on March 4, 2022, for people fleeing the union’s territory from the war waged by Russia against Ukraine.

  • According to the decision of the EU Council on the application of the Directive, protection covers three categories of persons:
  1. citizens of Ukraine;
  2. third-country nationals or stateless persons legally residing in Ukraine;
  3. family members of the above categories of persons.
  • The term of protection is one year. It can be extended automatically for six months but a maximum of one year in total. After that, the EU Council can extend the defense for another year for up to three years. (paragraph 1, paragraph 2 of Article 4 of the Directive).
  • Citizens and residents of Ukraine have the right to housing (paragraph 1 of Article 13 of the Directive), to work, take advanced training courses, learn a new profession, engage in entrepreneurial activity (Article 12 of the Directive), receive medical care (paragraph 2, paragraph 4 Article 13 of the Directive), education for children (paragraph 1 of Article 14 of the Directive). Children who have arrived without parents or other relatives are entitled to a guardian (Article 16 of the Directive). For example, in Poland, Ukrainian citizens can work from the moment the temporary protection comes into force. Ukrainians can apply to employment centers os the labor market departments or do their own job search to find a job. To place a child in school, you must fill out an application on this site and contact the school in person or by phone. At this link, there are detailed instructions in Ukrainian on how to place a child in school and the features. All information on medical care for displaced persons from Ukraine can be found at the link.
  • Displaced persons are guaranteed the right to family reunification if family members or close relatives find themselves in different European countries (Article 15 (2) of the Directive).
  • Member States may accept or maintain more favorable conditions for persons covered by temporary protection (paragraph 15 of the decision).
  • Persons enjoying temporary protection are allowed to apply for asylum (Article 17 § 1 of the Directive).

What to do in case of leave Ukraine?

Border crossing

You can cross the border with EU countries with any identity document. Children under 16 traveling with their parents must show a birth certificate. In addition, children have the right to cross the border with one parent (without the official permission of the other parent). If the child is traveling with acquaintances or relatives, you need a notarized travel permit.


You should contact one of the reception points. You can get food, recreation, and the necessary information on these points. Volunteers can also be asked to provide housing or medical care.

Displaced persons can find housing on the Internet, including, Airbnb services, etc. Please note that additional requirements may apply when renting through an agency or directly from the owners. For example, availability of a local ID number, lease term from 6-12 months with warranty payments, local guarantor, etc. We recommend that you carefully read the contract or involve local lawyers when signing the agreements. The European Young Advocates Association (EYBA) has prepared a list of lawyers who can provide free advice or assistance to Ukrainian citizens. The list can be found at the link.

Obtaining temporary protection

In the case of crossing the border with a biometric passport, the legal period of stay in the EU is 90 days for 180 days. If you want to stay longer, you should contact the national authority of the host country.

The national authorities of the state where the displaced person is staying must inform about the right to temporary protection. Next, you need to apply for a temporary residence permit and follow9 their instructions in the national process. This process includes the registration of data and confirmation that the person is subject to temporary protection and that none of the exclusion provisions apply to their situation.

After determining the address where the displaced person plans to live in most European countries, it is necessary to register the place of residence or stay by contacting the relevant authority. In Germany, applications are accepted by the Foreign Citizens’ Registration Office at the place of residence or stay. You may first apply for an unofficial written residence permit, stating your personal details, the reason for your stay, and the date of your first entry into the EU.

In Poland, the national body is the regional administration. It provides the right to social support and the right to use public services in the country (housing, education, medical services, social security, financial aid). You need to contact her to register your location and get a PESEL number. This is a personal social security number. In Portugal, applications are accepted by the SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras).

When visiting national authorities, you must have a Ukrainian or foreign passport.

Typical questions

Who is allowed to cross the border of Ukraine during martial law?

  • Women and children, men over 60 years.
  • Persons who have a certificate of deferment of conscription and notice of enrollment in special military registration or the conclusion of the military-medical commission on unfitness.
  • Men who have three or more children under the age of 18 raise a child (children) under the age of 18 on their own or have a child with a disability as well as men who are adoptive parents, guardians, or whose close relatives died or went missing during the anti-terrorist operation.

How to cross the border with animals?

It is unnecessary to have a veterinary passport to transport the animal, but it is desirable to have one. Special rules for crossing the border with animals may be established by veterinary or boundary services of other countries.

Who is denied temporary protection?

Persons in respect of whom there are serious grounds for believing that they have committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, a serious non-political crime outside the EU (Article 28 § 1 of the Directive).

Should I apply for refugee status in the EU?

No. After crossing the border with an EU country, a person can receive temporary protection for one year with the right of extension. The temporary shelter provides the necessary rights to stay in the country. In many countries, temporary protection is equated with rights deriving from a temporary residence permit. Obtaining temporary protection does not prevent a person from applying for refugee status. It is at the discretion of the displaced person.

Is it necessary to immediately apply to the national authority for temporary protection in case of crossing the border with a biometric passport?

You can not apply immediately but stay in the country as a tourist, but the right to employment, education, free medicine will not be granted.


Ukrainians who escape from the russian invasion are considered displaced persons entitled to temporary protection. Temporary protection and refugee status are different legal procedures.
As a general rule, temporary protection is valid for one year with the right to extend and provides such rights as access to work, education, social security, medical care, etc. Specific rights will be determined by the domestic law of each EU country. You should contact the local authorities dealing with temporary protection to obtain the appropriate rights.

The material is prepared for AIN

Link to the article

Authors of the material:

Sergiy Barbashin, attorney, managing partner at Trustme Law Firm

Roman Tkan, lawyer at Trustme Law Firm