Many foreigners have doubts about how the international protection process for refugees works. They do not know where the initiate the procedure, how long does it take, or what rights they will have once they get it. In this article you will discover everything you need to know to successfully apply for asylum in Spain. In addition, we will analyze the main reasons for denial and what to do if your application gets rejected. So if you want to know how to live and work in Spain as a refugee… keep reading!
About international protection
In order to give you a clear idea of how the Spanish regulations work for asylum seekers, let’s start by defining the possible paths you can follow depending on your personal situation.
International protection is divided into 2 different options:
First of all, we find the refugee status, a condition granted in case of being persecuted for belonging to a certain social or sexual group, for religion, race, nationality, or ethnicity reasons. These refugees will be granted the right to asylum after their application procedure.
On the other hand, there is subsidiary protection, if human rights are violated in the applicant’s home country (e.g. through torture or inhuman treatment) or death penalty exists and the foreigner’s life is in danger. If any of these conditions are present in the country of origin and therefore the applicant cannot return, he/she must apply for subsidiary protection, something that usually occurs in countries in warlike conflict.
If you don’t know exactly which of the two types of protection you should apply for, don’t worry; that is not a problem.
Generally speaking, you will always apply for your refugee status, and in case it is not granted, the next step would be requesting at least subsidiary protection.
So, what rights do get as a foreigner under international protection in Spain? Basically the following:
- You will be granted a residence and work authorization in the country.
- You will have the right not to be returned to your country of origin.
- You will be able to regroup direct family members (husband/wife and children).
- You will benefit from a 5-year reduction in the general application period for nationality by residence (you can obtain it after only 5 years in Spain).
- You will have access to Spanish public services, such as health, education, social services, etc.
What are the benefits of political asylum in Spain?
Applicants for asylum will be able to enjoy several benefits, even if the resolution has not yet been granted. More precisely, these are the 5 main benefits:
- The extradition or expulsion process in Spain is immediately suspended upon requesting asylum.
- On the same day you formalize your asylum application, you will automatically be granted legal status in the country.
- During the first 6 months in Spain with asylum, you will not be able to work; but after 6 months from the date of the police interview, you will receive your red card and, with it, you will be able to work legally in the country, either as an employee or self-employed.
- Most commonly, your application for international protection will be denied. However, it is possible to file an appeal; and with this appeal you will have access to two main benefits. First, you will get the right to enter the labor market (you will be able to work, although not legally in the eyes of the Spanish Social Security), and second, all the negative effects of your denied asylum application will be suspended.
- In the case of being a Venezuelan national, when your application for political asylum is denied you are almost automatically granted a residence permit for humanitarian reasons, which will allow you to live and work legally in Spain for one year with the possibility of extending and renewing for an extra one.
Step by step asylum application procedure
Let’s understand how the application process for obtaining asylum works, since fully knowing its steps will be key to staying in Spain for the long run.
First of all, there must be a foreigner who is persecuted in her country for religious, political, or ideological reasons, for belonging to a certain ethnic group, or who is being threatened. In other words, for different reasons similar to the ones defined, there is a foreigner who is fleeing from her country of origin and traveling to Spain.
Within 30 days after arriving and entering the country, they can (and should) apply for recognition of international protection, something that is done at the nearest police station after making an appointment online. It is important not to wait more than this month to avoid an application rejection.
On the day of the appointment, you will have to explain your current situation through an interview.
This is when the process varies according to the region/city, because depending on the number of applications the office usually handles, the interview may be longer or shorter. However, in general, it won’t be a deep questionnaire, and in some cases you will simply be asked to fill out a form.
Nevertheless, it is very important to explicitly detail all the reasons why you are in a situation to seek asylum through that interview, the more proof and details the better.
Each case is assessed individually, and the authorities will carefully try to find if there are indicators of a real violation of fundamental rights or a situation of persecution/war.
We recommend you to provide any type of document that justifies your situation.
In the event that all the details you provide are well-founded, the asylum or refugee application is admitted for processing (i.e., the process of study does not yet begin, but is first admitted to being studied).
In this initial part of the process, the applicant will be given a provisional red card, so that she can legally stay in Spain while her application is being resolved (as this can take up to 2 years).
This red card is not a residence permit. Although it allows the foreigner to live and work in the country, it has certain limitations, such as the fact that it does not allow her to leave Spain.
After this resolution process, the asylum or refugee status is finally granted. Then the foreigner is given a residence card (different from the red card), with the added nomenclature of asylum or international protection.
Where can I apply for international protection?
As mentioned above, this procedure is usually initiated at the nearest police station after making an appointment.
You can do it through this link, selecting your province and then the option “POLICIA – SOLICITUD ASILO”.
However, it can also be done at any Asylum and Refugee Office (OAR), or at any Internment Center for foreigners.
On the other hand, if for any reason you cannot enter Spain and you are stuck at the border, it will be at the border post itself where you will initiate the application.
It is very important that you start the process in the first country you arrive in. In other words, let’s take an example. You cannot enter Europe from France, and then travel to Spain to start the application. In that case, you would apply for asylum in France.
When should the application be initiated?
This question is of real importance. You must start your asylum application during the first 30 days after arriving in Spain.
If you wait for more than that, your application will most likely be rejected, so we recommend you do it as soon as possible.
What to do if my asylum application gets rejected in Spain?
It is very common for asylum applications to be rejected. For this reason, we recommend you to first understand what are the main reasons for denial (below) to avoid making any kind of mistake.
Among the most common causes we find:
- Having police or criminal records.
- Requesting asylum after one month of entering Spain (i.e., not doing so during the first 30 days in the country).
- Having applied for asylum in another country (according to the Dublin Regulation).
- Reapplying for international protection in the same country (i.e., for the second time after an initial rejection instead of appealing that rejection).
- Providing an untruthful story without sufficient evidence. This is the most common reason for rejection.
Regardless of the country of origin, the most common thing is that your application for asylum or international protection is denied, especially for the last reason listed above.
What to do then? You have three different options depending on your personal situation:
- If you have been living in Spain under an illegal situation for 3 years, you can apply for arraigo social. In addition to those three years, you must have found a job offer to formalize your application.
- If you are also under an irregular situation but you formalize your civil partnership or get married to a European citizen, you can apply for a family member of an EU citizen card, which will allow you to live and work in Spain for 5 years.
- If neither of the two conditions is met, you can file an administrative appeal. According to European regulations, this appeal will suspend all negative effects caused by the asylum application rejection, and you won’t be expelled until obtaining a resolution of your appeal.
How long does political asylum last?
Once you attend the police office to start your asylum application and pass your interview, you will be given a red card with a duration of 6 months.
This card is granted so that you can legally stay in Spain while the administration evaluates and processes your asylum application.
However, it is usually the case that after these first 6 months you won’t have received a resolution yet (either favorable or negative), as it is a rather slow procedure.
In that case, you can renew your red card for another 6 months.
Remember that if you have any doubts, our specialized immigration lawyers will answer them all instantly: