What is the European Union Temporary Protection Directive?

March 23, 2022 Jessie Butchley

This article was originally published on 3 March 2022 and updated on 23 March 2022 to reflect new information. 

Key Points  

  • The European Commission invoked the Temporary Protection Directive on 3 March 2022 to provide safeguards for the rights of Ukrainian nationals and nationals staying short-term in Ukraine who are fleeing to the European Union (EU).
  • Individuals who receive special protection under the Directive are eligible for a residence permit, access to employment, access to education for minors, opportunities for family relocation and social welfare. 
  • Member states of the European Union will have the right to determine the conditions of reception, residence and work access of people protected under the Directive.  
  • Member states are expected to release further clarification in the coming days on the implementation of the Directive  

Background  

In response to the Balkan Wars in the 1990s, the EU drafted the Temporary Protection Directive as a means of outlining procedural measures for protecting displaced persons in the case of mass influx of foreign nationals arriving from countries outside of the EU.  

On 2 March 2022, the EU Commission officially proposed invoking the Directive in order to provide protections to Ukrainian citizens fleeing into the EU.  

On 3 March 2022, The EU Commission convened to discuss the implementation of the Directive and released further guidelines on temporary protection status.   

How Does the Directive Apply? 

For the provisions of the Directive to apply, EU member states must be in solidarity in receiving displaced persons through a structured mechanism and a qualified majority vote must be made.  

On 3 March 2022, the European Commissioner of Home Affairs announced that the Directive had been unanimously invoked 

Each member state must work to quickly apply the European Council decision in national legislation to support the implementation of the Directive in each country.  

Common Provisions Under the Directive  

Under the provisions of the Directive, all member states that have opted into the agreement are required to make certain concessions for refugees and displaced persons. Each member state has the right to determine the conditions of reception and residence of people under the Directive.  

Individuals who receive special protection under the Directive are eligible for a residence permit, access to employment, access to education for minors, opportunities for family relocation and social welfare.  

Under Article 1, a ‘residence permit’ is defined as any permit or authorization issued by a member state that allows a protected individual to reside in the territory. The residence permit will initially be granted for a period of one year and can be extended an additional two times for a total period of three years.  

Under Article 6, member states must also provide persons granted temporary protection “every facility for obtaining the necessary visas, including transit visas”. This is in addition to reduced formalities required for the issuance of a visa and assurance that visas are free of charge or provided at a reduced cost.  

Individuals protected under the Directive will be permitted to engage in employment or self-employed activities. However, under Article 12 of the Directive, the conditions of employment are subject to the labor market policies of each member state. As such, protected individuals will be subject to the rules applicable to the profession and may be required to hold relevant education and work experience if necessary for the position. Specific information is expected to be released by each member state. 

Ukrainian nationals, as visa-free travelers, will be able to move freely within the EU after being admitted into the territory, allowing them to join their family and friends across the significant diasporas that currently exist across the European Union, and thereby facilitating a balance of efforts between the member states. However, according to the guidelines released by the EU Commission, Ukrainian nationals entering the EU with expired passports or those only holding an ID card or birth certificates may be unable to travel between member states and will instead need to claim asylum in order to travel further into the EU.   

How will the Conditions of the Directive be Implemented? 

On 3 March 2022, the European Commission put forward guidelines on the external border management to facilitate border crossing at the EU-Ukraine borders. While the communication is expected to provide clarification to the member states bordering Ukraine, the recommendations are only guidelines and each member state will have the right to determine how various measures are implemented.  

Under the guidelines, the Commission proposed creating a ‘Solidarity Platform’ that will allow member states to exchange information regarding their capacity to receive displaced persons and the number of persons granted temporary protection under the Directive.  

Who Benefits from the Concessions of the Directive?  

The Directive allows the Commission to decide to which specific group of people the temporary protection may apply, as additional individuals beyond Ukraine nationals may be specified 

On 4 March 2022, the European Council outlined the individuals the Directive will apply to. These individuals include Ukrainian nationals who resided in Ukraine and their family members prior to 24 Feb. 2022, third-country nationals and stateless persons who resided in Ukraine on or before 24 Feb. 2022, or individuals with residence permits in Ukraine.  

How Long Will the Directive Remain in Place?  

The rights granted under the Directive can end when the maximum duration has been reached or by a qualified majority vote.  

Updated Guidelines as of 18 March 2022 

On 18 March 2022, the European Commission presented operational guidelines to support member states that are working to apply the Directive. Under the guidelines, the Commission provided clarification on who is entitled to the concessions of the directive, expanding the scope to include any individual who benefited from international protections or an equivalent protection under national law in Ukraine.  

The Commission also provided guidelines for freedom of movement throughout the European Union (EU) both before and after the issuance of residence permits. Ukrainian nationals and any other individual granted temporary protection status under the Directive will be permitted to travel throughout the EU so long as they hold biometric passports or are of a nationality exempt from the requirement to be in possession of a short-stay visa. These individuals will be admitted into the EU territory for 90 days within any 180-day period. The Commission also recommended that non-visa exempt nationalities be granted a 15-day entry visa at the border.  

Any individual holding a valid residence permit who has been granted temporary protection status will be permitted to freely move throughout the EU.  

Implementation by the European Union Member States

Belgium  

On 11 March 2022, the government of Belgium announced that it will grant temporary protection to Ukrainian nationals, third country nationals, stateless persons, individuals with residence permits in Ukraine, European Union (EU) nationals who legally reside in Ukraine and who resided in Ukraine prior to 24 Feb. 2022, and non-EU nationals who cannot return to their country of origin.  These individuals will be granted a work permit, along with any family members of these individuals. 

Cyprus  

On 17 March 2022, the government of Cyprus published updates for Ukrainian nationals and other third-country nationals who are granted concessions under the EU Temporary Protection Directive. Applicants can submit their application online through the government’s Asylum  Service. The government also affirmed that the right to work will be granted to everyone without exception upon presentation of a temporary protection card.  

Estonia  

On 8 March 2022, the government of Estonia officially approved the temporary protection directive. The government will grant temporary protection to Ukrainian citizens and stateless people by providing residence permits to Ukrainian and third-country nationals who are unable to return to their own country due to life-threatening circumstances.  

The protection will allow these individuals to obtain a residence permit for a period of one year, which can then be extended. These residence permits will be granted within a day of entrance into Estonia so long as the individual can prove that they resided in Ukraine permanently prior to 24 Feb. 2022. Individuals will be granted health insurance, the right to work in Estonia and access to basic education for children.  

The government is also working to amend existing laws to better accommodate Ukrainian nationals arriving in the country.  

France 

On 4 March 2022, the government of France published information on the implementation of the Temporary Protection Directive. The government outlined who is eligible for temporary protection. These individuals include:  

  • Ukrainian nationals who were residing in Ukraine prior to 24 Feb. 2022;
  • Non-Ukrainian nationals who benefit from protection in Ukraine; 
  • Family members of a person referred to in the above situations; including spouses, minor unmarried children, and dependent relatives; 
  • Individuals holding a valid residence permit who are unable to return to their country of origin. 

Under the Directive, the government will issue provisional residence permits for a period of six months, grant authorization to engage in professional activities (so long as a work permit is acquired), provide schooling for children and give access to health care and housing.  

In order to apply, eligible individuals will need to report to the government office of France closest to where they live or stay, provide any travel or identification documents in their possession, and be accompanied by any family members.  

Ireland 

On 10 March 2022, the government of Ireland released updates on the implementation of the temporary protection directive. Under this directive, Ireland will grant temporary protection to Ukrainian nationals, third country nationals or stateless persons, individuals with residence permits in Ukraine, European Union (EU) nationals who legally reside in Ukraine and who resided in Ukraine prior to 24 Feb. 2022, and non-EU nationals who cannot return to their country of origin.   

Under the Directive, these individuals will be permitted to reside in Ireland for a period of one year. This period may be extended in the future. These individuals will also be granted access to the labor market, access to accommodations, social welfare, education, and medical care.  

In order to qualify, individuals will be required to answer basic questions in relation to their needs and provide identification. The Department of Justice will grant a letter of Temporary Protection. Once the letter granting Temporary Protection is received, the individual will be allowed to participate in employment, self-employment and vocational training in Ireland.  

Luxembourg 

On 4 March 2022, the government of Luxembourg published updates for Ukrainian nationals gaining temporary protection status. The government affirmed that Ukrainian nationals entering the country will not need to apply for a work permit in order to take up employment in the country and instead can be hired and employed under statutory employment contracts, subject to the provisions of the Labour Code.  

Norway 

On 11 March 2022, the government of Norway announced that temporary collective protections would be provided to Ukrainians who fled the war in Ukraine and their family members. Under this announcement, Ukrainian nationals will be granted a protection permit for a period of one year. However, this permit does not form the basis of permanent residence. The permit will give eligible individuals the right to temporary health care, work and schooling in Norway.  

In order to qualify, applicants must be able to present proof of their identity and nationality. This can be done by presenting a Ukrainian passport or ID card. Under the scheme, applicants and asylum seekers will be granted a permit as a member group, rather than based on an individual assessment of each individual's case. The permit will be granted for a period of one year and allow the individual to work and bring their family to Norway.  

Poland 

On 12 March 2022, the government of Poland signed a law to aid Ukrainian citizens. Under this law, Ukrainian citizens who fled Ukraine due to the conflict will be permitted to legally stay in Poland for a period of 18 months. Additionally, these individuals will be assigned a Universal Electronic System for Registration of the Population (PESEL) number in order to have access to public services. The government also asserted that Ukrainian nationals will be granted the right to work in Poland.  

Portugal  

On 11 March 2022, the government of Portugal approved the concessions provided under the Temporary Protection Directive. In addition, the government will also extend the temporary protections to non-Ukrainian citizens, third country nationals or stateless persons and their family members who benefited from international protection in Ukraine.  

Spain  

On 9 March 2022, the government of Spain launched a streamlined system for providing displaced persons from Ukraine with access to the temporary protections provided under the EU Temporary Protection Directive.   

In order to be granted these protections, displaced persons fleeing Ukraine will need to report to the National Police of Spain, where their identification data and other information will be collected. Translators will be made available to anyone who needs support. From there, these individuals will be issued a receipt accrediting their request for protection and assigned a foreign national ID number (NIE). These individuals will also be granted residence and work permits for Spain.  

Envoy will continue to track the development of the crisis in Ukraine and the implementation of the conditions of the Temporary Protection Directive as information becomes available. For additional resources on the crisis in Ukraine, please visit Envoy’s Global Mobility Resource Center for the latest updates and information. To receive Envoy’s Weekly Global Blog Digest in your email every Wednesday morning, please sign up here. 


Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an attorney at one of the two U.S. Law Firms working with the Envoy Platform or another qualified professional. On non-U.S. immigration issues, consult an Envoy global immigration service provider or another qualified representative. 

About the Author

Jessie is Envoy's Global Immigration Writer.

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