Registration of the asylum application


Country Report: Registration of the asylum application Last updated: 30/11/20


The Asylum Regulation provides that the authorities responsible for the lodging of asylum claims on the territory are: the Office of Asylum and Refuge (OAR), any Aliens Office under the General Commissariat for Aliens and Borders (Comisaría General de Extranjería y Fronteras) of the Police, Detention Centre for Foreigners (CIE) or police station.[1] (see List of authorities that intervene in each stage of the procedure). In practice, “registration” and “lodging” of asylum applications entail different procedural steps.


Rules on making (presentación), registering and lodging (formalización)


Persons willing to seek international protection in Spain must make a formal application during their first month of stay in Spain.[2] When this time limit is not respected, the law foresees the possibility to apply the urgent procedure,[3] although in practice the competent authority will reject any asylum application that does not comply with the 1-month deadline when it considers that no valid justification exists for the delay.

The process begins with the presentation (“making”) of the application, which the applicant shall present in person or, if this is not possible, with representation by another person. For persons disembarking in ports, the intention to apply for international protection is registered by the police, usually following the intervention of NGOs.

Upon the registration of the intention to apply for asylum, the applicant receives a paper-form “certificate of intention to apply for asylum” (Manifestación de voluntad de presentar solicitud de protección internacional).

After registration has been completed, the applicant is given an appointment for the formalisation (“lodging”) of the application, which consists of an interview and the completion of a form, and shall be always be realised in the presence of a police official or an officer of the OAR. Upon the lodging of the application, the person receives a “receipt of application for international protection” (Resguardo de solicitud de protección internacional), also known as “white card” (tarjeta blanca). This document is later replaced by a “red card” (tarjeta roja), issued after the asylum application has been deemed admissible by the OAR.


Obstacles to registration in practice


Due to the increase in asylum applications in Spain in recent years, which slowed down the functioning of the Spanish asylum system, applicants have to wait long periods of time before getting an appointment to be interviewed by the OAR. In 2017 and 2018, the media reported lines of hundreds of asylum seekers sleeping rough and waiting for their appointment to lodge their asylum claim in front of the offices of the Provincial Brigade for Alien Affairs of the Police of Aluche in Madrid.[4] Severe concerns were raised as the Aluche police station started to process only 99 asylum seekers per day, and to give appointments for lodging of applications as late as December 2020.[5] The situation has slightly improved in 2019, however, as long waiting periods to access the asylum procedure have not been reported.

In order to shed light on the situation, the Spanish Ombudsman opened an investigation looking into the measures taken by the General Commissariat for Aliens and Borders (Comisaría General de Extranjería y Fronteras) of the Police to avoid long queues. The investigation further assesses the conditions to which asylum seekers in Madrid are confronted to when lodging their application.[6]

During the 2019 Refugee Day, the Spanish Ombudsman called for improvements in the coordination among the institutions competent on international protection, as the sharing of competences between the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration requires urgent action.[7] As underlined by the Ombudsman in its 2018 Annual Report, the vast majority of the claims received refer to difficulties in accessing both the asylum procedure and reception conditions.[8]              

At the time of writing, the average waiting time for an appointment is 6 months, even though delays vary depending on the province. Waiting times can range from 8 months to more than 1 year in practice however, as demonstrated in the table below which refers to the 10 selected places where the waiting time for appointments is the longest:


Waiting time for appointment to lodge asylum applications: 2019


Average period


 More than 1 year


9 months


9 months


9 months


8 months


1 year


1 year


8 months


8 months


More than 1 year

Source: Accem


In any case, in order to reduce timeframes, the administration is increasing the personnel in charge of registering asylum applications at police stations. 

Following the CODIV-19 outbreak in Spain and the Declaration of the State of Alarm on 15 March 2020, the number of asylum applications drastically decreased. During the week of March 16 to March 22, only 25 persons applied for international protection, compared to 3,685 applications the week before and almost 4,200 applications the first week of March 2020.[9] On 16 March 2020, the OAR took the decision to suspended all second interviews, while interviews with the Social Work Units (UTS) are carried out by phone.[10]


Access to the procedure in Ceuta and Melilla


Beyond the mainland, most shortcomings concerning the registration of asylum claims in Spain relate to the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, due to the difficulties in the Access to the Territory. In order to facilitate access to asylum at land borders, the Ministry of Interior has established asylum offices at the borders’ crossing points in Ceuta and Melilla since November 2014.[11] In the same way, since mid-2014 UNHCR has guaranteed its presence as well.

Since its establishment, the border checkpoint in Melilla has quickly become one of the main registration points for asylum applications in Spain, receiving 6,000 asylum claims in 2015, 2,209 in 2016,[12] and 2,572 in 2017.[13] Information for 2018 is not available. Conversely, there has been virtually no asylum claim made at the Ceuta border point. This is mainly due to the impossibility faced by migrants and asylum seekers to exit the Moroccan border due to the severe checks performed by Moroccan police, as mentioned in Access to the territory and push backs. This issue also affects Melilla but mainly impacts on the nationalities that can access the Spanish border rather than on the number of asylum claims overall. In fact, most of persons on the Moroccan side are stopped following racial profiling, meaning that nationalities such as Syrians cross the border more easily persons from Sub-Saharan countries (see section on Access to the Territory). Between 1 January 2015 and 31 May 2017, only 2 out of 8,972 persons seeking asylum in Ceuta and Melilla were of Sub-Saharan origin.[14]


Access to the procedure from detention


Shortcomings have also been reported concerning the possibility to claim asylum from administrative detention due to the difficulties faced by detained persons in accessing legal assistance.[15] In this regard, the Spanish Ombudsman recommended the General Commissariat for Foreigners and Borders to adopt instructions so as to establish an appropriate system for registration of asylum applications in CIE in accordance with the law.

In particular, the Ombudsman highlighted the difficulties detainees have to apply for asylum at CIE, namely in Madrid where individuals are instructed to put their written intention to apply for asylum in a mailbox and to wait until the mailbox has been opened for the asylum procedure to start, and the fact that many persons have been expelled without having had access to the asylum procedure.[16] In July 2018, the General Commissariat for Aliens and Borders of the Police accepted the recommendation made by the Spanish Ombudsman, thus it issued instructions to all CIE to adapt their systems for registration of asylum applications to the existing law.[17]

According to the Asylum Act,[18] all registered asylum applications are communicated to UNHCR, which will be able to gather information on the application, to participate in the applicant’s hearings and to submit reports to be included in the applicant’s record. UNHCR shall receive notification of an asylum application within a maximum period of 24 hours, which is applied in practice.[19]


[1]Article 4(1) Asylum Regulation.

[2] Article 17(2) Asylum Act.


[4]AIDA, ‘Severe delays in registration of asylum applications’, 4 December 2018, available at:; Público, ‘La larga y fría noche de espera para iniciar el trámite de asilo en Madrid’, 21 November 2018, available in Spanish at:

[5] Madridiario, ‘Emplazados a finales de 2020 para poder solicitar asilo’, 21 November 2018, available in Spanish at:

[6] Defensor del Pueblo, ‘El Defensor del Pueblo investiga las dificultades para acceder a la cita previa para solicitar protección internacional en Madrid’, 15 November 2018, available in Spanish at:

[7]  Spanish Ombudsman, ‘El Defensor del Pueblo reclama mejoras en la coordinación entre administraciones con competencias en materia de protección internacional’, 20 June 2019, available in Spanish at:

[8]Spanish Ombudsman, ‘Informe anual 2018. Actividades y actuaciones llevadas a cabo a lo largo del año 2018’, 11 June 2019, available in Spanish at:

[9] El País, ‘Se desploman las solicitudes de asilo y las entradas irregulares’, 27 March 2020, available in Spanish at:

[10] OAR, Important notification, March 2020, available in Spanish at:

[11] UNHCR Spain, ‘ACNUR da la bienvenida a la creación de oficinas de asilo en puestos fronterizos de Ceuta y Melilla’, 6 November 2014, available in Spanish at:

[12] Senate, Reply of the Government to question 689/1339, 20 September 2017, available in Spanish at:

[13]Information provided by OAR, 2 March 2018.


[15]Human Rights Watch, Spain: Migrants held in poor conditions, 31 July 2017, available at:

[16]Defensor del Pueblo, ‘El Defensor del Pueblo reclama un sistema de registro de las solicitudes de asilo para los CIE que cumpla con la normativa vigente’, 22 May 2018, available in Spanish at:

[17] Ombudsman, ‘Interior acepta la recomendación del Defensor para adecuar el sistema de registro de las solicitudes de asilo en los CIE a la normativa vigente’, July 2018, available in Spanish at:

[18] Articles 34-35 Asylum Act.

[19]  Article 6(4) Asylum Regulation.


Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation