If the war in Ukraine were to end tomorrow, it is likely that the majority of Ukrainian refugees would have their status revoked and be asked to return home. However, if the war were to last for 20 years, the majority of refugees should be able to obtain permanent residence (if not citizenship) and would not have to return to Ukraine.

Is there an estimate of how long it would take for most refugees to gain a permanent status in their host country? AFAIK most refugees ended up in the EU, so it's okay if the estimates are for the EU alone.

  • 4
    Are you looking for some details on what immigration laws say about this in theory or more about what is deemed likely to happen in praxis?
    – quarague
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 20:52
  • 8
    In which country? The US may handle things differently than Poland which would be different again than France. One comparison might be what happened to refugees from the Yugoslavia Wars in the 90s. If they fled to external countries - as opposed to internal displacement along ethnic lines - have they moved back/ been moved back since Serbia/Croation/Bosnia/Kosovo are by now mostly peaceful? I tried to look that up before, and it seemed like not many people went back, but that might be skewed by the ethnic cleansing nature of that war. Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 23:27
  • 17
    You're talking about the immigrations policies of dozens of countries. There's no EU-level uniformity (or competence) in this regard. In the US you can be on some kinds of refugee status all your life and never qualify for citizenship, as you should know. For more concrete examples, look at the Palestinians in countries neighboring Israel. Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 2:46
  • 6
    You are conflating two separate topics here. The question title is about permanent residency and the question body about citizenship. Not sure about other countries, but Germany has quite a lot permanent residents who are not German citizens.
    – Jan
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 9:49
  • 4
    Your assumption doesn't consider how the war might end. If it ends with Russia conquering all of Ukraine, for example, I don't see why any refugees would be obliged to return.
    – Psychonaut
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 11:51

5 Answers 5


if the war were to last for 20 years, the majority of refugees should be able to obtain citizenship and would not have to return to Ukraine.

Is there an estimate of how long it would take for most refugees to gain a permanent status in their host country?

This assumption is more wrong than right.

Usually someone admitted as a refugee remains a refugee until such time as the circumstances causing them to be a refugee end, or until they find a basis other than refugee status to reside in a county.

So, refugees would continue to be refugees for as long as the war lasts, and for a reasonable time thereafter (as determined by national law) to allow them to arrange for their return to Ukraine once the war is over.

In some cases historically, for example, in the case of many refugees from Afghanistan (pre-9-11), refugee status can last a very long time.

If the war in Ukraine lasted twenty years, people who found no other legal basis for lawful presence in a country would continue to be refugee visa status residents of the country.

On the other hand, if the war in Ukraine ended tomorrow, and circumstances were sufficiently restored to normalcy to allow for the return of refugees to Ukraine promptly thereafter, most Ukrainian refugees would have returned or would be facing imminent deportation to Ukraine quite quickly, perhaps as soon as a year from now or sooner.

There is an incentive for refugees to seek other alternative grounds for legal residency, however, since refugees are often not entitled to all of the privileges afforded to immigrants who are entitled to live in a country on other grounds, and because refugee status ends when the basis for being a refugee ends.

Over time, as refugees live in a country for a long enough time, some of them will find a non-refugee basis to live in a country as a full fledged immigrant so the pool of people classified as refugees will tend to shrink over time. Some refugees will marry citizens of the country where they are living and get visa status that way. Some refugees will enroll in college in the country and get student visas. Some will apply to be non-refugee immigrants based for example on work related skills or employment sponsorship and gain a work visa in lieu of a refugee visa. Some will invest money in businesses in the country to which they migrated and get investor visas.

Sometimes countries that have had a community of refugees live there for a very long time will pass new special legislation providing a path to citizenship or permanent residency for that particular group of refugees. But that kind of legislation is typically not on the books to take effect automatically and comes down to the politics of a future legislature. Some countries have done that in the situations where it has come up, while others have not.

While the E.U. allows free travel within the designated area, immigration is still administered by national governments and the exact procedural and substantive requirements for immigration status in each country is a little different.

Also, the legal citizenship status of children born to refugee parents while in another country as a refugee is not uniform. The majority rule is that such children do not become citizens of the country where they are born under jus sanguinis principles. But, some countries in the E.U. grant citizenship on a jus soli basis to anyone who is born in that country with narrow exceptions and in those countries, the children would become citizens of that country and in some circumstances might even be able to sponsor other relatives to become citizens of the country where the child of the refugee is born.

As illustrated by a lengthy survey of historical immigration policy and politics in New Zealand that also compares the New Zealand experience to that of other developed countries, immigration laws ebb and shift over time in response to shifting national priorities and an evolving international situation. Changes on a decade by decade basis in a country's immigration laws are not unusual. It is not an area of the law, like the law of contracts or property or torts, where settled principles remain largely the same for centuries at a time. It is more akin to tax law or national budgets that is always being tweaked to address current contingencies.

  • 1
    Doesn't seem like jus soli would apply to the children of refugees in any EU country (unless they obtain some other status first): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_soli#Europe Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 5:04
  • 2
    @JonathanReez, the German rules (the second most refugees after Poland) give jus solis to the children of permanent residents. Which the refugees currently are not.
    – o.m.
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 5:35
  • @JonathanReez Portugal would apply jus soli in many cases to children of refugees.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 8:17

The EU activated special rules for Ukrainian refugees, the Temporary Protection Directive. I consider it extremely likely that measures after the end of those special rules will be other special rules, determined by the political relations between the EU and Ukraine at that point, the needs of the EU labor markets, etc.

Some observers called the EU policies towards Ukrainian refugees an example of racist double standards, compared e.g. to refugees from Syria or Afghanistan. Others pointed out that the EU always said that refugees need to be housed regionally, and this time they are the region so they stepped up. Either way, many EU countries seem to be a lot more comfortable with Ukrainian immigrants than with immigrants from other parts of the world. Couple that with the demographic problems, and the EU might well entice Ukrainians to stay, to the detriment of rebuilding Ukraine.


In Switzerland, it is possible to apply for a citizenship "by naturalization" after living for 10 years in the country, so still long way to go.

More practical is to think about the residence permit that is not tied to the status of the refugee. Such can be obtained after finding a self-sustaining job and withdrawing from any social help programs intended for refugees. With legal job and such a permit, it may be possible to stay also after the war is over.

The 20 years you talk about do not change anything by themselves. A non-citizen can be born, live all age and die here without any citizenship if one is unable to get a job and keeps relying on a social help.


In the UK, the general practice is to grant a successful asylum seeker permission to stay for 5 years, after which they can apply for permanent residence (indefinite leave to remain). Paragraphs 352ZI , 352ZL & 352ZM of the immigration rules.


After a further 5 years qualifying residence it is then possible to apply for nationality.

There are special rules for certain specific countries but the above is the general position. As has been said already, other countries may have different rules.


"However, if the war were to last for 20 years, the majority of refugees should be able to obtain citizenship and would not have to return to Ukraine."

It is not clear in whuch sense this "should" happen. In a legal sense that there are current laws that give them such right? This strongly differs on the individual countries and on the actual status they enjoy (asylum or normal working visa).

Or in a political sense that such laws should be written? Different political groups will have different views on that (liberal pro immigration groups vs. nationalist populist groups).

But certainly regugees can be refugees for a very long time. Refugees from Palestine are often still refugees after several generations. Grandchildren of the original refugees are still refugees in Lebanon and Egypt, although they were mostly indeed naturalized in Jordan.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .