Implementing registration within an identity management framework
© UNHCR/Adam Dean
5.1 Reception

Key messages

    • Communication and transparency are critical elements of the reception function. Posters and leaflets should be prominently displayed, relevant information videos should be played, group counselling delivered in addition to the basic individual counselling conducted by reception staff.
    • SOPs should promote protection-sensitive reception and registration procedures in which vulnerable persons are prioritised, as appropriate, throughout all processes.
    • Biometric identification at reception ensures that the person has not been pre-registered or registered before, whether in that operation or elsewhere.

Reception desk

  • The reception desk is generally the first point of contact between persons of concern and UNHCR, particularly in urban settings. Individuals approach the reception desk to obtain information, seek asylum, renew documents, report on protection problems and request help in the form of assistance and solutions. Fixed reception hours must be established during which individuals can approach UNHCR without an appointment. Where possible and relevant, dedicated reception hours may be necessary to receive persons who do not feel safe to approach during regular reception hours. During opening hours, the reception area should be attended by trained reception staff, UNHCR interpreters and security personnel to coordinate the orderly entry and reception of individuals. All efforts should be made to protect the dignity and privacy of individuals during reception, including by assigning numbers to individuals to avoid calling out their names in the presence of others as well as acceding to requests to speak privately when possible.

    Prior to registration, group pre-registration information may be recorded in the Reception entity in proGres v4 (whether using RApp [link only for PRIMES users] or entering data directly into proGres). When group data is entered in the Reception entity, any interactions with refugees or asylum seekers undertaken ahead of registration may then be tracked through the various ‘entities’, including, for instance, initial assistance distribution, referrals to other services, scheduling appointments and recording basic communications (e.g. visits to UNHCR office, phone calls received, counselling provided). The Reception entity can also be used to track and record interactions where an operation does not conduct individual registration. From the moment individual registration is carried out, all further communications and referrals should be recorded through the Individual Registration form.

  • Communication and transparency are critical elements of the reception function. Posters and leaflets should be prominently displayed throughout the reception site, together with the showing of relevant videos, the delivery of group counselling in addition to the basic individual counselling conducted by reception staff. Reception and registration facilities also allow the opportunity to promote safe and welcoming spaces for at risk and hidden groups in the community, and targeted information and messaging should be used to foster this (e.g. non-discrimination posters, videos, etc). The sharing of general as well as targeted information helps people understand their rights and responsibilities in the country of asylum, as well as UNHCR and partner processes and activities relevant to them. Effective communication methodologies can also relieve some of the pressure at reception by reducing the time needed for individual counselling.

    Information provided in different formats and languages should include:

    • The Host Government role in the registration and protection of persons of concern in the operational context;

    • UNHCR’s protection mandate and duty to assist people without discrimination on any grounds;

    • Registration scheduling information;

    • Case management processes, including RSD and resettlement, as appropriate

    • Anti-fraud messages

    • Assistance activities and criteria, as appropriate;

    • General services available to refugees and asylum-seekers, recalling that UNHCR and NGO partners services are free of charge;

    • What to do in the event of a protection threat or urgent medical problem and/or how to contact UNHCR after hours (hotline) in case of an emergency;

    • UNHCR’s Code of Conduct and process for accessing a complaints mechanismfor reporting misconduct.


      See 7(c) of the Operational Guidelines on Fraud Committed by Persons of Concern. The Anti-Fraud Focal Point in the operation should advise on existing complaints mechanisms or establishing a new mechanism, if applicable.

  • Each Office should, as appropriate, establish detailed SOPs for reception, including staff roles, responsibilities and oversight, ensuring a consistent and protection-sensitive approach to the reception of persons of concern. Reception SOPs may be stand-alone or incorporated into the Registration SOPs. The SOPs should anticipate all the reasons an individual might approach the Reception desk, from initial reception, assessment of needs, submission and renewal of documents, scheduling of interviews and referral to protection or assistance interventions, and set out the required actions, referral pathways and prioritization procedures. The Registration and Identity Management Officer should ensure reception SOPs benefit from input from all relevant functional units so that reception staff are equipped to provide accurate and up-to-date information to individuals approaching reception and take the appropriate action.

    Reception SOPs should include process and data-entry requirements:

    • Pre-registration data to be collected (see below);

    • Specific needs codes to be identified and recorded, and related actions (see below);

    • Scheduling procedures to be followed, based on scheduling principles (see below);

    • Basic counselling language and key messages on general issues related to opening hours, appointments, biodata / biometric data processing and sharing, RSD, assistance, documentation, rights and obligations in the country of asylum and other frequently asked questions as well as available services (this information should also be provided in written form);

    • Procedures for receiving, recording and/or referring complaints;

    • Any other actions.

  • In order to ensure that the person has not been registered before, whether in that operation or elsewhere, biometric identification can be established at Reception. During identification, biometrics are checked against the global database (if on-line) or against the local database (if working on a field server or in partner mode). If a person is found to be already registered, then there should be no need for the person to proceed to the registration interview. Follow-up processes for identified persons should be established by the respective SOPs and include a specific course of action depending on whether:

    • the individual was already registered in the same country, in which case she or he would not be registered again and would need to be counselled accordingly, or
    • the individual was registered in another country, in which case pre-registration would proceed and SOPs would detail the procedure for contacting the operation in the previous country of asylum, and later transferring the case ownership, modifying the BIMS site and any other necessary actions.
  • Group pre-registration tends to be conducted in emergencies as it allows the collection of key data elements on large populations in a very short time. However, this process can also prove useful in a variety of non-emergency contexts, including, for example, facilitating the recording and electronic transfer of initial data collection by border guards or other actors, organizing transportation to registration locations, scheduling registration interviews, determining prioritized access to registration, facilitating referral of urgent specific needs or other purpose related to registration, protection and assistance. Group pre-registration is carried out to facilitate the initial organization of processes, and should not be used for individual case management activities. For further guidance on group pre-registration, refer to registration guidance for emergencies.

    The key elements of a group pre-registration process are:

    • Information is collected from the group Focal Point;

    • The group/family is provided basic counselling on the reasons for collecting the data. If applicable, inform individuals that basic bio-data will be shared with the host government. Where personal data may be transferred to partners for the purposes of protection, assistance and solutions interventions, this must be conveyed to individuals and the relevant consent obtained.

    • The following data is to be collected for group pre-registration:

      • Group size
      • Age cohorts/sex breakdown
      • Name of group focal point
      • Country of origin of group focal point
      • Specific needs within group
      • Unique group identifier
      • Pre-registration date
      • (optional) GPS coordinates
  • If you are already using proGres v4 in your operation, please refer to the proGres v4 Registration Baseline SOP for data entry guidance and interpretation of data fields in the Reception Form.

  • Consider the following standards for group pre-registration:

    • Group data must be collected for a specific purpose;

    • Group pre-registration does not replace individual registration;

    • Documentation issued at this stage may include: appointment slips, tokens or ration cards for initial distribution. Identity documents are not issued at pre-registration;

    • It is time bound and is ultimately converted to a registration group  and  individual registration record

    • Group pre-registration cannot be used for case management;

    • It provides a group identifier to the group focal point allocated by the system, which is subsequently linked to the individual identifier upon individual registration.

    • Entitlement documents can be recorded

    • It may record declared family size (i.e. including individuals who are in the country of asylum but are not seen by staff at the time of pre-registration) or verified  family size (physically present and seen by staff), depending on the purpose of the pre-registration and operational context.

  • Group pre-registration may be conducted using RApp (Rapid Application), a core element of the UNHCR Population Registration and Identity Management EcoSystem (PRIMES). RApp is an application that can be used on laptops as well as mobile devices and allows for rapid data entry both on-line and off-line. RApp data is synchronized to v4 when connectivity is available, and linked to the various other tools of the PRIMES ecosystem, such as biometric tools and the various case management modules. Group pre-registration is conducted in the Reception entity in RApp which mirrors the Reception entity in proGres v4, into which data is uploaded. The RApp user guide, RApp baseline SOPs and training materials are available on the PRIMES Support site.

  • SOPs should promote protection-sensitive reception and registration procedures in which vulnerable persons are prioritised, as appropriate, throughout all processes. Individuals in the following general categories should be invited to advance to the front of the queue during reception:

    • unaccompanied and separated children

    • child-headed households or child spouses

    • persons with disabilities and their families

    • persons with serious medical needs

    • older refugees, particularly those unaccompanied

    • persons with urgent protection concerns (and their families if appropriate), as well as those for whom long waiting times may expose them to high risk (e.g. LGBTI individuals)

    • where feasible, single parents and families with small children

  • Depending on the scale and structure of reception activities, individuals who approach reception with any of the above specific needs may, in accordance with clearly defined procedures, be prioritized for registration interview (e.g. using different colour tokens in a large registration centre context, or by issuing a fast-tracked appointments for registration interview in other contexts) and/or referred to Protection staff to determine urgent or longer-term needs.

    Offices should work to create a reception environment that encourages self-reporting of specific needs or risks, given that there are a wide range of serious or urgent needs that are not always visible, such as those of some women and girls at risk, LGBTI individuals, survivors of trafficking or torture and others. Personnel situated at the entry/access point should be informed about expedited processes for persons with specific needs. In larger operations, it may be worthwhile to assign a member of the reception team to monitor the overall reception area (and beyond),actively pre-identifying persons with specific needs and bringing them forward.

    In addition to self-reporting of specific needs, internal and external referral pathways should be in place to allow for the prioritization of individuals who have specific needs that are known to other colleagues or external actors. Referral pathways – based on prior mapping, consultation and assessment of service providers in the local context – channel individuals into UNHCR’s reception, registration and case management processes and onwards to appropriate protection services. Prioritized processing and referral should occur based on pre-established criteria agreed by all parties participating in the referral system. Such criteria will vary depending on the gravity of risks faced by concerned individuals, service provider capacity to respond, and other context-specific factors, and should be developed by Protection colleagues and/or other specialists (e.g. medical, etc.). Referral pathways should envisage special procedures for emergencies and highly-sensitive cases.

    All colleagues involved in referral pathways, including partners and local services, should be trained on how the referral system works, in order to ensure consistency in how individuals are identified and referred and how their cases are filed, treated and followed-up. Clear SOPs must describe how and by whom specific needs-related information is entered and updated in RApp or in proGres. Each party working on a referral should have access to a unified database (or system of interoperable databases), where information can be regularly updated by all those working on a particular case. User access rights are defined and applied to allow for restricted access to certain sensitive information.

    Rotating reception staff in this way can also bring other improvements and efficiencies to the reception process (better monitoring of the flow, delay, no-show rate as well as on-the-spot trouble-shooting), while diversifying the tasks of the Reception team.

  • The registration schedule is established by calculating the resource capacity in the registration location in light of the operational priorities set out in the registration strategy. For example, some operations may adopt a first come-first served approach to scheduling, while for others it will be necessary to take a differentiated approach in which certain nationalities, groups or profiles may be scheduled with greater or lesser priority based on protection risk, processing methodology or other operational exigency. Furthermore, scheduling may be done on a group or individual basis. Group scheduling means organizing the schedule according to group criteria, such as location, family size or other criteria. This approach is common in refugee camp contexts, in which individuals are invited by group to approach the registration location on a certain day(s) and are then registered on a “first come, first served” basis, except for persons with specific needs, who are fast-tracked through the use of tokens or other tools. Individual scheduling refers to the methodology in which individuals are scheduled for registration interview on a specific day. Regardless of the scheduling approach adopted in an operation, interview places must be assigned to individuals based on transparent criteria documented in the SOPs and/ or the Registration strategy.

  • Scheduling procedures should follow these guiding principles and standards:

    • Registration should be conducted as soon as possible, preferably within a period of 3 months of having approached the Office. If a registration appointment date exceeds 6 months, resources and/or processes should be reviewed;

    • Daily quotas for registration interview must be assigned based on transparent criteria; 

    • Male and female interviewers (and interpreters) should be available and assigned to interviews based on the expressed wishes of interviewees;

    • Interviewers (and interpreters) should be assigned to interviews based on the language preference expressed by the interviewees;

    • An appropriate number of slots should be left free each day in case of persons with specific needs or other “prioritized” individuals whose condition or situation requires immediate intervention;

    • An appropriate number of slots should be left free each day in case of spontaneous urgent cases;

    • Scheduling should take into consideration the ‘no-show’ rate (e.g. If daily no-show rate is 20%, schedule 15% more people);

    • In the context of new or substantially modified registration activities (e.g. adding biometric enrolment for the first time) the schedule should start light and gradually increase to full capacity, allowing for the necessary fine-tuning in the layout and process flow. 

    • Where feasible, it is recommended to confirm the schedule one week before the appointment (e.g. if individual appointments are issued for registration interview with 4 months waiting time, individuals should be called one week before 4 months to confirm);

    • Where no phone number is available, or in camp settings, it is advisable to confirm the schedule through posters/info campaigns (quoting the appointment/reception number, not names);

    • Scheduled registration appointments should be communicated to the concerned individuals in the appropriate way, e.g. in person, by appointment slip, via online platform or self-service kiosk, through bulk SMS (for renewal) or through information campaign.

    • Re-scheduling by the office is to be avoided. Re-scheduling upon request by the applicant should be accommodated.  

  • Where other interventions or case management activities require scheduling by reception staff, SOPs should set out the related scheduling procedures as agreed with the relevant functional unit.

    Exceptionally, individuals may have their registration interview scheduled in absentia, for example by contacting UNHCR reception staff by telephone, ideally through video call (e.g. Skype). This may be appropriate where there are security or other barriers impeding physical access to reception processes. The in absentia reception record data should then be used to create a registration record upon physical registration. In highly restrictive registration contexts, the same process could be implemented to conduct a determination as to whether or not an individual may be eligible for registration,3 based on the existence of protection risks or specific needs. Such a determination should ideally be conducted via video call, for example, with the individual calling in from the office of a trusted intermediary (e.g. an NGO) and handled by Protection staff or Registration staff trained to identify and discuss protection issues. It is important to distinguish between telephone and other exchanges prior to registration and the registration interview itself, which should be in-person.

    Where the technical capacity exists, individuals should be encouraged to request a registration interview with UNHCR via an appropriate online application or kiosk.

    Should the video call be inconclusive with regards to admissibility for registration, the person should be requested to approach the Office for further assessment.