Implementing registration within an identity management framework
© UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
5.2 Registration as an Identity Management Process

Key messages

    • The regular updating, verifying and recording of new data elements over time strengthens identity data and increases confidence in refugee identity records in the eyes of governments and private sector entities. This in turn facilitates the ability of refugees to credibly demonstrate their identity when accessing rights, services and opportunities.
    • Same sex couples may be registered together with the marital status ‘partnership’ in the same Registration Group, unless doing so may cause protection risks in the country of asylum, or the individuals concerned prefer to be registered in separate groups for any other reason.
    • Specific needs cases pending review must be referred for further assessment by protection colleagues. This allows the flagging of specific needs that are reported or noticed about which registration staff do not have the time or the expertise to make an assessment. It is nevertheless essential that these are flagged at registration or the information may be lost.
  • Registration interviews are a core protection activity, in which personal data is recorded and specific needs are identified and referred for assessment and response. It is also a key identity management process, and the principal means through which UNHCR is able to know its populations of concern. A quality registration interview accurately and fully records personal data, which forms the basis for the tracking of biographical and other identity-related changes through continuous registration, yielding benefits for both individual refugees and actors involved in a humanitarian response. Individual photographs and biometric data are collected, ensuring that identities registered in UNHCR’s system are globally unique and cannot be lost, registered multiple times or subject to fraud. Further individuals are assigned a unique identifying number and issued with secure documentation.

    The regular updating, verifying and recording of new data elements over time strengthens identity data and increases confidence in refugee identity records in the eyes of governments and private sector entities. This, in turn, facilitates the ability of refugees to credibly demonstrate their identity when accessing rights, services and opportunities including banking.

    Registration interviews vary in structure and content depending on the objectives of the interview, the operational context and the specific circumstances of the individual being registered. Normally, registration interviews comprise the following key elements:

  • The purpose of the pre-interview counselling is to establish a rapport with individuals, put them at ease, provide necessary information and encourage their trust and full participation in the registration process. The interviewer should have no prior relationship with the individual, and should be trained and qualified on UNHCR’s mandate, the principle of impartiality and the duty of confidentiality. Refugee interpreters should only be used as a last resort, and asylum seekers should not be hired as interpreters.

    The interviewer should start the interview by:

  • introducing him/herself (using first name) and the interpreter (if there is one, and including a brief explanation of the impartial role of the interpreter), and

    explaining the purpose(s) of registration, providing context-specific information on protection benefits including documentation as well as access to services and assistance provided by UNHCR and others.4

  • In situations where comprehensive individual counselling cannot be conducted (e.g. mass registration, emergencies), group counselling may be conducted to explain the purpose and process of the registration. However, counselling on consent and other issues affecting individual rights and obligations must always be conducted individually.

    Pre-interview counselling should cover the following areas:

    If appropriate, recall that while registration is a prerequisite to recognition of refugee status and assistance in obtaining a durable solution, it does not necessarily lead to either of these outcomes.

  • General interview procedure:

    • Explain the registration process and purpose for which information is being collected by UNHCR. Explain that a similar set of questions will be asked of each person in the Registration Group, and that, if interviewed together, individuals should refrain from answering on behalf of others, including children, unless specifically asked to do so;
    • Inform individuals that basic biodata may be shared with the host government. Explain what constitutes ‘basic biodata’ in this sense;
    • Describe the biometric enrolment process and the purposes for which biometrics are collected in the operation;
    • Explain what documentation will be issued at the end of registration, its expiry date and the need – and procedures in place – to renew it;
    • Explain how individuals can update, modify, change and access their personal data recorded with UNHCR;
    • Remind individuals that registration and all other services and assistance offered by UNHCR and partners are free of charge.
  • Rights and obligations of individuals

    • Individuals should be reminded that participation in registration is voluntary;
    • Individuals should be advised about their obligation to cooperate and give truthful and complete responses to the questions asked;
    • Individuals have the right to request an interviewer (and interpreter) of a particular sex;
    • Individuals have the right to be interviewed in a language they understand;
    • Individuals have the right to request a separate interview from other members of his/her family or Registration Group;
    • Individuals have the right to confidentiality in UNHCR procedures. Any limits to the right to confidentiality, including data sharing arrangements, should be explained.
    • Individuals have the right to refuse the collection of their biometrics on legitimate grounds related to his or her specific personal situation. This does not alter their right to international protection and the individual remains of concern to UNHCR. In such cases, individuals may be registered, and alternative methods identified to ensure they can access rights, assistance and solutions.5
    • Individuals have the right to provide or withhold consent for UNHCR to share their personal data with implementing or operational partners and should be advised about any implications of withholding consent in the specific operational context. Refer to General Consent (Sharing Information) in the v4 registration baseline SOP for further guidance on consent.
    • See the video “Know your rights” in the annex.

    5 Where the host government leads registration procedures, the requirement to share personal data including biometrics (and the related right to object) may be determined according to government policy, not UNHCR policy.

  • Obligations of the interviewer (and interpreter)

    • The interviewer (and interpreter) is/are bound by a code of conduct and a duty of confidentiality. No personal information shared by the interviewee during the interview may be communicated or shared without the consent of the concerned individual;
    • The interviewer (and interpreter) must ask questions in a respectful and non-threatening manner, be sensitive to specific needs and speak in a way that is clear and understandable to the person interviewed including, for example, children, persons who may be traumatized or persons with intellectual disabilities;
    • The interviewer should propose separate interviews with family members if it is appropriate under the circumstances (the interviewer believes there may be protection or other issues to discuss that require confidentiality). Where there is a chance that separate interviews could create additional protection risks for the individual concerned, the interviewer should consult protection colleagues on how to proceed.
  • Consent to share personal information

    • The interviewer should explain all of the envisaged data processing activities to be carried out, in particular which data elements would be shared with the host government, implementing partners or other third parties. The interviewer should further explain that:
      • The host government has a legitimate interest in knowing who is on its territory, and that basic bio-data registered in proGres may be routinely shared by UNHCR with government partners (as applicable depending on the operation);
      • UNHCR will never share personal data with authorities in the country of origin without the consent of the individuals concerned;
      • Individuals are invited to provide consent6 for UNHCR to share basic personal data with partners and other humanitarian organisations, including other UN agencies, non-governmental organisations and commercial service providers (as applicable) for the purposes of providing access to protection, assistance and services.
    • Factors such as age, level of education, mental health or disability may affect an individual’s ability to understand the implications of data processing. UNHCR staff should adapt their counselling to ensure that all persons of concern are able to understand and exercise their rights to the fullest possible extent. Refer to paragraph 3.8 of the Operational Guidelines on Data Protection for further guidance on Seeking consent from individuals with mental health conditions and intellectual disabilities.
    • In the case of children, consent should be, in most cases, obtained from the child’s accompanying parent, family member with parental responsibility, or legal or customary caregiver. Refer to paragraph 3.7 of the Operational Guidelines on Data Protection for further guidance on seeking assent/consent in the case of children.

    It is important not to rush through the introduction, despite the fact that staff may do it many times in one day. Individuals should be given ample opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns before moving to the data collection stage of the registration interview.

    6 Consent should be informed and freely given. Informed means that the individual is provided information and able to understand the circumstances, purpose, risks and benefits of sharing personal information. Information should cover all of the envisaged data processing activities to be carried out, in particular which data elements will be shared with host government, implementing partners or other third parties. Freely given means that the individual has a genuine choice and is able to refuse or withdraw without adverse consequences. See paragraph 3.2. of the Operational Guidelines on Data Protection for a discussion on consent as a legitimate basis of data processing.

  • A Registration Group refers to a family (nuclear or extended) who lives together and identifies as a family and for whom a relationship of either social, emotional or economic dependency is presumed.  An individual must always belong to a Registration Group.

    Each Registration Group must assign an individual as its focal point. She or he does not have any specific tasks or decision-making responsibilities for the group, nor any different rights or entitlements. Rather, the focal point simply gives structure to the Registration Group, providing an anchor from which to define all the other social and biological relationships in the group.

    The interviewer should gain a clear understanding of the relationships between Registration Group members before recording them in proGres. This may be straightforward in many cases, however, it is important to keep in mind that certain communities and cultures may have differing notions of how families are constituted and re-constituted, and how the relationship between certain family members are referred to (e.g. “brothers” may in fact be biological cousins, “father” may in fact be father-law, etc.). Depending on the social and cultural context of the concerned individuals, questions may need to be asked in a particular way to ensure accurate relationship data is provided.

    The below is a graphical representation of family relationships as they are found in proGres. In the centre (green) is the Focal Point, and his/her relatives are also presented in green to show the family relationship. The Focal Point’s spouse is in blue, and his/her relatives that have a connection (through marriage) to the Focal Point are presented in blue. Second degree relationships and other relevant blood or non-blood relations are presented in white. Children of the Focal Point and his/her current spouse are represented in pink and grandchildren in grey.

  • Focal Point
    the focal point (FP)

    The person with whom the Focal Point is in an established relationship and shares a common life
    the husband or wife of the focal point

    the former spouse of the FP
    Polygamous Spouse
    a polygamous spouse of the FP
    Gr. Father
    the paternal grandfather of the FP (i.e. the father of the FP's father)
    Gr. Mother
    the paternal grandmother of the FP (i.e. the mother of the FP's father)

    Gr. Father
    (in law)
    the paternal grandfather of the FP's spouse
    Gr. Mother
    (in law)
    the paternal grandmother of the FP's spouse
    Gr. Father
    the maternal grandfather of the FP (i.e. the father of the FP's mother)
    Gr. Mother
    the maternal grandmother of the FP (i.e. the mother of the FP's mother)

    Gr. Father
    (in law)
    the maternal grandfather of the FP's spouse
    Gr. Mother
    (in law)
    the maternal grandmother of the FP's spouse.
    the brother of the FP's father
    the sister of the FP's father

    (in law)
    the husband of the FP's paternal aunt
    (in law)
    the wife of the FP's paternal uncle
    Foster Mother
    a woman who takes care of the FP, usually for a limited time, without being the FP's legal parent
    Step Mother
    the FP's father's spouse, who is not the FP's biological mother

    other mother-like relation to FP
    a male parent of the FP

    Father in law
    the FP's spouse's father
    the brother of the FP's mother
    the sister of the FP's mother

    (in law)
    the husband of the FP's maternal aunt
    (in law)
    the wife of the FP's maternal uncle
    Step Father
    the FP's mother's spouse, who is not the FP's biological father
    Foster Father
    a man who takes care of the FP, usually for a limited time, without being the FP's legal parent

    other father-like relation to FP
    a female parent of the FP

    Mother in law
    the FP's spouse's mother
    Paternal Cousin
    a child of the FP's paternal aunt or uncle

    Paternal Cousin
    a child of the FP's spouse's paternal aunt or uncle
    Step Brother
    the son of the FP's father's spouse (therefore no blood relative to FP, in contrast with 'half brother')
    Half Brother
    a boy sibling who shares the same biological father as the FP

    Step Sister
    the daughter of the FP's father's spouse (therefore no blood relative to FP, in contrast with 'half sister')
    Half Sister
    a girl sibling who shares the same biological father as the FP

    Foster Brother
    a boy with different parents than the FP but who is brought up in the same family as the FP, usually temporarily.
    a boy or man who has the same parents as the FP

    (in law)
    the wife of the FP's brother

    (in law)
    the FP's spouse's brother

    (in law)
    the wife of the FP's spouse's brother
    Maternal Cousin
    a child of the FP's maternal aunt or uncle

    Maternal Cousin
    a child of the FP's spouse's maternal aunt or uncle
    Step Sister
    the daughter of the FP's mother's spouse (therefore no blood relative to FP, in contrast with 'half sister')
    Half Sister
    a girl sibling who shares the same biological mother as the FP

    Step Brother
    the son of the FP's mother's spouse (therefore no blood relative to FP, in contrast with 'half brother')
    Half Brother
    a boy sibling who shares the same biological mother as the FP

    Foster Sister
    a girl with different parents than the FP but who is brought up in the same family as the FP, usually temporarily.
    a girl or woman who has the same parents as the FP

    (in law)
    the husband of the FP's sister

    (in law)
    the FP's spouse's sister

    (in law)
    the husband of the FP's spouse's sister
    a son of the FP's brother
    a daughter of the FP's brother
    the male child of the FP and the FP's spouse
    the female child of the FP
    the male child of the FP

    (in law)
    the wife of the FP's child
    Foster Son
    a male child looked after, usually temporarily, by the FP who is not his natural or adoptive parent
    a son of the FP's sister
    a daughter of the FP's sister
    the female child of the FP and the FP’s spouse
    Step Son
    the male child of the FP’s spouse
    Step Daughter
    the female child of the FP's spouse

    (in law)
    the husband of the FP’s child
    Foster Daughter
    a female child looked after, usually temporarily, by the FP who is not her natural or adoptive parent
    Gr. Son
    the male natural, adoptive or step grandchild of the FP
    Gr. Daughter
    the female natural, adoptive or step grandchild of the FP
    Gr. Son
    the male natural, adoptive or step grandchild of the FP’s spouse
    Gr. Daughter
    the female natural, adoptive or step grandchild of the FP’s spouse
    No Family Relation
    a household member who is not related to the family and where no other relation descriptor applies.
  • It is particularly important to gain a clear understanding of how children are related to adults in the Registration Group. There are several ‘blood’ and ‘non-blood’ relationship values to choose from in proGres, reflecting a range of parental and other caregiving relations. Since registration may be the only opportunity to identify child-related protection risks, SOPs should provide comprehensive instructions on how any of the 17 child-relevant specific needs codes may apply in light of certain child-adult relations recorded. Depending on the social and cultural context, child relations should be inquired about with due sensitivity and discretion. Child protection colleagues can help formulate questions to ensure accurate relationship data is shared, and advise which relations or situations warrant referral for further assessment.

    It can happen that members of a Registration Group attempt to substitute an unrelated person or child for an absent family member, in order to ensure that family member is included and accounted for later. It is important to counsel individuals against this practice, explaining that individuals cannot be substituted and can simply approach UNHCR at a later date to be duly registered with their family members.

    In the case of polygamy, the husband should be registered by himself, and each spouse should be the Focal Point of a Registration Group comprising herself and her children. This is particularly important in an assistance context, since assistance is provided according to the Registration Group. All Registration Groups are then cross-linked.

  • Identity refers to a set of attributes that uniquely describes an individual or entity.  In the context of registration, there are two key aspects of a person’s identity:

    • The element of uniqueness: the fact that one individual is distinguished from all others by their unique set of features and characteristics; and
    • The element of continuity: there must be continuity of identity information over the course of a person’s life. Since most of the constitutive elements making up an individual’s identity can legitimately change over time (e.g. name, civil status , nationality), it is important for UNHCR to recognize and be responsive to these changes, including updating proGres records and issuing updated documentation as required. At the same time, the continued unique identification of the given individual despite these changes must be ensured through biometric identification and continuous registration.
  • Document review

    Depending on the context, individuals may submit formal documentation proving their identity, for example, a passport, national identity card or birth certificate issued in the country of origin. If this is the case, attention may additionally be paid to these documents in respect of relationships between family members, place of origin, military service, nationality and entry status, as relevant.

    In the absence of formal identity documentation, any other available personal documents should be reviewed. Relevant documentation in this regard may include a civil registry extract for the individual or family, family booklet, birth notification, travel documents, identity or entitlement documents issued in the country of asylum, other documents that support the existence of dependency relationships. In addition, other documents demonstrating an active presence in a community, including a digital community, may be relevant in the context of building up evidence of identity over time through continuous registration activities. This could include membership cards, written or online publications, school reports, employment contracts, documents attesting to participation in cultural, social, athletic or religious activities, social media accounts, blogs and other recorded activity. Where physical files are created in the operation, registration staff should take copies of all formal and informal documentation presented.

    Registration staff are required to undertake a reasonable effort to ascertain identity before creating a proGres record. The threshold for doing so will be context-specific. For example, for certain countries, process of assessing identity documents may be a relatively straightforward exercise, whether on account of the high prevalence of documented individuals, and thus the greater familiarity with such documents on the part of Registration staff, or because the related documentation contains security features facilitating a rapid authenticity screening. In other contexts, the large majority of asylum-seekers and refugees may not present any kind of documentation7 or may present documentation with incorrectly recorded biographical informationIn order to promote greater consistency and in view of the very wide range of operational contexts in this regard, the following approach is recommended:

    7 Documentation proving identity may become lost or destroyed during displacement, or may never have been issued by State authorities in the country of origin. The latter could be due to (1) reasons linked to the persecution experienced by that individual or circumstances of flight, (2) omission by the individual, (3) lack of State capacity to issue identity documentation to citizens residing in remote areas, or (4) because the individual is stateless, for example.

    • Where an individual presents documentation giving rise to doubts about its authenticity (e.g. due to general appearance, incorrect data recorded therein or for other reasons), the concerned individual should be invited to explain whether it is authentic, understanding that declaring false documentation as such will not affect access to registration and other UNHCR processes particularly where this was the only way for an asylum seeker to flee his or her country of origin. The relevant errors, contradictions or other issues should be recordedin proGres, together with any related explanations by the concerned individual. SOPs should set out how to escalate and report a case of suspected misappropriation of identity (using another person’s documents and assuming their identity), as per the Operational Guidelines on Addressing Fraud Committed by Persons of Concern.

      8 When a document record is created, a comments field appears where the user may record observations about the document.

    • Where individuals do not present any valid documentation, depending on whether this is the norm or not in the operational context, the registration staff may need to spend more time interviewing a person to help ascertain their identity, including conducting separate interviews with different family members, for example.

  • The following procedure should be followed when soliciting individual documentation:

    • Review and photocopy/scan all documents presented. Return original documents;
    • Verify that the person matches any photographs in the documents presented, and that names and other core bio-data correspond (refer to (a) above if this is not the case);
    • Record in proGres the necessary information about each document (type, serial number, date of issue), and whether copies or originals were presented.
  • Data collection

    The registration interview constitutes, in many cases, a unique chance to obtain the biographical and specific needs data necessary to inform protection interventions and eligibility for assistance and further case management. Identity information recorded during registration should be accurate and complete. Often, this will simply mean entering in proGres information as presented by the individual. However, some registration interviews may be more complex where, for example, statements are inconsistent between family members, go against information provided in supporting documentation or otherwise cannot be considered factually correct. SOPs should set out which inconsistencies justify referral to an escalation desk for further examination.

    While some data fields in proGres are mandatory to be able to save a Registration record, the dataset to be collected at registration should be determined at the country level, based on data requirements in the operational context.  All data fields to be completed should be set out in a data entry table included in or annexed to the SOP. The data entry table should contain, in the same order as the Registration Forms in proGres:

    • the data elements required,

    • the questions to be asked to obtain accurate data, and

    • any actions to be taken for each data field, such as referral.

  • 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 registration group and individual forms.

  • Some considerations on data entry:

    • Any existing information previously gathered (e.g. through Group Pre-Registration) should be verified and used in the Registration Form. When using RApp, Reception data is automatically retrieved by the system to pre-populate the data fields.
    • The ‘pre-identification’ step at enrolment will identify whether an individual has previously been registered;
    • Registration staff should ensure biographical data recorded corresponds9 to official documentation, and make necessary adjustments (spelling, other errors) under commonly used name, protection events or another appropriate place.
    • In the absence of official documentation, registration staff should record data as declared by the individual, using standardized spelling where possible.
    • In the rare event that several of the biodata elements declared do not correspond to official documentation (e.g. name, sex and DOB or place of origin), Registration staff should refer the individual to Protection colleagues for further assessment. This may require a specific approach in some LGBTI cases, or could be an integrity issue.
    • Fighters or members of the host population identified during the course of the registration interview should be screened out of the process according to procedures set out in the SOP.10
    • Refer to ‘interviewing tips

    9 An exception to this rule may be where an individual (e.g. transgender) expresses a wish to be registered and have documents issued in accordance with the sex with which they identify (not that which they were born with), and denying this would have serious negative psychological affects and/or protection-related risks. Such cases should be escalated to a Supervisor as well as referred to protection counselling about the associated risks.

    10 which may include escalation to a supervisor or referral to protection colleagues as well as relevant counselling for the individual.

  • Identifying specific needs is an essential part of the registration interview. Persons with specific needs should be prioritized for registration interview via an established referral mechanism, and referred, according to SOPs, for follow-up or intervention after registration is completed.

    The Specific Needs Codes (SNC) are a set of codes that refer to a standardized list of particular characteristics, circumstances, or risks that may provoke protection exigencies in a given individual. The SNCs should be the sole mechanism for recording specific needs of individuals into proGres. Specific needs codes are divided into categories and sub-categories. The sub-categories update automatically when a category is selected. Multiple specific needs codes may be used for a given individual.

    The Registration and Identity Management Officer, in consultation with Protection staff, may define the specific needs codes to be used in a particular operation at initial and at continuous registration and should ensure the necessary training of Registration staff as to how to identify and duly record such needs. In addition, each operation must define the level of access to the specific needs entities based on areas of interventions and responsibilities of the users involved in case management activities.

    Specific needs clearly identified at registration should be recorded as “valid”, unless an operation has sufficient resources for Protection staff to conduct systematic validation of all specific needs. Specific needs should be recorded as “pending review” where (a) there is uncertainty as to their applicability, character or severity, (b) a need is observed but not expressed by the individual, (c) they relate to those categories of SPNs that always require assessment by subject matter experts as per SOPs. Specific needs cases pending review must be referred for further assessment by Protection colleagues, who should subsequently verify and confirm the SPN as “valid”, if appropriate. This allows the flagging of specific needs that are reported or noticed but for which registration staff do not have the time or the expertise to make an assessment. It is nevertheless essential that these are flagged at registration or the information may be lost and may not reach the appropriate staff or partner for follow-up and intervention.

  • 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 for data fields relating to specific needs.

  • Specific needs may evolve over time, and the corresponding codes must be updated in proGres in a timely way by the staff who identifies the change, or by other staff as provided in the SOPs.

    In the specific case of LGBTI refugees, no specific need code is required unless an individual faces protection risks in the country of asylum on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity, in which case the SNC ‘at risk because of profile’ (LP-MS) may be relevant.

    Women, men, girls, and boys with disabilities have diverse needs and capacities, which need to be understood to inform programming. Simply asking whether someone has a disability, with a yes/ no response option, or identifying persons with disabilities based on visual cues, is not sufficient. Further, identification processes that follow a medical approach, whereby individuals are ‘diagnosed’ and categorized according to their impairment, does not give information on lived experience and support needs. It is important therefore that data collection processes be strengthened in order to produce meaningful and comparable data for planning, implementation and monitoring purposes.11 As such, registration staff are encouraged to refer to the Washington Group (WG) short set of Questions on Disability to identify disability-related specific needs within the population. The WG questions move away from a medical approach to disability, and focus on determining the extent to which individuals require support and assistance to enjoy equal access to services, opportunities and rights in light of the social, environmental, communication or other barriers they face.

    Operations are recommended, at a minimum, to ask the following question: Does anyone in your family have difficulties with self-care, such as washing and dressing? Rather than identifying impairment type, this question is intended to identify persons with high support needs, to be referred for priority assistance.

    The answer options for this question should be multi-choice:

    11 Need to Know Guidance on Working with Persons with Disabilities

    • No – no difficulty

    • Yes – some difficulty

    • Yes – a lot of difficulty

    • Cannot do at all

  • Answers (C) and (D) should be considered as a disability and the following action taken:

    • The specific needs code ‘DS’ should be applied to the individual concerned, with some detail on the difficulties elaborated in the ‘comments’ field.

    • The individual must be referred for protection follow-up.

    • The existence of other easily observable or documented specific needs related to disability should be recorded as well (using DS sub-categories and/or comments).

  • During continuous registration, Offices are encouraged to refer to all six questions in the Washington Group short set, which broadly correspond to the existing specific needs disability sub-categories found in proGres.

  • Before closing the interview, the interviewer should read the recorded information back to the concerned individual to confirm the information is correct. Allow sufficient time for the correction of misspellings or revisiting incomplete answers. If hard copies of registration forms are maintained, the individual should sign with signature or thumbprint, with parents (or guardians) signing on behalf of their minor children.

    Individuals are informed during pre-interview counselling about the specific purpose for which information is being collected by UNHCR and that their core biographical data may be shared with the host government. Individuals should be provided another opportunity to ask questions, in particular where registration data may be co-controlled by host country authorities, including biometric data (e.g. joint Government and UNHCR procedures). If relevant in the operation, individuals are also asked whether they consent to the sharing of their bio-data and assessed vulnerabilities with third parties for the purposes of providing access to protection, assistance and services. Consent data is entered in the General Consent (information sharing) entity in proGres.

    The interviewer should counsel the individual on the next steps in the registration process, including biometric enrolment as well as the document(s) to be provided at the end of the process and the associated rights or access to services. Importantly, individuals should be counseled on the system of continuous registration: the date of expiry of documents issued, procedures for document renewal, the need to register new births and alert UNHCR to other changes to family composition. The registration staff should also inform individuals on procedures to update contact information (house address, email address and phone number).

  • Biometric enrolment

    Biometric enrolment and photographs anchor a registration record to a physical individual.

    All persons of concern including children are individually photographed at registration. Where possible, UNHCR also collects biometric data such as fingerprints and/or iris images as part of initial and continuous registration activities. Biometrics are the preferred methodology for verifying an individual’s identity, including at assistance delivery, as well as in the context of protection case management and durable solutions. Biometric data is also used for the purposes of maintaining family unity, preventing and identifying trafficking and fraud (e.g. identity substitution, fraudulent family composition, multiple registration) and ensuring programmatic integrity. Reasonable efforts should be taken in mandate registration contexts to inform the host Government that UNHCR will be collecting biometrics for refugees and asylum seekers.

    It is important to note that biometric verification merely confirms an individual’s claimed identity and should not, on its own, be used to exclude individuals from the provision of protection, assistance or solutions. It is UNHCR’s responsibility to ensure that litigation procedures are in place to make determinations on inconsistencies, where biometrics indicate that an individual may not be who they claim.

    Operations should check the biometrics of new arrivals against existing UNHCR records to see if the individual has already been biometrically enrolled, whether in the operation or elsewhere. This ensures that the same, unique biometric identifying number remains with the individual across UNHCR operations. When an individual’s record has been saved in proGres, biometric enrolment in BIMS may be initiated from the proGres record. This step is carried out by Registration staff, and clear instructions must be provided to support staff in completing all the elements of this stage, which may vary slightly between operations, depending on the processing methodology in place. SOPs should guide staff in:

    • How to do biometric pre-identification for new arrivals, and action to take if this shows the individual is already registered;

    • Explaining to refugees and asylum seekers what biometric enrolment is, their rights as data subjects and seek their consent to share their biometric data before initiating collection;

    • Correctly enrolling12 an individual’s biometric data from the proGres record (including relevant checks and related procedures for escalation);

      12 See the BIMS User Reference Guide (only for PRIMES users, password required)

    • How to take a good photograph directly in BIMS  (see below);

  • IrisGuard is a biometric tool used in five countries the Middle East region. It collects two iris scans and a facial photo from each individual, and is integrated with proGres.

    Adult biometric data, once enrolled, does not need to be updated unless it becomes difficult to match against, is scarred, damaged, or in any other way changed from the images that were originally recorded. If it is difficult to identify a person because their biometric record is not of optimal quality, consider updating their biometrics after confirming their identity. It is recommended to update the biometric records of children (aged five to 17 years) every two to three years if possible and practicable, to account for growth. Biometric records for children that were captured more than three years previous are still valid for matching against, though may be less effective.

    Staff should strive to capture all available biometrics. Occasionally, however, fingerprints or irises may be difficult or impossible to capture. A person’s biometrics can, in general, be recorded in 90 seconds; staff should not spend longer than five minutes on one individual before marking ‘unable to capture’ in BIMS and identifying the reason.

    SOPs should outline BIMS and IrisGuard -related activities relevant to continuous registration, including how and when to update biometric records for children and young people, as well as ad hoc procedures for the referral and biometric enrolment of already-registered individuals who approach the Office for RSD, resettlement or other reason and who are not yet biometrically enrolled, and use of biometrics for confirming an individual identity over time (verification).

  • Taking photographs

    All persons of concern including children should be individually photographed during registration. Photographs may be taken, with or without biometrics, at the interview stage, or at a subsequent step in the process flow. If BIMS is used in the operation it is recommended to take photographs directly in BIMS.  In all cases, there should be adequate lighting for taking good quality photos, privately if possible, with enough space so that no other people or objects appear in the frame of the photo.  Two side lighting crossing over each other at an angle is recommended to eliminate shadows and highlight facial details. Overhead lighting improves photo quality (e.g. two to four fluorescent tubes).

    Staff are encouraged to refer to global specifications13 for passport photos to help guide the taking of good quality photos at registration. The most relevant considerations are:

    13 From the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). To see good/bad photos according to ICAO standards 

    • The image must have adequate brightness and contrast;

    • The skin tone in the image should be natural. Over-exposure or under-exposure of the photo makes the skin either too dark or too light;

    • The image should show a close up of the head and (partial) shoulders;

    • The image should be straight looking, centered with neutral expression;

    • The face should be in sharp focus and clear with no ink marks/creases/lines;

    • The face (from forehead edge to bottom of chin) should be 70 to 80% of the photo or one inch in height;

    • The eyes must be open; prescription glasses, if worn, should be clear and thin framed and should not have flash reflection or obscure the eyes;

    • Head coverings, hair, head-dress or facial ornaments should not obscure the face;

    • The photo must have plain light background;

    • There must be no other people or object in the photo;

    • The lighting must be uniform with no shadows on the face or behind;

    • There should be no red eye

Registration processes for children

  • Registration provides the first formal opportunity to identify children, in particular unaccompanied or separated children, child-headed households or other boys and girls with specific vulnerabilities and needs. Registration and associated procedures, including biometric enrolment and document issuance should be carefully and individually explained to such children to help them navigate the process and understand their options and their rights. The protection and specific needs information gathered at registration (and often already at reception) informs immediate support measures to provide care, including accommodation arrangements, family tracing, health, education, counselling, as well as subsequent protection and assistance interventions. Children with specific needs should be systematically referred to Protection staff or partners following their registration.

    Registration staff do not need to be child protection experts to interact in an appropriate manner with children. Empathy, sensitivity, active listening and effective interviewing techniques are sufficient to conduct procedures in a child-friendly manner. Interviewers – and interpreters – must be able to adapt to the child before them – their age, level of emotional and mental development and maturity, gender, culture and other factors. They should also be sensitive to the specific vulnerabilities and needs of children, and pay attention to how certain questions are formulated, and how children may perceive or understand them.

    More generally, it is also important to reflect on how a child’s parents or caregivers are spoken to in front of them, how this might affect children and whether children need to be present. The presence of caregivers or parents in the interviews with children depends on the circumstances of each case, and should be decided on an individual basis.

    Staff are not normally expected to seek consent/assent from children to share personal data when they are accompanied by their parents or caregivers. In rare situations where this may be contrary to the child’s best interests, the case should be referred to a supervisor or Protection staff for further assessment.

    Children may be more difficult to photograph than adults, and extra time and patience may be required. When photographing children, it is important to ensure that no other people, toys, or objects are visible in the photo. If the back of the chair is visible, ask the child to stand on the chair to be photographed, or use a stool with no back. Biometric records of children from age five should be updated every two to three years to account for growth.

Registration processes in detention locations

  • In some contexts, UNHCR may be required to conduct registration interviews in detention centres, prisons, police station or airport facilities. Detained individuals may not have any prior information about UNHCR. If this is the case, it is critical to conduct comprehensive counselling with the individual regarding UNHCR’s protection mandate, the purpose and process of registration as well as future processes applicable to the individual, including targeted protection interventions or asylum procedures. Importantly, UNHCR staff should provide counselling on procedures and eligibility for release from the detention location, which will also help manage the expectations of individual vis-à-vis the registration interview.

    There are often restrictions on the registration equipment allowed inside a detention centre. If no equipment is allowed, registration will be conducted on paper by filling in a registration form, with data entered into proGres later in the Office. If possible, photographs should be taken. If tablets or laptops are allowed, registration can be conducted in RApp. If biometric equipment is allowed, biometrics should also be enrolled. 

    There are often other restrictions imposed by detention centres regulations, including those related to space, on time allowed and confidentiality. While registration staff should seek to conduct the interviews in compliance with the registration standards, this may not always be possible in detention. If the  protection benefits of registration for the detained individual outweigh considerations related to the standards then registration should proceed. A follow-up comprehensive registration in full compliance with standards and SOPs should be conducted upon release, where possible.

Quality control

  • The quality of registration data is the responsibility of all. Asylum seekers and refugees have the obligation to provide truthful information, and staff conducting registration have the obligation to record data accurately and completely and then verify the information with the concerned individual. The Registration Supervisor has the responsibility to promote strong data quality through SOPs as well as through training and shadowing to ensure that data is being recorded accurately and consistently across users. Please see the attached document on good interviewing techniques at registration.

    In addition, electronic tools help avoid data entry errors. For example, the barcode scanners avoid having to type long strings of numbers, and electronic databases contain drop-down menus, yes/no fields, set formats for dates and various built-in validations. In larger operations or exercises, there may be a data quality check desk to catch data entry errors before printing that data on to identity documentation. This may be done through a purpose-built tool or running a data quality script in proGres. SOPs should indicate which types of errors can be resolved at quality control check and which errors require correction by the interview staff in question or referral elsewhere for further investigation. Common errors include a blank field that is not mandatory on proGres but is mandatory for the operation, where last name is not capitalized, where sex is inconsistent with relationship or where specific needs code is inconsistent with sex or age.

    Good interviewing techniques for registration staff