Emergency registration
© UNHCR/Adam Dean
6.5 Registration interview and data collection

In order to determine the volume of individual data required, the objectives of the registration activity must be clear, including admissibility criteria. At the onset of a large-scale emergency, group-pre-registration may be conducted as a way of obtaining the minimum information necessary to organize and plan the emergency response ahead of individual registration. However, whether or not group level registration is conducted, individual registration is required in all emergency contexts (see IER below).

To prepare for registration interviews, the Registration and Identity Management Officer must ensure that interviewing staff:

    • Have been trained on SOPs, including which profiles should be referred to protection staff;

    • Have been trained on the use of tools in the operation (e.g. RApp, proGres, BIMS);

    • Have all the reference documents in their possession that they need to work as efficiently as possible, including standard codes, the agreed registration data set, SOPs explaining processes, roles and accountabilities, and other supporting documents;

    • Have the accessory tools required to facilitate referrals, as relevant.

Data collection for Group Pre-registration

  • Group pre-registration is the collection of core data on a group level. Group pre-registration is primarily used to organize movements of populations (see 6.3), facilitate initial assistance distribution and schedule for individual registration. Information collected at the group level is not accepted as formal registration given that information required to determine whether an individual may be inadmissible for registration is not adequately collected at this level. A group pre-registration interview with a family of five is estimated to take approximately 3 minutes. Group pre-registration can be conducted using RApp or a paper control sheet. See Module 5.1 for further guidance on group pre-registration.

    To facilitate an efficient process:

    • The group focal point may be allowed to represent the whole family, including absent family members (according to SOPs);
    • The list of specific needs to be identified should be established in consultation with protection and field staff and limited to those that can be identified with minimal training;
    • Fixing tokens are recommended to be issued where ration cards are not yet being issued. Depending on the circumstances, wristbands can also be used. No other documentation is usually issued, unless an appointment slip for individual registration interview (IER).
    • In certain circumstances, including where UNHCR is operating under a low profile, a mobile or shelter-to-shelter approach using RApp can be a suitable pre-registration methodology.
  • The minimum dataset for group pre-registration is the following:

    • Group size
    • Age cohort/sex breakdown
    • Name of group focal point
    • Country of origin of group focal point
    • Specific needs within the group
    • Unique group identifier
    • Pre-registration date
    • GPS coordinates (optional and only where pre-registration is mobile and not in a registration centre)

    More data can be added to this minimum dataset according to information requirements in the operation.

Data collection for Individual Emergency Registration (IER)

  • Whether or not group pre-registration has been conducted for organized movement or scheduling, individual registration is required in all emergency contexts. The minimum dataset for IER includes data for all individuals in a group, along with a limited set of group-level data.

  • The minimum dataset for IER is the following:

    Data taken from registration group focal point (these data fields will auto-fill for all other individuals in the group):

    • Date of arrival
    • Registration date
    • Group unique identifier
    • Legal status
    • Current CoA address (if available)
    • Phone number (if available)
    • Consent/prohibition to share information


    Data taken from all individuals in the group:

    • Individual names (full name)
    • Sex
    • Date of birth
    • Relationship to group focal point
    • Marital status
    • Country of origin
    • Specific needs
    • Photo
    • Biometrics
  • IER enables the creation of distribution lists, the identification and referral of persons with specific needs, and the issuance of individual identity documentation as well as ration cards to facilitate access to assistance and services. IER should be conducted using RApp or proGres, and takes, on average, 15 minutes for a family of five. Collection of biometrics (irises only) for a family of five takes an additional 4 minutes, while collection of both irises and fingerprints takes an additional 10 minutes. Additional data elements may be built into the standard data set depending on data needs in the emergency operation. The Registration and Identity Management Officer should define the IER data set with protection colleagues, in light of:

    • Context specific data requirements, including specific needs data to be identified for assessment and referral to available or planned services
    • Individual admissibility criteria for the emergency registration exercise and the data required to identify persons not covered by the exercise

    It is important to bear in mind that additional data fields added to the minimum IER dataset will add to the time and resources needed to complete registration. Additional data should be determined in accordance with the purpose of registration, the programmatic and protection uses of the data and availability of human and other resources.

Conducting interviews

  • Registration interviews in an emergency context should follow the same general approach as interviews in regular registration activities, set out in Module 5.2.

    1. Conduct pre-interview counselling: Staff may conduct counselling about the general purpose and process of registration (including the importance of continuous registration) as group counselling if necessary. However, counselling on consent and other issues affecting individual rights and obligations must always be conducted individually.
    2. Identify those who should be referred: Persons with specific needs identified during the interview should be referred to protection staff, as per SOPs. Individuals identified as fighters, members of the local population and other considered unlikely to be admissible for registration should also be referred to the Protection Desk, as per SOPs.
    3. Allow individuals to review the information recorded about themselves and their family when the interview is completed, and to confirm that the information provided is true and correct. 

    The presence of protection staff during registration is indispensable. Protection during registration is a shared responsibility, and protection and other specialized colleagues including staff with expertise in SGBV and child protection should be on hand during emergency registration to assess and refer urgent cases. It is important to remember that the registration interview is a rare occasion in which every refugee is seen individually by UNHCR; it is critical that the right questions are asked, accurate information is recorded, and vulnerable individuals are identified and referred to protection interventions.

Biometric enrolment

  • The use of biometrics in emergencies is strongly recommended. BIMS can function in all infrastructure settings, from stable connectivity to a fully off-line context. If time is a major constraint, it may be decided to collect iris scans only, since it is faster. In this case, fingerprints must be recorded during continuous registration at a later date. BIMS can then be integrated into all protection and assistance processes, thereby enhancing efficiencies throughout the emergency response. Further guidance on biometric enrolment, including photographs, can be found in Module 6.5.


  • The registration strategy (see 6.2) should set out the type of documentation to be issued. During registration, any accessory documents issued earlier in the process should be replaced with an identity document and a standard ration card for assistance purposes, as agreed with protection staff, national authorities and key partners (e.g. WFP). The serial number, ration card number or other unique identifier on the document must be recorded in proGres. Partners in the emergency should be trained on how to use the ration card for assistance purposes.

    Robust tracking mechanisms need to be in place to safeguard against fraudulent use of sensitive registration material. The Fraud Vulnerability Checklist (for UNHCR-internal use only) highlights a number of anti-fraud measures related to documentation:

    • If paper UNHCR Asylum-Seeker or Refugee Certificates are issued, they must be printed on secure paper provided by the DIRS stockpile, or according to dimensions and specifications provided by the stockpile. Alternatively, they should be designed, specified and shared with the Regional Registration and Identity Management Officer/ DIRS to ensure consistency with UNHCR standards on documentation.

    • The design and specifications of asylum seeker and refugee ID cards issued by UNHCR or jointly with the government have been shared with the Regional Registration and Identity Management Officers/ DIRS to ensure consistency with UNHCR standards on documentation.

    • Entitlement documents are ordered from the DIRS stockpile, and include enhanced security features, unique barcode and serial number. The design and specifications of any locally customized entitlement document have been shared with the Regional Registration and Identity Management Officer / DIRS to ensure consistency with UNHCR standards on documentation.

    • UNHCR seals, stamps and secure paper and other items related to document security are securely stored when not in use, and there are procedures in place outlining by whom and when they may be used.

    • Procedures for approving and issuing UNHCR documentation are clear and known to relevant staff members and set out in SOPs.

    • All appointment slips, waiting tokens and other similar documentation used by UNHCR have security features and clear procedures for issuance and approval.

  • In addition, a UNHCR staff member should be responsible for identity document and ration card stock management, and procedures should be in place for the release and daily tracking of these materials. Tracking should include “spoilt” material, such as erroneously punched ration cards or security paper damaged during the print process. Unused material should be returned to secure storage at the end of the day. Refer to Module 5.3 for detailed guidance on documentation and related procedures.