Continuous registration and verification
© UNHCR/Roger Arnold
8.3 Verification exercises
  • Verifications are a time-bound registration activity conducted in a specific area and/or for a specific population and consist of verifying and updating individual registration records and collecting additional information, as necessary. Verification exercises re-establish accurate population figures at a given moment in time, producing the data needed to determine assistance requirements and design relevant protection programming.

    Verifications are critical in contexts where continuous registration is not conducted, whether due to staffing or other operational issues, or because it does not work well for reasons linked to the country context or protection environment. In addition, verifications may be preferable to continuous registration, for example:

    • Where there has been a large and sudden change in population size as a result of an influx, onward movement or spontaneous departure, verification can quickly reestablish accurate population figures;
    • In a post-emergency context, where the initial emergency registration collected only minimum information, verification may be conducted to expand and improve population data before continuous registration processes are established;
    • Where there are concerns of multiple registration or fraud committed by persons of concern, verification (with biometrics) can confirm accurate population figures more quickly than continuous registration activities;
    • Where documentation issuance is necessary to provide immediate protection, verification enables UNHCR to reach the whole population of concern more quickly than continuous registration.


    Comprehensive verification interviews combined with the use of biometrics significantly improve the quality of data in relation to population size and uniqueness of identity, and also tend to result in a reduction in the registered population, through more accurately identifying double registrations, spontaneous departures and unreported deaths.

    It is recommended to conduct verification exercises every two years.

    UNHCR verifications are increasingly tracked on publicly available live portals that show overall progress as well as pace of verification on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and by site/location.

Planning for verification

  • Contrary to other registration activities, which are often initiated in reaction to events such as emergencies or other humanitarian situation requiring immediate action, verification exercise are planned activities and scheduled according to a timeline established by the Office in consultation with the Regional Bureau and in light of constraints, capacity and required lead times. Verifications are costly exercises, and preparations10 should be exhaustive, well-documented and carried out according to a detailed plan. The plan should include the initial consultation stage, strategy development and resourcing, designing processes and SOPs, preparing and equipping sites and recruiting and training11 staff.

    Verification exercises also provide a unique opportunity to carry out other activities at the same time: case management interviews, surveys, screening, or other interventions12 that require access to all individuals within a population. As such, the Registration and Identity Management Officer needs to consult with other functional units and operational partners during the planning stage in relation to potential collaboration. Other activities may be conducted using different tools and databases, but the results should, to the extent possible, also be reflected in proGres, whether in terms of eligibility for assistance, specific needs code or updating individual or group records in any other proGres module.

    10 See Module 3 generally for guidance on planning large registration activities, and refer to Module 4 for guidance on information campaigns and communicating with communities ahead of a verification exercise.

    11 When developing training for staff recruited for a verification, the Registration and Identity Management Officer should analyse the existing registration data in proGres concerning the population to be verified (e.g. running a data script) to inform training based on existing gaps and errors in the data.

    12 For example, vaccination campaigns, nutritional screening, questionnaires on access to services (e.g. school attendance), socio-economic surveys to inform assistance targeting.

  • Household survey for random sample-size

    As part of a verification in Kakuma camp, a team of enumerators conducted a socio-economic survey (50+ questions) for a sub-sample of the population verified in Kalobeyei (villages just outside of the camp). The same methodology could be used for other surveys, in order to leverage the existing infrastructure/ staffing associated with the verification.

  • Planning a verification in a camp or settlement context

    Module 3 provides guidance on strategy, budget, data sets, SOPs, tools, staffing, infrastructure and set-up in relation to initial registration activities, and verification exercises will involve many of the same considerations.

  • Planning a verification in an urban context

    In general, verification exercises are better suited to settlement or camp settings than urban contexts. However, verifications may occasionally be appropriate in urban contexts as well, for example, where urban refugees are included in a country-wide verification exercise mainly targeting settlement-based or camp-based refugees, or where continuous registration is ineffective for context-specific reasons including practical difficulty, the existence of legal, security, protection risks or financial cost. The involvement of partners should be explored as an alternative to direct implementation, where appropriate, in particular in terms of fulfilling child protection and other functions during the verification.

    Although the procurement of materials and equipment as well as organising transport, power, connectivity and water are often usually easier and more reliable due to availability of items and services in an urban environment, urban verifications often involve significant logistical challenges, including:

    • Site identification: Finding a site that is large enough and in reasonable proximity to where refugee populations are residing may be challenging. Schools and other similar facilities may be the best option but are likely to be of limited availability to UNHCR (e.g. only during school vacations). In addition, the costs of renting a venue, preparing the building for verification and rehabilitating it afterwards, as well as ensuring adequate water and sanitation facilities during the verification may be substantially higher than in camps and settlements;

    • Information campaign and scheduling: Refugees may be dispersed in various neighbourhoods making communication activities challenging and more costly, with bulk SMS and other digital forms of communication often necessary. Scheduling and other important information (including the fact that services are free of charge) may not reach everyone easily and may require significant outreach activities and support from partners;

    • Protection issues: depending on the protection space in the country of asylum refugees may be exposed to a greater diversity of protection risks than in a camp or settlement context;

    • Congestion and traffic issues in a busy urban area can be exacerbated by the crowding of those awaiting verification. Crowding issues need to be mitigated to avoid security risks and other challenges associated with disruption to surrounding businesses and/or residences;

Budget and resources

  • The success of a verification exercise is contingent on proper planning, which includes sourcing the relevant human and financial resources to carry out the exercise. Verification planning should be carried out in consultation with the Regional Bureau and as part of OL planning (where known in advance) or as part of request for OL increase, in the case of emergency.

    The cost of verification exercises varies globally as a result of several factors, including size of population of concern, whether UNHCR conduct registration directly, or on behalf of or in support of the Government and the cost of living. The nature of the operation bears significantly on the cost with regard to whether it is an emergency or protracted situation, camp or urban, number of sites, distances between sites as well as existing capacity and infrastructure. Costs can be significantly lowered where the Government or an implementing partner are able to provide a school, office or other premises to conduct the verification. The volume of data to be collected (e.g. minimum emergency data set or comprehensive data set for case management), also affects the estimated cost of verification activities. Each additional question added to the registration data set equates to additional time, which translates into additional costs incurred.

    In addition, there are a number of ‘hidden’ costs to verification exercises that are not reflected in the verification budget, specifically with regard to leveraging existing staff and existing infrastructure for the exercise. For example, existing Registration, Data Management, Information Management and Protection staff may be engaged to support a verification exercise, for which related salary costs will not be reflected.

    See Module 3.2. (Ad hoc registration strategy) for guidance on financial considerations as well as a sample budget for verifications.

Implementing verification: Process flow

    • Reception/ Access

      Reception/ Access – Verify the households presenting for verification meet admissibility criteria for the exercise and are scheduled to be called on that day. Counsel inadmissible persons out of the process, advising how they may become registered, if appropriate.

    • Intake/ admission

      Intake/ Admission – Biometric ID check to verify individuals are already registered and match photo/biometrics registered against their name; print family fact-sheet.

    • (Litigation desk)

      (Litigation desk) – in case of data-related issues (e.g. household not found in proGres, no biometric match, false match or other BIMS related issues, number of individuals present exceeding registered family size, other technical issues).

    • Registration interview

      Registration interview – expanded dataset, according to data needs of the operation; correction and updating of biodata and other data collected at registration, referral of PWSN recover old identity documents/rations cards, according to SOPs.

    • (Protection desk)

      (Protection desk) – to receive and address protection issues arising during the registration interview or any other point in the process flow.

    • New photograph and biometric enrolment

      New photograph and biometric enrolment – photo to update ID documentation, BIMS re-enrolment not needed unless images are damaged; children over 5 should be enrolled.

    • Quality control

      Quality control – Quality control – check all data is correct before sending to documentation.

    • Documentation

      Documentation – re-issuance of documentation (ration card, ID card, attestation, etc).

  • Access, intake and reception

    Individuals are required to be physically present at verification in order for their records to remain active in proGres, counted in ration cards, eligible for assistance and issued documentation. Documents re-issued during verification are amended to reflect the number of individuals present at the exercise. Individuals who are absent during verification will have their records inactivated unless they present themselves for verification on an assigned day or within the ‘grace period’13 communicated in the information campaign and advised to the other members of the registration group. The absent individual should be requested to approach UNHCR accompanied by the (already verified) registration group focal point and with the ration card and family attestation/ documentation in hand (if applicable), in order for registration staff to replace them with new documentation to reflect the revised group size. SOPs should determine how Registration staff should respond to unexplained absences, especially of children, vulnerable individuals or others depending on the protection risks in the context.

    Conversely, there may be newly arrived or otherwise unregistered family members14 accompanying a registration group to their verification interview. According to SOPs, the new family members may be added (see 8.2. Add an individual to an existing registration group) to the registration group, and a revised ration card, family attestation and/or other documentation issued to reflect the new registration group size. Other relatives (grandparents, cousins, etc) may not be eligible to be registered during the verification, depending on SOPs and the admissibility criteria established for the verification exercise. If they are not admissible, SOPs should ensure that such individuals are counselled on how and when to approach UNHCR for initial registration outside of the verification exercise. Specific procedures should be in place to ensure separated or unaccompanied children are not unduly left out of registration, even if they approach during a verification.

    Pre-interview steps in the process flow should also identify any other discrepancies that require assessment before individuals proceed to interview. For example, an individual may be identified by government partners as a member of the local population or suspected to be a fighter/combatant or otherwise not of concern15 to UNHCR. Equally, an individual may not be admissible to the verification exercise because he or she falls outside of the admissibility criteria established for the exercise. In such cases, registration staff should counsel individuals out of the process and/or refer them to the protection desk, as per SOPs.

    Individuals with specific needs should be prioritized throughout all steps of the verification process, including, access, intake and reception.

    13 Typically 6 weeks, depending on the operational context. When justified, individuals may be scheduled for a mobile registration at a different time.

    14 Family members to be added to a registration group during verification must fulfil the criteria for membership of a registration group in the operational context, i.e. 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.

    15 An individual may no longer be of concern due to final rejection of asylum claim, cessation, cancellation or revocation of refugee status, or death.

  • Interview, quality control and documentation

    Module 5 provides guidance on interviews and documentation at initial registration, much of which will apply to verifications. Furthermore, 8.2. contains detailed guidance on updating registration and identity data during continuous registration, which is applicable to verifications.

  • Key tasks at verification interview

  • Verify the identity of the individual through photograph and biometric checks. Issues arising during biometric identification procedures to be resolved and/or escalated, according to SOPs. (see also the BIMS Quick Reference Guide);

    Verify that the individual is still of concern to UNHCR, that is, depending on the context, he/she:

    Verify and update registration group composition and family relationships (see Determine family relationships in Module 5);

    Verify and update registration and identity data and refer individuals with specific needs for further assessment and action, according to SOPs; 

    Update photo and biometrics, as necessary (see 8.2. Update photographs and biometrics);

    Record each individual as “verified” using the ‘verification’ entity (see Reporting for verification below);

    Issue a printed copy of the registration data collected to make sure all data is correct before issuing proper documents (in v4, ‘individual summary’ report);

    Issue renewed documentation when all information has been verified (see 8.2. Document renewal, replacement, reissuance and cancellation).

  • Expanded data set

    Where protection, assistance and solutions activities in an operation have expanded or otherwise evolved since the last registration exercise, the data requirements for programme planning and delivery may also have expanded or evolved. As such the data set applied in a verification exercise may be larger than that which had been previously collected for the same population, leading to longer interviews. This has implications for staffing calculations and expected duration of the verification exercise as a whole. See Define the Dataset in Module 3 to consider the different standard minimum data sets and the average interviewing times. For verifications, the recommended data set is Individual Comprehensive Registration (ICR).16

    Where the verification is being used as an opportunity to carry out other activities requiring individual interview or other form of participation, the verification duration will be further increased.

    16 Except where the collection of the related data is not justified under UNHCR’s Data Protection policy.

  • Specific needs

    Updating specific needs at verification is essential. This information is crucial for UNHCR and partners to plan activities that cater specifically for the vulnerabilities prevailing within the population of concern. Where UNHCR is not leading the verification but supporting a government verification exercise, UNHCR should always advocate for the recording of specific needs as part of the data set. New specific needs should be identified and recorded and previously recorded needs should be referred to Protection colleagues to be re-validated or inactivated, according to SOPs.

    Refer to 8.2. (Update specific needs) for guidance on recording and updating specific needs in the context of continuous registration activities. In addition, general guidance on recording and updating specific needs can be found in module Module 5.1. and Module 5.2.

  • proGres v4 data entry guidance on specific needs is available here

  • Quality control and documentation

    Quality control is an essential step before the printing of new documentation. Quality control staff should ensure there is no missing or inconsistent information (e.g. sex is consistent with name and marital status, specific needs align with age or sex where necessary, relatives are correctly entered, in particular in the case of parents of unaccompanied or separated children). Once all information has been verified for accuracy, the quality control staff may send the updated record for printing (in the form of an ID card, attestation, or other secure identity document). The registration group will also receive a new ration card, as applicable.

    See 8.2. (Document renewal, replacement, reissuance and cancellation) as well as Module 5.3 (Documentation) for guidance on issuing, renewing and cancelling ID cards, and staff should refer to the RSD Procedural Standards on issuing refugee documentation.

Reporting for verification

  • The results of verification exercises should be systematically reported by country operations. This applies both in cases where UNHCR manages the verification activity entirely and where UNHCR supports the government in registration, using UNHCR tools. The baseline population figures and demographics of the population to be verified should be recorded prior to the start of the exercise and re-assessed at the end of the verification exercise. The results of the verification exercise should allow country operations to determine:

    • The net increase or decrease in population figures;
    • Percentage of the population enrolled in BIMS, as appropriate;
    • Data inconsistencies that were identified and corrected during the exercise;
    • Inconsistencies and potential integrity issues identified, resolved and/or referred;
    • Number of persons with vulnerabilities identified and referred;
    • Number of persons issued identity documentation to secure protection;
    • The average cost of the exercise, per refugee.

    Where verification exercises reveal significant differences between estimated and actual populations, this difference should be highlighted to senior management in the operation and region to assess the impact on resourcing requirements and allocation and reflect the revised population figures in the budget for the following year.

    The verification entity in proGres v4 allows operations to both plan, track and report on the progress of a verification or continuous registration exercise. All individuals whose records have been updated and verified, whether by way of continuous registration or through verification exercise should be recorded as ‘verified’ using the verification entity. The verification entity also facilitates tracking on the use and frequency of verification exercise globally.

Link to civil registration

  • Verifications can play an important role in systematically identifying refugee children born in the country of asylum who are not in possession of birth documentation. UNHCR should establish procedures by which such cases are referred to the local authorities for the purposes of birth registration and the issuance of related documentation. The identification and follow up of births not yet registered in the civil registration system helps prevent statelessness among the refugee population and promotes access to documentation proving legal identity. See 8.2. (Record new births) for more on UNHCR’s role in birth registration.