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4.8 Resettlement country selection

Selection missions

While UNHCR processes and submits cases for resettlement, it cannot guarantee that any given Resettlement Case will be accepted by a resettlement country. Resettlement depends on the willingness of a country to accept a refugee for legal stay on its territory, in accordance with its own laws, regulations and procedures. See the resettlement Country Chapters.

Selection missions to the field are an opportunity for States to consider a large number of Resettlement Cases at the same time through direct interviews with refugees, and to gain familiarity with the asylum context. They also provide an opportunity for dialogue between UNHCR and State officials to promote understanding of UNHCR’s priorities and strategies and for advocacy on individual cases and selection decisions.

Selection missions require good planning, as they call for considerable effort not only to prepare the agreed number of submissions ahead of time, but also to manage logistics and support during the mission itself. Once each resettlement State’s allocation of their annual quota is confirmed, the timing of the selection missions can be negotiated between the resettlement State and the UNHCR country office, in consultation with the relevant regional bureau.

Global resettlement activities involve partnership between UNHCR, resettlement countries, their diplomatic missions abroad, NGOs, Resettlement Support Centers (for the USA) and IOM. Each of these actors have an important role to play in the planning and support of resettlement selection missions.

UNHCR field/country office capacities vary, and not all will be able to support selection missions in the same way. As such, the relevant UNHCR office should conduct an early assessment of what it can and cannot provide in support of a selection mission, and, as relevant, coordinate with IOM to see where it may be able to cover what UNHCR is unable to offer. Timely notice of support capacity will enable resettlement countries to make arrangements for the support they require before and during their resettlement selection missions.

UNHCR uses a pre-mission questionnaire (PMQ) and pre-mission checklist to assist with the planning and coordination of resettlement interviews during selection missions. While not mandatory, the completion of the questionnaire by the resettlement State and UNHCR is encouraged in situations where the mission requires support from UNHCR. The checklist confirms that preparations are in place.

Sending the questionnaire back and forth between the resettlement State and the country office also helps to reach understanding and agreement on UNHCR’s capacity to provide the required support. The questionnaire and checklist address the requirements of selection missions for assistance with:

  • entry visas;
  • airport reception;
  • ground transport for the delegation;
  • accommodation;
  • orientation briefing from UNHCR upon arrival
  • facilities and services for during the mission including, e.g. interview rooms and waiting areas, security personnel, interpreters and support staff, transport for refugees, access to computers, printers, internet, cameras and other equipment;
  • interview scheduling and notification of refugees to be interviewed;
  • briefing of interpreters;
  • organization of briefing session for refugees about the interview, or cultural orientation;
  • medical examinations;
  • organization of meetings with government officials or other agencies or organizations, and
  • any other special requirements.

The questionnaire and checklist also facilitate the exchange of information regarding contact persons, dates of selection mission, number and composition of the Resettlement cases and target dates for submissions as well the information the resettlement State would like to receive in advance regarding the refugee population and/or political and security conditions in the country of asylum, and other information.

Wherever possible, visiting selection missions should rely on their own resources for interview space, transport and equipment, in order to minimize disruption to UNHCR operations in the country concerned. Before requesting assistance, missions should consider using appropriate non-UNHCR premises for interviews, such as embassies, partner premises or hotels. The availability of interpreters is often limited, and the selection mission may need to cover related costs.

In certain remote locations, UNHCR may be able to provide assistance with accommodation, for example, at a guest house within a UNHCR compound, (usually at the cost to the delegation), but this cannot be guaranteed for all remote locations.

Where selection missions are organized directly between authorities of a resettlement country and a field/country office, the relevant regional bureau and RCPS should be kept informed to coordinate missions and avoid overlaps or delays of missions to countries in the region.

UNHCR must ensure refugees are counselled on the upcoming selection mission interview, including who needs to attend the interview, the documents they should bring, transportation arrangements if applicable, and the anticipated schedule for the interview and any other briefings or checks to be conducted that day.

Field/country offices are encouraged to offer an initial briefing and a final debriefing to selection missions.

  • An initial briefing shortly after the arrival of the delegates and prior to their interviews is useful to discuss the mission schedule and logistics, the current conditions in the country of asylum and country of origin, and the profiles of Cases submitted for consideration. The briefing may also be an opportunity to present additional cases, even if they do not meet the standard admission criteria of the country concerned.
  • A final debriefing at the end of the selection mission is a useful opportunity for initial feedback as well as clarification about next steps and required follow-up. It may also be an important opportunity to ensure serious protection issues or other disclosures during selection interviews are referred to the relevant functional unit or protection partner. States are also encouraged to complete a post-mission questionnaire to assist with quality control and to provide feedback on the support provided.

Supporting virtual selection missions

Resettlement States may decide to conduct resettlement interviews remotely, using video conferencing or similar technologies, instead of undertaking in-person selection missions. Virtual selection missions (VSM) involve different logistical considerations and technical requirements, including:

  • availability of interviewing technology in the physical location of Applicants;
  • availability of back-up communication options in case of technical difficulties;
  • staffing needed on site to facilitate virtual interviews and ensure integrity;
  • scope to build flexibility and space into the interview schedule given that intense back-to-back interviewing are not strictly necessary for VSM;
  • consideration of difference in time zones between interviewer and interviewees and implications for the interview schedule;
  • availability of virtual or in-person interpretation;  
  • biometric data collection or transfer requirements of the resettlement country, and
  • delivery of virtual briefings during the VSM e.g. UNHCR to resettlement country, resettlement country to refugees.

Deferred decisions and requests for additional information from the resettlement State

As a general rule, no additional information other than the RRF and the supporting documents attached are to be shared with resettlement countries. Should representatives from a resettlement country ask for additional information, the Accountable Officer for resettlement should handle related requests, in consultation with the Personal Data Controller and the relevant regional bureau, where necessary. See UNHCR’s General Policy on Personal Data Protection and Privacy as well as 2.3 Data protection in resettlement.

Follow-up after submission

The Accountable Officer for resettlement ensures regular follow-up on all submissions either directly with resettlement States, where they are made locally, or through the relevant regional bureau and/or RCPS, where necessary. The Accountable Officer also ensures a timely response by UNHCR in cases where decisions and/or post-submission case processing are deferred by resettlement countries for necessary action by UNHCR.

It is particularly critical to monitor emergency, and urgent submissions, and to follow up with the resettlement State when the deadlines have passed without decisions. UNHCR should seek a clear explanation for a delayed decision, and a realistic indication as to when a decision is expected. Should an expeditious decision not be possible, consideration may be given to withdraw the case for resubmission to a resettlement State able to issue a quick decision. See Withdrawal below.

The resettlement State should also be contacted when there are excessive delays in scheduling interviews for locally submitted normal priority cases, or in issuing decisions after interviews. 

Change of circumstances post-submission

UNHCR offices must ensure that case-related changes or new information relevant to Resettlement Case members’ protection needs and/or eligibility that come to light post-submission are recorded in proGres and immediately communicated to the resettlement country.

Changes in Resettlement Case composition (adding or removing case members) will usually require a revised RRF, for example:

  • Death, divorce and other changes in family composition and/or civil status resulting in the withdrawal of an individual from an already submitted Resettlement Case.
  • Birth, marriage, newly joined family members and other changes in family composition and/or civil status resulting in a request to add individuals to an already submitted Resettlement Case.

Relevant available supporting documentation (e.g. birth certificate) should also be provided to the resettlement country.

With the exception of new-borns, individuals who request to join the Resettlement Case should be interviewed and subject to the usual RSD and protection processes (e.g. BIA/ BID), as relevant. Certain post-submission changes may warrant a reassessment of resettlement needs and/or a change in resettlement submission category (e.g. in the case of a newly arrived parent joining a case submitted under the “Children and adolescents at risk” submission category).

See Withdrawal below for changes of circumstances post-submission that may prompt UNHCR to either withdrawal and resubmit the Case to another country or withdraw and close the Case.

Where a post-submission change or new information amounts to an inconsistency that must be referred to the Anti-Fraud Focal Point under UNHCR’s Policy on Addressing fraud Committed by persons of Concern, the resettlement State authorities are requested to place the case on hold pending UNHCR’s assessment and, if necessary, investigation. See internal guidance available within 2.6 Fraud and misconduct.


UNHCR may choose to withdraw a case before the State in question has rendered a decision. Withdrawals, like denied cases, are reviewed and evaluated to determine if resubmission is appropriate.

The following circumstances may prompt UNHCR to withdraw a Resettlement Case and resubmit it to another country:

  • New circumstances (for example, family links, quota reallocation, impending selection mission) that make resubmission to a State other than the State of original submission preferable, logical or necessary, and/or
  • Protection needs of the Case members necessitating for more rapid decision making than a particular resettlement State is able to provide. See Responses to delays in processing in 4.9 Resettlement country decision.

The following circumstances may prompt UNHCR to withdraw a Resettlement Case and not resubmit it to another country, unless circumstances change:

  • New information or circumstances suggesting that submission for resettlement is inappropriate, such as when the basis for submission has substantially changed or ceased to exist.
  • The individual cannot be contacted in the country of asylum.
  • The individual wishes to withdraw from resettlement.
  • In exceptional circumstances, in the case of fraud committed by the individual. See UNHCR’s Policy on Addressing Fraud Committed by Persons of Concern and internal guidance available within 2.6 Fraud and misconduct.

UNHCR may also withdraw a Case after the State in question has rendered a decision, in very specific cases, such as split decisions, where the accepted Case members are withdrawn and resubmitted together with the denied Case members (see 4.9 Resettlement country decision).