How Do I Get Recognized as a Refugee by UNHCR?

1. Apply for asylum at UNHCR

Refugees begin by submitting an application in a mailbox at the entrance of the UNHCR office in Bangkok.

It is important to submit an application to UNHCR as soon as possible so that you can be registered as an asylum seeker with UNHCR.

UNHCR will then call the main person in the application to schedule a registration appointment.  Once you are registered, you will receive an asylum seeker certificate stating that you are under the protection of UNHCR. You will also receive an interview date. For new arrivals, this may be as far as four years from registration.

Asylum Seeker Certificate

In Thailand, the asylum seeker certificate does not grant any legal rights or protections but many organisations, including UNHCR’s implementing partners, require that you have an asylum seeker certificate before you will be eligible for services.

Asylum seeker certificates include a UNHCR registration number, which in Thailand always follows 815­-YYCXXXXX. So the first refugee registered in 2015 will be assigned a number like 815­15C00001. When a family is registered, UNHCR identifies the main applicant and his or her dependents. Generally, spouses and any children under the age of 18 are registered under the same UNHCR number. Adult children and extended family receive their own UNHCR registration number. 

2. RSD Interview: First Instance Interview

The next step is called a first instance interview or RSD interview. This interview is with a UNHCR eligibility officer and takes place at UNHCR. It can range from a few hours on one day to multiple separate interviews. The length of the interview is not indicative of how strong or weak the claim is; rather, it generally reflects the complexity of the case because more complex cases often take longer for the eligibility officer to understand and assess. After the first instance interview, the eligibility officer will assess the whole claim and make a decision.

3. Results

UNHCR will call you to schedule a meeting to tell you the result.  Some decisions are made within a month of the RSD interview and some decisions take over a year to be made. This depends on the case, and there is no way to find out how long your case will take.

If you are recognized as a refugee, you will receive a refugee certificate to replace your asylum seeker certificate. UNHCR will then schedule a meeting for you and the Resettlement Team, who are in charge of submitting the your case to different countries for resettlement.

If you are rejected, an officer will read the rejection letter to you (with an interpreter if necessary). You usually have 30 days to file an appeal. Currently, UNHCR Thailand has extended the deadline to 90 days, but this could be changed in the future. After 90 days, if no appeal is filed, the case is closed and your asylum seeker certificate expires.

4. Appeals

If you decide to appeal the decision, you must submit an appeal within 90 days of receiving your rejection letter. For more information on appeals, click here to go to “What happens if UNHCR does not recognize me as a refugee?”

5. Re-­openings

In some limited circumstances, if a case is closed, it is possible for you to request that UNHCR re­-open the case and review your claim again. For more information on re-openings, click here to go to “What happens if UNHCR does not recognize me as a refugee?”


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