Are you a person that UNHCR Iran can support?

In general, asylum-seekers, refugees, returnees, and stateless / at risk of statelessness populations are Persons of Concern to UNHCR.

 Different Groups that UNHCR supports in Iran:

1. Afghan Amayesh and Iraqi Hoviat Card Holders (Prima Facie Refugees)

After the first Amayesh and Hoviat registration exercise in 2001, BAFIA established a process through which Amayesh and Hoviat card holders can renew their cards annually. Although it is stated on the Amayesh card that it is a “Foreign Nationals Temporary Residence Card”, it effectively translates to refugee status in the context of Iran and provides the holders of the card the protection accorded to refugees.

To UNHCR’s knowledge, only Afghan and Iraqi nationals previously registered in the Amayesh and Hoviat database have been able to enroll in the subsequent re-registration exercises. Children can only be registered as Amayesh or Hoviat card holders if both their parents are valid Amayesh or Hoviat card holders.

Since 2013, private institutions designated by the Government (Kefalat centres) have been in charge of the administrative component of the Amayesh and Hoviat registration exercise, collecting the documents and receipts required for the renewal of Amayesh and Hoviat cards, as well as the issuance of Temporary Work Permits.  

In October 2020, BAFIA publicly announced that, according to the official statistics of the Government of Iran, 780,000 Afghan Amayesh and 20,000 Iraqi Hoviat card holders (in total 800,000) are residing in Iran. [1]

Rights and obligations of Amayesh and Hoviat card holders

There is no legal document defining the rights or obligations that Amayesh and Hoviat status confers on an individual. Effectively, Amayesh and Hoviat cards grant the holders temporary stay in a province for the period of their validity and enable the holders to apply for work permits. Permission must be obtained for any travel outside the province of registration. Those with expired Amayesh and Hoviat cards and those travelling outside their provinces of registration are at risk of arrest, detention and deportation.

The entitlements conferred by Amayesh and Hoviat status include access to education, health services, health insurance, and employment within predefined fields, if a work permit is obtained.

Amayesh and Hoviat card holders who live in Iran are not allowed to obtain a driving license (including motorcycle). Consequently, any refugee driving a motor vehicle violates traffic rules and is engaging in illegal conduct. In case of an accident resulting in injuries, death or financial damages while driving without a license, the driver may be held responsible and subject to pay damages or sentenced to prison. UNHCR offices have limited capacity to assist in such cases.

Attempt to irregular border crossing leads to the cancelation of the Amayesh card and deportation.

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2.  Passport & Visa Holders

A Family Passport is an official document issued by the Afghan Government certifying the holders’ identity and citizenship, and entitling them to travel under its protection to and from foreign countries. They were issued to undocumented Afghan nationals in Iran who participated in the “Comprehensive Regularization Plan” (CRP) introduced in 2010. The CRP allowed undocumented Afghans to register with the Government of Iran and receive an Afghan passport and a visa.

The key benefits of being a passport/visa holder, as opposed to an Amayesh card holder, is the possibility of obtaining a driving license, more access to job opportunities, and greater freedom of movement within Iran.

All Amayesh holders who want to enroll at Iranian universities are obliged to exchange their Amayesh status for a passport with student visa.

3.   Foreign Nationals in Iran without Valid Entry/Residence Documents (Undocumented)

Undocumented individuals are those Persons of Concern holding expired legal stay documentation i.e. Amayesh/Hoviat cards or visas, as well as a large population who have resided in Iran for decades or have recently arrived, and who never held any legal documentation.

Those without any form of registration are at risk of arrest and deportation. They are not eligible for any formal job categories, access to UPHI (some exceptions in case of extreme vulnerability), or financial services.

4.    Education Support Card Holders (Blue Card)

 Since 2015, Iran began allowing undocumented children of Afghan nationals to have access to primary and secondary education.

Undocumented foreign national students can only enroll in schools with a special education protection paper, which is issued by BAFIA solely for the purpose of enrollment in schools in the province of issuance. In the absence of proper documentation, this document contains personal information declared by the applicant and is valid only for one year.

5.    Population Groups at Risk of Statelessness

Some people in Iran are at risk of not being given Iranian citizenship or being counted as a citizen of any country. Not being recognized as a citizen of any country makes a person Stateless. This greatly limits their access to government services, identity documents and future opportunities.

In Iran, people may be denied citizenship if they are not able to prove that they are of Iranian origin. This often happens when the father of a child is not Iranian. Other groups that have difficulty proving their Iranian origin are Feili Kurds, Khavaris, Zabolis, Lakzaee tribes and Baluchis.

The Government of Iran is taking concrete steps towards the prevention and reduction of statelessness by allowing Iranian mothers to pass their nationality to their children enabling them to better access education, health care and job opportunities. If you are an Iranian mother, married to a non-Iranian man, you can now request for passing your Iranian nationality to your child(ren). A Shenasnameh, (the National ID booklet) will provide your child(ren) with the same rights and privileges as any Iranian national is given upon birth. If you believe you might be at risk of statelessness, you may get in touch with UNHCR for advice and support.

[1] Figures from the Q4 meeting , 1st October 2020. Waiting for confirmation from BAFIA on the latest figures and their usage.