Registration, Documentation and Identity

Registration and identification of refugees is key for the people concerned, as well as for States to know who has arrived, and facilitates access to basic assistance and protection. The process of registration enables the early identification of individuals with specific needs within a population and their referral to an available protection response. The very fact of being registered can protect against refoulement (forced return), arbitrary arrest and detention. It helps keep families together and assists UNHCR in reuniting separated children with their families.

In South Africa, the Government is the primarily responsible for Registration of Asylum Seekers and Refugees.

What are your rights and obligations as an asylum-seeker in South Africa?

What are your rights and obligations as a refugee in South Africa?

How can an asylum-seeker get registered by the Government of South Africa?

ATTENTION! The Department of Home Affairs of the South African government runs the asylum process in South Africa. If you have come to South Africa to seek asylum, it is important to apply for asylum as soon as you arrive in South Africa. Asylum documentation is important for accessing certain services and protects you and your family from arrest.

For more details on how to apply for asylum in South Africa, see the section Asylum & Refugee Status Determination.

How can an asylum-seeker or refugee renew asylum documentation in South Africa?

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) offers an online extension service of asylum-seeker and refugee documentation.

To renew your document, follow these steps:

ONE: Send an email requesting the online extension of your asylum-seeker or refugee documentation to the  Refugee Reception Office (RRO) where your last extension was made, including ONLY your permit number on the subject line. (Emails for each RRO are provided below.)

ATTENTION! The subject line of the email must contain ONLY your DHA number!

TWO: Once the request is sent to the email indicated, the DHA will reply with instructions including a template form that must be completed.

THREE: You will then need to submit the following documents:

    • The signed template with permit number, full names and surname, and full contact details (an email address, mobile phone numbers and physical address).

    • Proof of physical address in a form of a utility bill or an affidavit confirming address.

    • A copy (scan) of the current visa. If the visa is lost, you must submit an affidavit confirming that the permit is lost and indicate the previous permit reference number.

FOU: Once all documents are sent and received at the DHA, the DHA will consider the request and communicate its decision by email. In cases where a request cannot be processed online the DHA may ask you to appear in person at an RRO by sending you a letter with an appointment. This letter will provide you with the office name, date and time of their appointment.

Please note the below important information:

    • In the case of families, each member must submit a request for an extension individually.

    • Each individual application must be sent in a separate e-mail message, even if they are sent from the same email address or account.

    • The principal applicant must sign extension requests of minors, and the signature on those requests must be the same as the ones on the existing/expired permits.

    • Where a visa or permit is issued and sent via email, it will include an email address at the bottom that allows a person (for example, your employer) or organisation (for example, your bank) to write to the DHA to verify that the permit is indeed a valid one.

Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Office  Refugee visa extensions: [email protected]
Asylum seeker visa extension: [email protected]
Cape Town Refugee Reception Office  Refugee visa extensions: [email protected]
Asylum seeker visa extension: [email protected]
Musina Refugee Reception Office  Refugee visa extensions: [email protected]
Asylum seeker visa extension: [email protected]
Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) Refugee Reception Office  Refugee visa extensions: [email protected]
Asylum seeker visa extension: [email protected]
Durban Refugee Reception Office  Refugee visa extensions: [email protected]
Asylum seeker visa extension: [email protected]


What if Home Affairs does not reply to your email to extend asylum-seeker and refugee documentation?

At first, you will receive an automated response from Home Affairs within 24 hours advising you of the next steps. Please refrain from sending multiple e-mails.

If you do not receive anything after you sent an email, ensure that you have sent to the correct email and followed the guidelines above.

Should you receive an email saying, for example, “According to the system, permit number DBNCOD0000000, is still valid” and gives you a date in the future, do the following:

– Refresh your email inbox.

– Check your SPAM/JUNK emails folder.

ATTENTION! You are expected to submit your renewal request to the email addresses above (to the RRO where you last renewed your document), but the referral letter/permit from the system will come from a central email address: [email protected] .

Do NOT try to submit applications to this email, but expect the response and search your junk box for it!

I still have not received my permit, what should I do?

if you have done all the above and you still have not received your permit or even an automatic response to your application after 10 days, follow the steps below:

• Do not send any more applications or emails to the Department of Home Affairs.

• Contact one of the organisations listed on Help South Africa – Legal Assistance

Additionally, if you are facing challenges and require further assistance on the process, you can contact the UNHCR toll-Free Helpline 0800 100 030.


Only persons whose permits and visa expired since the state of disaster was declared in March 2020 can apply for renewal of permit through the online system at the moment. If your permit expired prior to this, contact one of the organisations listed on Help South Africa – Legal Assistance.

Please note that Refugee Reception Offices remain closed during this period.

This is a FREE SERVICE offered by the Department of Home Affairs. Be CAREFUL of scams and people charging money for the renewal of your documentation.

Report Corruption: 0800 701 701 or [email protected]

Frequently Asked Questions about the Online Renewal Process available here.

When does UNHCR in South Africa register asylum-seekers, refugees and stateless persons?

Although the registration of New asylum seekers remains the role of the South African government. UNHCR-South Africa also facilitates registration for persons of concern who are identified through the Refugee Helpline and Partners.

The Refugee Helpline conducts reception/pre-registrations telephonically to all persons of concern seeking assistance from UNHCR, not all persons of concern who call the Refugee Helpline require registration.

It is only necessary to conduct registration for the purposes of facilitating further assistance or protection interventions such as Refugee Status Determination and exploring durable solutions. This includes the registration of individuals who are finally rejected by the state but are found to have protection claims.

UNHCR-South Africa does not issue any documentation of registration and all registration processes are free of charge.

Frequently Asked Questions on Registration available here.

Birth Certificates ⬇

All children born in South Africa must be registered within 30 days of their birth (Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1992).

This birth certificate includes the child’s date and place of birth, name, and the parents’ names, dates of birth, places of birth and nationalities. This means that this birth certificate can prove a claim to a child’s nationality.

A parent, parents, guardian or any other person legally responsible for the child must complete Form BI-24 (with black ink only) and it must be submitted to the nearest office of the Department of Home Affairs if you are in South Africa.

Once the child’s birth has been registered, the Department of Home Affairs issues ‘unabridged’ or ‘long’ birth certificates free of charge, usually a day or so after the registration application has been submitted.

Undocumented Foreign Nationals who are born in South Africa are issued with a certificate free of charge on registration of their births.

Source and more information

Death Certificates ⬇

The Births and Deaths Registration Act requires that a person’s death be reported to any one of the following people:

  • Specific officers at the Department of Home Affairs
  • South African Police Service members, especially in areas where the Department of Home Affairs has no offices
  • South African mission, embassy or consulate, if the death occurred abroad
  • Funeral undertakers who are appointed and recognised by the law

Form BI-1663 (Notification of death/still-birth) must be completed when reporting a death. The following people have to complete different sections of this form:

  • The person reporting the death
  • A medical practitioner (where a medical practitioner is not available to complete this form, in rural areas for example, a traditional leader may complete the form)
  • A Home Affairs official (where an official from the Department of Home Affairs is not available then a member of the SA Police Services may be approached to complete the form)

A Death Report (Form BI-1680) will be issued after a death has been registered. This report can be issued only by someone whom the Department of Home Affairs has authorised to do so (this includes traditional leaders, members of the SA Police Services and authorised undertakers).

These designated people may also issue burial orders. No burial may take place unless authorised by way of a burial order (Form BI-14).

The Department of Home Affairs will issue a Death Certificate on receipt of the notification of death (Form BI-1663) and the Death Report (Form BI-1680).

You must lodge an applications for a Death Certificate at any office of the Department of Home Affairs or at any South African embassy, mission or consulate if the death occurs abroad. An abridged death certificate will be issued free of charge on the same day of registration of death. An unabridged death certificate can be obtained by completing Form BI-132 and paying the required fee.

Source and more information

Marriage Certificates ⬇

The registration of civil marriages, customary marriages and civil unions are managed by the Department of Home Affairs.

South Africa also recognizes customary marriages through the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act. Two witnesses and the marriage officer must sign the marriage register after the solemnisation of a marriage. Then the marriage officer must issue the parties with a handwritten marriage certificate (BI-27)  free of charge.

The marriage officer must then submit the marriage register to the nearest office of the Department of Home Affairs, where the marriage details will be recorded in the National Population Register (NPR).

What do you need if you are planning on getting married?

  • ensure that you are legally allowed to marry
  • understand the legal consequences of a marriage, particularly that marriages in South Africa are automatically in community of property, unless a valid ante-nuptial contract has been entered into before the marriage, and
  • make sure that your marriage will comply with all the legal requirements for a valid marriage

Should you be unsure of any of these, legal counsel should be sought before the marriage is entered into.

Any additional abridged copies or unabridged copies of the marriage certificate can be requested by:

  • Completing Form BI-130 in black ink and submitting it to the nearest office of the Department of Home Affairs or to the nearest South African embassy, mission or consulate abroad
  • Paying the prescribed fee

The first issue of an abridged marriage certificate is free, and a re-issue is R75.00

In addition to abridged or unabridged copies of a marriage certificate, you may also request the following documents after completing Form BI-130 and paying the prescribed fees:

  • A vault copy of the register
  • An abridged marriage certificate that is either computer printed or handwritten

Customary Marriages

In South Africa, the definition of a customary marriage is one that is “negotiated, celebrated or concluded according to any of the systems of indigenous African customary law which exist in South Africa”. This does not include marriages concluded in accordance with Hindu, Muslim or other religious rites.

Requirements for a customary marriages

For a customary marriage to be recognised as a valid marriage, it has to have been entered into before 15 November 2000.

However, if entered into after 15 November 2000 it must comply with the following requirements:

  • The marriage must be negotiated, entered into or celebrated in accordance with customary law
  • The prospective spouses must be above the age of 18 years
  • Both prospective spouses must consent to the marriage

Registering customary marriages

Customary marriages must be registered within three months of taking place. This can be done at any office of the Department of Home Affairs or through a designated traditional leader in areas where there are no Home Affairs offices.

The following people should present themselves at either a Home Affairs office or a traditional leader in order to register a customary marriage:

  • the two spouses (with copies of their valid identity books and a lobola agreement, if available)
  • at least one witness from the bride’s family
  • at least one witness from the groom’s family
  • and/or the representative of each of the families

In the event that the spouses were minors (or one was a minor) at the time of the customary marriage, the parents should also be present when the request to register the marriage is made.

Customary marriages are registered by completing BI-1699 and paying the required fees. An acknowledgement of receipt BI-1700 will then be issued by the Department.

Civil Unions

The Civil Union Act (effective from December 2006) allows anyone – regardless of their sexual orientation – to marry either through a civil union, a civil marriage or a customary marriage.

Civil unions may be conducted by:

  • designated marriage officers for specific religious denominations or organisations
  • designated officers employed by the Department of Home Affairs and the Magistrates’ Courts

At least two competent witnesses must be present at the ceremony.

Requirements for registering a Civil Union

  • Both persons must be 18 years or older to enter into a Civil Union
  • Both persons may not be already married in terms of any other Act.

Documents required to conclude a Civil Union

  • Valid South African identity books for both persons entering into the Civil Union
  • A valid passport if one of the partners is a foreign national
  • A completed Form DHA-1763 (Declaration for the Purpose of Marriage)
  • Form DHA-1766 (Civil Union register), which must be completed by the marriage officer
  • A completed Form DHA-1764 (Registration of a Civil Union) in which the couple must indicate whether or not they are entering into a Civil Union marriage or a Civil Union partnership
  • A copy of the Divorce Order if one of the partners was previously married but subsequently divorced.

If any of the required documentation cannot be produced, one of the partners must submit an affidavit confirming the documents cannot be made available for the purpose of concluding the Civil Union.

Source and more information

Divorce Certificates ⬇

A divorce is a process in terms of which a civil marriage, a customary marriage, civil union or marriage concluded in terms of religious rights is dissolved by a court of law.

Legal Aid South Africa has a very useful Self-Help Guide to Obtaining a Decree of Divorce.

Please seek legal advice because divorce proceedings are often complex.

Custody or Guardianship Applications ⬇

Custody refers to the parental rights and duties related to the possession, care and decision making of a child and is given by a court order.

Guardianship is an adults’ right and responsibility to:

  • Manage a child’s interests
  • Manage any assets or financial aspects of the child’s life
  • Assist the child in legal or contractual situations
  • Give consent to the child’s medical treatment, marriage or adoption
  • Give consent for the child to travel out of South Africa

South African courts normally grants guardianship to both parents as part of the divorce settlement. In certain very specific circumstances, the court may grant sole guardianship to one parent or someone who is not the biological parent.

The High Court is legally the upper guardian of all South African children. If a guardian is not fulfilling their duties the High Court can be approached to intervene and has the power to terminate a guardianship and transfer care of the child to another person or parent.

On matters related to custody and guardianship, seek support from any UNHCR’s partners listed in the Legal Assistance section or other legal practitioners. When using the services of a private lawyer, you can verify that their credentials by looking them up on the Legal Practise Council website – every lawyer who has the right to practise in South Africa is listed on that website.

Driving License ⬇

ATTENTION! All learner’s licences, driving licence cards, temporary driving licences and professional driving permits that expire during the period that commenced from 26 March 2020 up to and including 31 December 2020 are deemed to be valid and their validity periods are extended for a further grace period ending on 31 August 2021.” (Gazette 43958, 3 December 2020)

You need a driving license to drive legally on South African roads. Before applying for a driving license, you must have a learner’s license.

How to Apply for a learner’s license?

If you hold a learner’s licence you are allowed to drive only when you are supervised by a licensed driver. If the category of vehicle you are driving requires a professional driving permit, the licensed driver must also hold a professional driving permit.

A learner’s licence is a permit that proves that you have basic knowledge of a motor vehicle and the rules of the road. The learner’s licence is valid for 24 months and cannot be extended.

What you should do?

  1. Go to the nearest driving licensing testing centre (DLTC) to book a test date and confirm the booking.
  2. Take the following with you:
    • an identity document (ID)
    • two identical black-and-white ID photographs (before you have photographs taken you should confirm with the DLTC how many photos they require)
    • a booking fee.
    • Proof of postal and residential address e.g. utility account. If the utility bill is not in your name, the of owner of the bill must make an affidavit declaring that you live at the address and the utility bill must be attached to the affidavit.
    • If you stay at an informal settlement, you must bring a letter with an official date stamp from the ward councillor confirming your postal and residential address
  3. All Gauteng residents should apply online for their learners licence:
  4. Complete the Application for learner’s licence form (LL1), which is available at the DLTC. If you are 65 years or older, you must also complete a Medical certificate form (MC), which is also available at the DLTC.
  5. You will go for an eye test at the testing centre or you may have an eye test performed by a qualified optometrist and submit the form at the testing centre.
  6. Before you write the learner’s licence test, you must study road signs, motor vehicle controls and road rules to have a basic knowledge of a motor vehicle and road signs.
  7. On the day of the test you must submit the following:
    • the booking receipt
    • your ID.
  8. If you pass the test you must pay the issue fee.

How long does it take?

The learner’s license is issued on the same day if you passed and paid the relevant fee.

How much does it cost?

Contact your local licensing office for the cost.

Forms to complete

  • Application for a learner’s licence form (LL1)
  • An applicant over 65 years of age or older requires a Medical certificate form (MC)

These forms are available at any driving licence testing centre and on eNatis.

Source and more information

Police clearance certificate (PCC) and report (PCR) ⬇

A Police Clearance Certificate (PCC) is an official document issued by the Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management (CR & CSM) stating whether or not any criminal convictions have been recorded against an individual. This service is available to people who require confirmation of their criminal status for emigration purposes or for travel or employment abroad.

The issuing of a Police Clearance Certificate is the sole responsibility of Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management in Pretoria. The applicant must provide the following documents:

  • A full set of his/her fingerprints on a SAPS 91(a) when living in South Africa. The fingerprints must be taken by the South African Police Service. Persons living outside South Africa, may apply at the any police station in that country or at the South African Embassy. Fingerprints must be taken on the official fingerprint forms of the applicable country or, if available, on the SAPS 91(a) fingerprint enquiry form.
  • An application form must be duly completed.
  • A certified copy of the applicant’s identity document/passport. The applicant must present his/her identity document/passport at the police station, as proof of identity will be required.
  • Should a maiden surname and/or other surnames be required on a Police Clearance Certificate, mention must be made thereof in the application and documentary proof of the maiden surname and/or other surnames (for example a certified copy of marriage certificate) must be attached to the application.
  • Proof of payment. The prescribed fee is R150,00 per application. The required non-refundable tariff is payable in cash at the nearest police station or electronically into the South Africa Police Service’s account in favour of the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service. The banking details are as follow: ABSA cheque account number 4054522787; branch code 632005; Swift code ABSAZAJJXXX. In the case of an electronic payment, the letters “PCC” followed by the initials and surname of the applicant must be indicated as reference.

Applicants living abroad may forward the application and required documents directly to CR & CSM for processing. Applications received from abroad will not be returned to the applicant. The applicant must monitor progress via the SAPS website and upon completion arrange for collection as indicated on the application form. For security purposes the certificate will only be handed over to the person nominated by the applicant or chosen courier service. Note that certificates not collected within three months after finalisation will be destroyed.

Applicants living in South Africa may, at no additional costs to the applicant, request the police station to forward the applications to CR & CSM in Pretoria. The applicant may also in person deliver the application to CR & CSM in Pretoria or use the service of a postal or courier service at his/her own cost. For security purposes the certificate will upon completion only be handed over to the applicant or person nominated by the applicant or chosen courier service as indicated on the application form. Where the applicant requested the certificate to be returned to the police station, the responsible person at the police station must ensure that the certificate is handed over to the applicant in person. Proof of identity must be presented when the certificate is collected. Note that certificates not collected within three months after finalisation will be destroyed.

The Head: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management (For attention: Police Clearance Certificates)
South African Police Service
Private Bag X308
South Africa
The Head: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management (For attention: Police Clearance Certificates)
South African Police Service
Bothongo Plaza West
CRC Client Service Centre
1st Floor, Room 14
271 Francis Baard Street


If the applicant provides his/her cell number (currently only available in South Africa) on the application for a Police Clearance Certificate, he/she will be provided with a sms acknowledging receipt of the application and the reference number allocated to his/her certificate. A follow-up sms will be sent upon completion of the application. While the application is being processed, the applicant can establish the progress on the status of the application by enquiring on the SAPS’s website.

Click here to do an online enquiry to the South African Police Services

Incomplete applications will not be processed and a sms will be send to the applicant in this regard.

For security purposes no copies of fingerprints or scanned versions of fingerprints will be processed. Completed certificates will also not be scanned and e-mailed to applicants.

Finalisation of applications take approximately 15 working days from the date when all required documents are received at Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management. This time frame exclude postal time.

Please note that when an applicant was identified as “Wanted” by the South African Police Service, a Police Clearance Certificate will not be issued.

A Police Clearance Report (PCR) is available to people who require confirmation of their criminal status for the purpose of expungement of a criminal record. This report can be issued by any Local Criminal Record Centre (LCRC). The prescribed fee is R70,00 per report. The Police Clearance Report issued must be handed to the applicant in person upon collection. Proof of identity must be presented when the report is collected.

Source and more information

Affidavit ⬇

An affidavit is a written statement made under oath. This means that the person who is making the statement has sworn that the document contains the truth and is aware that they will be prosecuted if it is found that the contents of the affidavit (or parts thereof) are untrue. An affidavit is often needed when you have to get a copy of a lost document, or when a child is travelling with one parent or a school group.

An affidavit can be made at any police station where you will be given a form to use.

Certification of Documents ⬇

You can have copies of original documents certified at any police station, at any time.

The certification of copies is done free of charge.

You must provide your own copies. The police station’s resources such as photocopy machines and paper, are not for use by the public.

SAPS informs that you must provide the original documents when requesting to have copies certified. Copies will not be certified if the original documents are not produced for verification. Police services also requests that anyone looking to certify copies of documents is patient, as the station might have certain priorities to deal with, and it might take a while before they can attend to you.

Alternatively, you can have copies certified at the following places:

  • Lawyers or notary public (who are members of a recognised professional body)
  • Actuaries or accountants (who are members of a recognised professional body)
  • Members of the judiciary
  • Directors, managers or company secretaries of a bank or regulated financial services business.

Source and more information: South African Police Service (SAPS)

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