What is Resettlement?

Resettlement is one of the three durable solutions. Resettlement to a third country involves the selection and movement of a refugee from his/her country of asylum (South Africa) to another country that has agreed to admit him/her as a refugee and to permanently settle there.

Resettlement is a limited solution available to refugees who meet very specific requirements. The criteria are defined by the Resettlement Country, specific protection needs and particular vulnerabilities. UNHCR monitors individual cases of refugees on an ongoing basis and determines those eligible for Resettlement Consideration.

Who can be considered for Resettlement?

Resettlement Identification is done regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, education, level, social status, nationality or religion. Yet, in order to be identified for Resettlement, you need to meet the Resettlement criteria.

No refugee is automatically entitled to be considered for Resettlement after living a certain number of years in their country of asylum.

How does UNHCR decide who is submitted for Resettlement?

Considering Resettlement criteria and the limited Resettlement places, not everyone who wants to be resettled will be resettled. The other two durable solutions – voluntary repatriation and local integration – are equally considered in each refugee’s situation.

Each year, Resettlement Countries decide how they will allocate Resettlement places among the millions of refugees throughout the world, and UNHCR can only process cases for Resettlement submission within existing limits. Refugees must therefore be realistic about the chances of being submitted for Resettlement by UNHCR.

The resettlement countries, and not UNHCR, make the final decision concerning the resettlement of a refugee.

Refugees do not apply for resettlement. Cases are identified through the information gathered by UNHCR through a variety of channels.

UNHCR identifies refugees based on their protection needs and continuously reviews the situation of highly vulnerable families to assess whether they meet resettlement criteria.

Resettlement is not a right and is not available to everyone granted refugee status. Places are limited and Resettlement Countries choose how many refugees to resettle.

Who is involved in the Resettlement process?

UNHCR only identifies cases for Resettlement Consideration to Resettlement Countries. The authorities of the Resettlement Countries make the decision as to whether a refugee will be accepted for Resettlement. Each Resettlement Country has its own regulations and procedures for Resettlement of refugees. These include medical screenings, security clearances and, in some cases, a further interview with the Immigration Authorities of the country of Resettlement.

If I was interviewed during the Protection Intake, Profiling or met a UNHCR staff, does that mean that I will automatically be considered for Resettlement?

No. Protection Intake interviews, Profiling interviews, open consultations in UNHCR offices, or other counselling with UNHCR staff aim to provide a general assessment of an individual refugee’s situation and not for Resettlement. If you are considered for Resettlement, you will be specifically contacted by UNHCR Resettlement Unit. If you are not contacted, that means you are not being considered for Resettlement at this time.

How do I know if I am being considered for Resettlement?

You should not assume that you have a Resettlement case or else have been considered for Resettlement, unless you are interviewed by a UNHCR resettlement staff member who informs you that you are invited to a Resettlement Interview and all aspects of Resettlement processing will then be explained to you. If following the Resettlement Interview, your case is positively assessed and meets the Resettlement criteria, it will be submitted to the Resettlement Country and you will be notified.

What happens after UNHCR decides to recommend a refugee's case to Resettlement?

  • Step 1 : The case is submitted to the most suitable Resettlement Country
  • Step 2 : The Resettlement Country will assess the refugee’s case and may conduct interview(s) based on which a decision to accept or reject the case is made by the Resettlement Country.
  • Step 3 : A final decision is issued to the refugee by the Resettlement Country
  • Step 4 : If accepted each family member will undergo medical screenings and security
  • Step 5 : A cultural orientation is arranged
  • Step 6 : Travel Arrangements are made by IOM upon receiving notice from the Resettlement Countries
  • Step 7 : Reception and Integration in the country of Resettlement is provided for refugees arriving in the Resettlement country

Should I or my dependents stop working or studying when our case is considered for Resettlement?

No. Final decisions regarding Resettlement to a Resettlement Country are done by the Governments of the Resettlement Countries. As such, there is no guarantee your case will be accepted for Resettlement until this is pronounced by the Resettlement Country. Additionally, Resettlement is a long process and if your case is accepted for Resettlement, job skills and education, including language skills, will be of fundamental importance in the Resettlement Country. Your skills will help you to better integrate once you are resettled!

If I have been interviewed for Resettlement, when should I follow-up on my case?

UNHCR will inform you if and when your case is submitted to a Resettlement Country. If 3 months pass from the date of your Resettlement Interview and you are not informed, you may inquire on the status of your case. However note that the Resettlement process after the case has been submitted to the Resettlement Country varies between months and sometimes even years.

  • If you wish to inquire about the status of your Resettlement Case at any time during the process: contact UNHCR Helpline Monday to Thursday from 9am to 4pm and Friday from 9am to 1 pm: 0800 100 030. If your query cannot be responded by one of the Helpline operators, they will include you on the queue for Resettlement Counselling with the team.
  • Refugees with cases submitted to the USA Resettlement Admissions Programme can get updates on their cases by sending an email to: [email protected]

What happens if my case is not recommended for Resettlement Submission the Resettlement Country?

If your case is found not to meet the Resettlement criteria and hence cannot be submitted for Resettlement at this time, you will be informed by UNHCR.

Can I appeal UNHCR’s decision not to recommend my case for Resettlement Submission?

There is no appeal system if your case is found not to be in need of Resettlement by UNHCR.

What happens if I have been interviewed for Resettlement and there is a change in my family, such as marriage, birth or death or I change my contact details?

You should inform UNHCR as soon as possible.

In case of changes in your family composition and / or in case you change your phone number; you can inform UNHCR by contacting the UNHCR Helpline Monday to Thursday from 9am to 4pm and Friday from 9am to 1 pm: 0800 100 030.

Refugees in the USA / Canada Resettlement process should be mindful of the below:

During the interviews UNHCR and representatives from the Resettlement Country will ask the refugee detailed questions about his/her history and background related to their country of origin and country of asylum. It is very During important that the
information provided is truthful, clear, accurate and complete. The Resettlement Country will rely on this information when considering your case, assessing your credibility and determining whether you qualify for Resettlement in that country. For this reason, you must tell the truth during all of your interviews and not withhold any information which could be relevant to your Resettlement case.

Refugees with cases submitted to the US Resettlement Admissions Programme can get updates on their cases by sending an email to: [email protected]

Is my Resettlement case confidential?

All Resettlement files that are processed by UNHCR are kept strictly confidential.
UNHCR will request refugees whose cases are submitted for Resettlement Consideration to sign a declaration authorizing UNHCR to share all  information and any documents pertaining to them and their family members with government officials from the Resettlement Country.

How long does the Resettlement process take?

The entire Resettlement process is complex and involves many steps; it takes a long time, and especially in light of current further travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Refugees should therefore be  patient while their case is being processed. Be patient and prepared to wait for a final decision and departure formalities, if accepted.

Do I need to pay for Resettlement?


Refugees should not pay anyone to refer their case for Resettlement. All services provided by UNHCR and its implementing partners are FREE OF CHARGE.

Please notify UNHCR if anyone tries to charge money for Resettlement.

UNHCR does not tolerate fraud and corruption. UNHCR is committed to combating fraud and corruption in order to preserve the integrity and  credibility of the Resettlement process.

Any refugee who attempts to commit fraud relating to his/her Resettlement case may be permanently disqualified from Resettlement under UNHCR auspices. Examples of such fraud would include: giving false information about your background; claiming a false identity or attempting to substitute yourself for another person; attempting to add a person onto your case who is not a genuine member of your family; paying money for Resettlement services; the unauthorized use of UNHCR’s name and logo.

If you are aware of fraud committed by another refugee report to:
UNHCR South Africa Multi-Country Office
Waterkloof House,
209 Waterkloof Road Brooklyn
Pretoria, South Africa Tel: +27 800 100 030 Email: [email protected]

Corruption/bribery involving a UNHCR staff member should be reported to:
UNHCR Inspector General Office of the UNHCR Inspector General:

  • Telephone HOTLINE: +41-22-739-884 •Confidential e-mail: [email protected] or can be reported via letters placed in UNHCR Complaint Boxes. In South Africa: LHR Office


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