What documents do I get to show that I have applied for refugee status?
Once you have filled in the application form and had your fingerprints taken, you will be issued with a ‘Section 22 permit (also known as an ‘asylum seeker permit’). Home Affairs might either issue the permit on the same day that you filled the application form or might ask you to return at a later date to collect your permit. This permit does not recognise you as a refugee. This is just proof that you have applied for refugee status. If you do not understand something about your permit, ask the Home Affairs official to explain it to you as that is their duty. Make sure you sign your permit and keep this on you at all times. Also make a copy and keep it in a safe place.
Once you have a section 22 permit, you are entitled to most of the same rights as South African citizens except the right to vote. You can work, study and go to the clinics or hospitals in the same way South African citizens can.
Currently, Section 22 permits are valid for six months. This means that you have to regularly renew your permit until you are asked to return for the second interview. You should know that this might take many months.
The second interview is called the Status Determination hearing and is conducted by a Refugee Status Determination Officer (RSDO). During this interview the RSDO will look at the application form you filled in at the first interview and try to determine whether you qualify for refugee status. The RSDO may ask questions to verify your identity and the country that you claim you are from. You may be asked about streets, languages, cultures, opinion leaders, historical events, etc.
At this interview, you have the right to be accompanied by a legal representative and an interpreter of your choice. However, the representative is not allowed to intervene in the interview; he or she can only observe. You are also allowed to bring witnesses, affidavits from witnesses or any other evidence that might be important to your case. It can be a good idea to find whatever information you can on the Internet or other places that might have evidence to support your claim.
Once you have finished this interview, make sure that your asylum seeker permit is renewed and stamped. The RSDO will give you a date when you have to go back to the refugee office to get a decision on your application. This might take 60 days or more. If you are not sure of this date, ask the RSDO!