Egyptians have been long accustomed to dealing with the endless chain of complexities of Egyptian bureaucracy. In recent years, tens of thousands of refugees of different nationalities have arrived and they have also been subjected to dealing with the deluge of official papers, employees and so on. Correspondents has compiled a list of some simplified information on how to best deal with Egyptian bureaucracy as well as refugees’ frequently asked questions.

Egyptians have been long accustomed to dealing with the endless chain of complexities of Egyptian bureaucracy. In recent years, tens of thousands of refugees of different nationalities have arrived and they have also been subjected to dealing with the deluge of official papers, employees and so on. Correspondents has compiled a list of some simplified information on how to best deal with Egyptian bureaucracy as well as refugees’ frequently asked questions.

A list of all NGOs and initiatives that provide refugees with health, education, psychological as well as shelter services for people without children is also included.

A refugee is a person granted refugee status by the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – refugees are Blue Card Holders while asylum seekers are issued Yellow Card Holders.

According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, ratified by Egypt, a refugee is a person staying outside his/her country for fear of oppression due to race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, political opinion or any person with justified fears of persecution.

3 steps to submitting a refugee application in Egypt

First of all, each refugee must obtain a legal residence permit to be renewed regularly to avoid detention. This requires several steps:

Step one:

To get residency, you must register with UNHCR and get the ‘yellow card’ document that will help you deal with the Egyptian authorities and protect you and your family from deportation. This card is renewable and valid for 8 months.

At the UNHCR office, asylum-seekers receive a booklet containing guidelines and instructions that will help them fill out a free application form.

This form is ONLY available at the UNHCR offices; you cannot get it anywhere else.

Registration forms must be supported by the following documents:

–       Copies of ID (Passport, Identity Cards or other relevant documents);

–       Four recent colored passport size photographs of the applicant and all other persons listed in the application.

–       A copy of other documents the applicant thinks they will support the application.

UNHCR may register persons displaced from their countries and lacking most of their papers. UNHCR also works with many agencies to check and verify the data of applications.

Once the application has been submitted to the UNHCR, applicants will be given a voucher specifying a date for their interview.

On the registration day, the applicant must come to the UNHCR office in Cairo with all family members (dependents and close family members) to be included in the application or who joined the applicant after arriving in Egypt.

UNHCR says that the average waiting time for an interview does not exceed two months, but may differ according to the office capacity.

Once the application is approved, the applicant will be issued a yellow card. UNHCR issues three types of cards:

–       Asylum-seeker registration card (Yellow Card):

UNHCR issues this card to the persons who have submitted a UNHCR registration application to get refugee status. It means that the applicant is in Egypt, registered with UNHCR and is still waiting for the final decision on his/her asylum request. The yellow card does not replace a residence permit.

The Residence Permit is a label placed in the UNHCR yellow card. This permit is what protects the refugee from being deported or arrested — not the yellow card.

–       Refugee registration card (Blue Card):

UNHCR issues this document for those admitted as refugees. The protection provided by UNHCR and the Egyptian authorities ensures that refugees may not be deported to countries where they may be at risk of oppression or other risks. It is similar to the yellow card.

–       Asylum seeker certificate: this document is issued in very specific circumstances that will be directly explained to the applicant.

The refugee guide issued by the UNHCR can be found here:

UNHCR main office: 17 Mecca Street, 7th neighborhood, behind the 6 October City Club, Giza.

Syrian Registration office: 5 Michelle Lutfalla, the building annex at the Church of All Saints, Zamalek.

UNHCR hotline: 01285571774

Working hours: 8:00-15:30, except for Fridays and Saturdays.

All UNHCR services are free, so please inform them if you are asked to pay upon receiving any of their services. You can directly talk to a UNHCR employee, or send a complaint to the following email: ARECAFRD@UNHCR.ORG

UNHCR offers financial and in-kind donations for the refugees.

Syrians can connect with UNHCR via their Facebook page:

For more information on UNHCR’s work regarding Syrian refugees click here:

Step two:

The refugee must go to the management of refugee affairs located at the rear gate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, located at the Nile Corniche next to Maspero building, to collect the application number. This process should happen within 15 days after receiving the UNHCR yellow card. 

Step three:

This step begins within 15-20 days after Step Two. You have to take the application number received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the immigration department, located on the first floor, window 52 of The Mogamma in Tahrir Square.

This immigration department grants residence permits to asylum-seekers and refugees. In window 52, you will be given a new number to be taken to window 19. There, you will be expected to provide all necessary documents including filling in a one-page application form and getting a stamp.

All adults in your family must attend to get a residency stamp on their UNHCR card so that you can all get the residency application forms free of charge, which is available at the department of immigration and passports.

Do not forget to bring the following documents:

–       Originals and copies of the UNHCR registration cards

–       Originals and copies of passports

–       Two passport size photographs of each family member

Four days later, the applicant must return to the same office (Residence Section, window 19) to get a legal residency pasted on the UNHCR registration certificate.

Remember that you have to get a new residence permit in case of UNHCR registration card renewal.

Birth and Death Certificates

Births and deaths are registered at the UNHCR headquarters. However, Syrian refugees can do that through UNHCR or through the Syrian Embassy in Cairo. If you choose the embassy, it is advised not to show the UNHCR registration card because the embassy is refusing to deal with Syrians with refugee status.

Contact the Syrian Embassy in Cairo through:

House rentals and job applications

Employment: There are currently no clear procedures on how refugees can get work permits in Egypt, or who is distributing such permits. Most refugees – particularly Syrians – work informally without work permits, and those working in companies are registered under different names or are employed without contracts.

House rental: Refugees must have a valid passport. The lease is signed between renter and tenant without registration in the Real Estate Department. Egyptian landlords are refusing to officially register leases for unknown reasons.

Free Vaccinations for Children

Refugee children are vaccinated through national vaccination campaigns announced by the Ministry of Health at this link: Vaccines are offered free of charge in all health centers, health offices, kindergartens and elementary schools.

Important note: the next opportunity to vaccinate against measles and rubella is from 31 October until 21 November 2015. Click here for the routine immunization schedule:

How to register your marriage in Egypt?

Registering foreigners’ marriages in Egypt requires several papers and documents if one or both couples are foreigners.

Marriage registration for foreigners in Egypt is held at the Office of Foreign Marriages on the fourth floor of the building annexed to the Ministry of Justice in Lazoghly Square in Cairo. There is no other place to register marriage contracts.

Working hours: Sunday through Thursday, until 15:30.

To register a marriage, both husband and wife must be present along with two witnesses. The age difference between the couple should not exceed 25 years and both partners must be over 21 years of age.

The spouse should not be holding a tourist visa and should provide a temporary residence stamp on the passport from the Department of Immigration and Passports.

The couple should provide disease-free medical records issued by a government hospital, in addition to a passport copy of the foreign spouse and an ID copy of the Egyptian spouse, 5 photographs of each spouse and a family stamp.

The foreign spouse must provide a certificate stating the approval of his/her embassy of the marriage contract, and another certificate stating social status, age and religion.

These documents must be submitted to the Office of Foreign Marriages in the Ministry of Justice, which may take up to two days to be processed.

Please note that marriage registration requires the payment of a fee equaling 2% of the dowry, in addition to the legal fees, if the couple uses an attorney.

After being approved by the Ministry of Justice, the marriage contract must be stamped by the real estate department next to the Bar Association in downtown Cairo, and then certified at any office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the closest to downtown Cairo is on the second floor of the Torgoman Bus Station in Sahafa Street).

Marriage contracts should also be certified at the related embassies —  and each embassy has its own requirements.

Initiatives to help Syrian Refugees in Egypt

Voices for Refugees Campaign:

This campaign was launched by UNHCR. It involves Arab and international figures interested in maintaining “hope of a better future for refugees” and focuses on Syrian refugees’ stories around the world.

After signing in, the campaign will send you an email updating you on the positive impact of your vote on the lives of Syrian refugees.

  1. 1.   Jusoor:

Jusoor is a non-profit organization founded in June 2011. It helps young Syrians by providing updates on academic and vocational programs and other initiatives to integrate the Syrian expatriate community all over the world.

  1. 2.  Khatwa, gathering of Syrian students in Egypt:

This initiative was founded by Syrians residing in Egypt to help Syrian students complete university registration, which costs about 500 USD per student.

Egyptian Doctors to Treat Syrian Brothers (free service):

A Facebook group founded by Egyptian doctors from various specialties and regions to provide voluntary health care for Syrian refugees in Egypt.

Office for Syrian Refugees Affairs in Egypt:

This initiative provides legal, social and psychological support for Syrian refugees in Egypt by coordinating between charities and beneficiaries. The office accepts in-kind and financial contributions only through charities.

Syrians in Egypt:

A Facebook page for Egyptians interested in supporting Syrians in Egypt, either through financial or in-kind aid or through posting job opportunities.

Support Syrian Refugees in Egypt:

This aims to provide financial and in-kind support for Syrian refugees in Egypt.

Tumouh initiative:

Helps Syrian refugees register at schools and universities, promotes UNHCR services and publishes news on scholarships and job opportunities.

Food aid for Syrian refugees registered in Egypt:

This initiative helps inform Syrians how to receive UNHCR food aid coupons in Egypt and where to exchange these coupons for food.

For more information on initiatives and organizations supporting refugees of different nationalities, please visit:

Civil Service Organizations Supporting Refugees

1-   St. Andrew’s refugee services:

Located on 23 July Street in Cairo, this organization works with refugees and immigrants in Cairo of different nationalities. It organizes many activities to increase their ability to meet basic needs (education, legal services and psychological support for adults, children and families). Beneficiaries come from many countries including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria.

2-  Syria Al Gad Relief Foundation:

This charity is licensed in Egypt and financed by organizations, associations, businessmen and development projects. It also works on developing its resources to meet the beneficiaries’ needs.

Their activities cover medical and relief areas. They provide food aid, housing, clothing and baby formula for Syrian refugees in Egypt, in addition to job opportunities by establishing projects to employ refugees or help them find new jobs. They also contribute to facilitating and coordinating the work of international aid organizations and leading them to disadvantaged groups through social research.

3-  Refuge Egypt:

This organization helps refugees of all nationalities by providing humanitarian and psychological support and through developing their skills. They also receive and assist orphaned refugee children and minors.

4-  Tadamon Foundation:

Through a number of centers in Cairo, this institution provides information on the services provided for Syrians in Egypt. They organize workshops for adults, and facilitate access to job opportunities matching their specified skills, provide shelter for gifted children, families and youth in art, music and sports, and support groups for adults and children.

Tadamon operates in four centers: Ard Al Liwa’, Nasr City, Maadi, Faysal and Al Haram.

5-  Dar Alhyah in Alexandria:

This community organization receives refugee children and minors as part of a project combating child trafficking in Alexandria. They seek to provide full accommodation for 35 persons aged between 5 and 18.

Services include healthcare as well as social, medical, psychological and legal assistance, in addition to a legal support center.

Tel: 039565222 – 01065637307 – Email:

6-  Egyptian Foundation for Refugee support:

It was registered as an NGO in the Ministry of Social Solidarity in 2008, and aims to provide legal support for detained refugees and immigrants.

They have two headquarters, one in Cairo: , and the other in Alexandria: .

For more information about organizations and initiatives providing support for illegal immigrants please visit:

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