When Does a Decision to Reject an Application for Asylum Take Effect?

The process of seeking asylum is a critical aspect of international humanitarian law, providing refuge to individuals fleeing persecution, violence, and human rights abuses in their home countries. However, not all asylum applications are approved, and decisions to reject asylum claims are a crucial part of the asylum process. Understanding when a decision to reject an application for asylum becomes operative is essential for both applicants and the host country’s immigration authorities. In this article, we will explore the various stages and factors involved in determining when a decision to reject an asylum application takes effect.

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When Does a Decision to Reject an Application for Asylum Become Operative?

In South Africa, when an application for asylum is rejected by the Refugee Status Determination Officer (RSDO), the decision doesn’t immediately become operative. The rejection only takes effect after specific events: the expiration of the stipulated appeal period (usually 30 days), a final rejection by the Refugee Appeal Board post-appeal, or after the exhaustion of all available legal remedies, including judicial reviews. Until these conditions are met, the asylum seeker continues to enjoy the protections and rights associated with the asylum-seeking process.

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1. The Basics of Asylum in South Africa:

South Africa, in line with its commitment to human rights and international obligations, provides protection to individuals who fear persecution in their home countries. Asylum seekers approach South Africa with the hope of obtaining refugee status, which would grant them protection and rights similar to South African citizens. But what happens if their application is rejected?

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2. The Operative Effect of the Decision:

Once an application for asylum is rejected by the Refugee Status Determination Officer (RSDO), the decision doesn’t immediately take effect. The operative nature of the rejection comes into play only after specific events:

  • Appeal Period: Asylum seekers have the right to appeal the rejection. There is a stipulated timeframe (usually 30 days) within which the appeal should be lodged. Until this period expires, the rejection does not take effect.
  • Final Rejection After Appeal: Should the Refugee Appeal Board uphold the decision of the RSDO after the appeal, the decision to reject becomes operative. However, if the Board overturns the rejection, the individual may proceed with the process of acquiring refugee status.
  • Exhaustion of Legal Remedies: Besides the appeal process, asylum seekers can approach courts for a judicial review of the decision. The operative nature of the rejection remains suspended as long as there are legal avenues available for the asylum seeker.
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3. Implications for Asylum Seekers:

Once the decision to reject an application becomes operative, the asylum seeker no longer enjoys the protections and rights afforded to those in the asylum-seeking process. They might be subjected to deportation unless they possess another valid reason or permit to remain in South Africa.


Understanding when a decision becomes operative is pivotal for asylum seekers, ensuring they are well-informed and can make timely decisions regarding their stay and legal rights in South Africa. The asylum process is layered, and while rejections can be distressing, it’s crucial to know that there are avenues and opportunities for redress, which can change the outcome of an initial decision.

Navigating the realm of asylum applications and operative decisions? Remember, knowledge is power. Stay informed, seek expert advice, and always know your rights and options.