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I have a Congolese friend who holds a Refugee ID in South Africa. He wants to visit family in the USA. Can he get a travel visa to the USA? What does he need to produce?

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The Refugee ID alone is not sufficient for international travel. Your friend will also need to obtain a Refugee Travel Document, which he can do at the Refugee Reception Office where he originally got his Refugee ID, or at any Department of Home Affairs office.

The Department of Home Affairs web site explains what you need to apply for the refugee travel document:

Documents for travel purposes are issued to South African permanent residence permit holders who cannot obtain travel documents from their countries of origin. These documents are only valid for a period of 5 years.

To apply for a document for travel purposes, you must submit the following:

  • A duly completed passport application Form DHA-73
  • Written confirmation by your country of origin that the country cannot issue you with a passport, except in the case of refugees that have been granted permanent residence as a refugee.
  • If under 18 years, the prescribed consent by parents must be furnished. See requirements under Tourist passports for persons under 16
  • Your permanent residence permit and a copy thereof
  • Your original SA non-citizen identity document and a copy thereof
  • Two colour photographs that comply with the Passport and ID Photograph Specifications (NOT needed at smartcard offices as ID images are captured digitally)
  • Payment of the prescribed fee.

Once your friend has the refugee travel document, he can use it in place of a passport to apply for visas and travel to anywhere in the world (except the country from which he fled).

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They can apply for a US visa in their refugee travel document, just like citizens of South Africa itself, or passport-carrying citizens of either of the Congos would need to.

Whether the application will be successful depends entirely on their personal circumstances. They should supply the same kind of documentation as every other applicant.

It may be slightly harder for them to demonstrate ties to their country of residence (in the nature of things, being a citizen of the place you live in is itself a kind of tie, though not one that in itself is strong enough to make or break a visa application), but that's just a way of saying that their personal circumstances are everything.

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