By Stefania Patuto – Immigration Barrister
In August 2021, the Afghanistan Citizen’ Resettlement Scheme (“ACRS”) was announced as a new route opening for the resettlement of Afghan refugees, prioritising those most in need including women, girls and children given their particular vulnerability. Our previous blog post contains the information available at that time.
The Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme opened on 6 January 2022. The first Afghan families have been granted indefinite leave to remain (ILR) under the scheme.
Eligibility for the Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme
The Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will prioritise:
- Those who have assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, women’s rights, freedom of speech, and rule of law;
- Vulnerable people, including women and girls at risk, and members of minority groups at risk (including ethnic and religious minorities and LGBTQ+).
The scheme will focus on those who remain in Afghanistan, primarily Afghan nationals, however mixed nationality families will also be eligible. Spouses, partners and dependent children under the age of 18 of eligible individuals will be eligible for the scheme. Other family members may be resettled in exceptional circumstances.
Applying for the Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme
There is no application process for the Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme. Prioritisation and referral for resettlement will be in one of 3 ways:
- Vulnerable and at-risk individuals who arrived in the UK under the evacuation programme will be the first to be settled under the ACRS. Eligible individuals who were specifically called forward for evacuation but were not able to board flights, will also be offered a place under the scheme;
- From Spring 2022, the UNHCR will refer refugees in need of resettlement who have fled Afghanistan. The UK government will continue to receive referrals to the scheme in coming years;
- The third referral pathway will relocate those at risk who supported the UK and international community effort in Afghanistan, as well as those who are particularly vulnerable, such as women and girls at risk and members of minority groups. In the first year of this pathway, the government will offer ACRS places to the most at risk British Council and GardaWorld contractors, and Chevening alumni. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will be in touch with those eligible to support them through next steps. Beyond the first year, the government will work with international partners and NGOs to welcome wider groups of Afghans at risk.
As there is no application process, it is unclear how vulnerable individuals will be identified. The above guidance states that beyond the first year, the government will work with international partners to identify individuals at risk, but this will not be for some time. There is a helpline which can be contacted for further information, which we have included below.
Leave under the Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme
Anyone who is resettled through the ACRS will receive indefinite leave to enter or remain (ILR) in the UK, and will be able to apply for British citizenship after 5 years in the UK under existing rules.
Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP)
The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy is a separate route from the Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme. The ARAP launched on 1 April 2021.
The ARAP is aimed at current or former locally employed staff who are assessed to be under serious threat to life and are offered priority relocation to the UK regardless of their employment status, rank or role, or length of time served.
The Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme aims to welcome 5,000 Afghans in year one, with up to a total of 20,000 in the long-term. This number is in addition to the 5,000 expected under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).
Visa Applications from Afghanistan
Afghan nationals can still apply for a visa to come to the UK to study, work, visit or join family.
There is currently no Visa Application Centre (VAC) operating in Afghanistan. If you are in Afghanistan and wish to make a UK visa application, you will normally have to submit your biometric information (fingerprints and photograph) in a VAC in a third country to complete your application.
If you are a non-British national in Afghanistan, or are the family member of a non-British national in Afghanistan, and in need of assistance, you can contact the following government helpline: +44 2475 389 980 (or 02475 389 980 in the UK).
This helpline provides information and support on the UK’s evacuation efforts, as well as general information about the relocation schemes. It is not for registering interest for the scheme.
Contact our Immigration Lawyers
For expert advice and assistance in relation to the Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme or a claim for international protection, contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete the enquiry form below.