Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme Update
In August 2021, the Afghanistan Citizens 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.
The route opened on 6 January 2022. The first Afghan families have been granted indefinite leave to remain (ILR) under the scheme.
Who will be eligible 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 LGBT+)
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.
How can you apply to enter the Afghanistan Citizens Resettlement Scheme?
There is no application process for the ACRS. 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.
There is no application process for the scheme, but for those applying under Pathway 3, you can submit an expression of interest using the gov.uk form. In the first year, this only applies to those who meet the definitions below.
Additional guidance was released on 13 June on eligibility for consideration under Pathway 3.
To be eligible under this pathway, you must meet one of the following definitions, set out in the guidance:
“British Council contractors
For the purposes of Pathway 3 of the ACRS, a British Council contractor is someone contracted directly to the British Council in Afghanistan to carry out duties in a way similar to an employee. This includes in particular individuals who were contracted to take on regular and public-facing roles, providing services or benefits to beneficiaries on behalf of the British Council, and who were therefore closely associated with delivering the UK government’s mission in Afghanistan. A British Council contractor does not include those contracted to provide professional services such as accounting, marketing, maintenance of office equipment, directly or via a third party, nor does it include those representing the British Council as a commercial agent, for example for the recruitment of examination candidates.
For the purposes of Pathway 3 of the ACRS a GardaWorld contractor is someone employed by GardaWorld on host country terms and conditions, for a period of 3 months or more after 1 July 2020, exclusively to support the British Embassy Kabul contract. GardaWorld contractor includes someone whose contract was terminated during or after March 2021 due to the reduction in the requirement for guarding the British Embassy in Kabul, and someone who, while engaged as part of the GardaWorld Regional Management Team, provided dedicated and material support to the British Embassy Kabul contract.
For the purposes of Pathway 3 of the ACRS an Afghanistan Chevening Alumnus is someone awarded an Afghanistan Chevening Scholarship to study in the United Kingdom, and who completed their course of study under the terms of their Scholarship.”
As set out above, if you meet one of these definitions you can fill out the expression of interest form. You must submit an expression of interest form by 11:59 BST on Monday 15 August 2022. There are up to 1,500 places available in the first year under Pathway 3.
What form of leave do individuals acquire 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 any immigration matter, contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete the enquiry form below.