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Many Members of Parliament continue to receive enquiries from constituents asking how relatives or friends in Afghanistan can come to the UK.

Two immigration routes specifically cater for people affected by the situation in Afghanistan: the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme and the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy.

People who are ineligible for those schemes and whose circumstances don’t warrant an application for leave outside the rules must apply under one of the general UK visa routes to be able to come to the UK, for example as a worker, student or family member of someone settled here. There are no functioning UK visa application centres in Afghanistan. Afghans can apply in a neighbouring country if they judge it is safe to travel and can obtain the necessary travel documents and permissions to enter the country.

Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS)

The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) was launched in January 2022 with the aim of resettling up to 20,000 people in the UK over the following few years. Around 10,000 people had arrived under the scheme up to 30 June 2023.

Eligible cases are identified through one of three referral pathways. Each pathway has distinct eligibility criteria and processes.

Pathway 1 is being used to grant long term immigration status to people who arrived under the summer 2021 Operation Pitting evacuation exercise. By 30 June 2023, 9,676 people had arrived in the UK and been recorded under pathway 1. The Minister for Immigration recently confirmed the Government intends to open a route for separated immediate family members of people brought to the UK under pathway 1, by June 2024.

Pathway 2 is for Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries who are referred by the UN Refugee Agency. 66 refugees had been resettled in the UK under the route by 30 June 2023.

Pathway 3 is for certain at-risk groups currently in Afghanistan or neighbouring countries. For its first stage, eligibility has been restricted to Garda World and British Council contractors and Chevening alumni (and their family members). In October 2023 the Government confirmed that resettlement will be offered to all eligible first phase applicants.

41 people had arrived under pathway 3 by the end of June 2023. 700 others have had their applications approved and are waiting in third countries for permission to travel to the UK.

ARAP scheme for former HM Government employees

Some Afghan civilians (and family members) who were previously employed by the British government and fear reprisals from the Taliban may be eligible for relocation in the UK.

The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) is open to any current or former staff employed by HM Government in Afghanistan since 2001 who are assessed to be at serious risk of threat to life. Eligibility is regardless of employment status, rank or role, or length of time served. The scheme is open-ended and there is no limit on the number of people eligible.

11,474 individuals had been relocated to the UK under the ARAP scheme by 30 June 2023. Slightly more than 2,000 other people have also been found to be eligible under ARAP and are waiting in Pakistan and other third countries for permission to come to the UK. The Ministry of Defence is still considering around 1,800 complex applications.

Topical issues and calls for policy change

Issues raised in recent months about the effectiveness of the UK’s immigration provisions for Afghans include:

  • The narrow scope of the Afghan and family migration provisions and Afghans’ continued use of other immigration routes including asylum.
  • The slow pace of ARAP decision-making and reviews.
  • The low number of arrivals under ACRS pathway 2 and 3 and continued uncertainty over the Government’s future intentions for the ACRS.
  • Practical and procedural obstacles to making applications, and the absence of automatic concessions for Afghans from requirements including to attend a visa application centre in a neighbouring country, provide supporting documents and evidence, and satisfy English language and maintenance funds requirements.
  • Delays in bringing eligible Afghans to the UK, related to difficulties finding accommodation for them in the UK. The Government is now arranging for ACRS and ARAP eligible people facing deportation from Pakistan to come to the UK as a matter of urgency.

Documents to download

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