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A GOV.UK page, Support for British and non-British nationals in Afghanistan, includes contact details for people in Afghanistan in need of assistance from the UK Government. However it cannot be used to register interest in the new Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme.

Evacuation, resettlement and relocation schemes

Some Afghans have already come to the UK or been told that they are eligible to come to the UK, under bespoke arrangements for people affected by the situation in Afghanistan.

Operation Pitting

Operation Pitting was a military evacuation conducted in August 2021. It evacuated British citizens and some Afghan nationals to the UK (broadly, family members of British or Afghan nationals living in the UK, people eligible under the relocation schemes for UK Government employees, and other particularly vulnerable cases). The Government has said that it will grant evacuees indefinite leave to remain in an appropriate immigration category (e.g., under the resettlement or relocation schemes, or as a family member of a UK-based sponsor).

The Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS)

The Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) launched in January 2022. It aims to resettle in the UK up to 20,000 people over the next few years.

It is currently focusing on granting status to people who have already arrived in the UK (mostly Operation Pitting cases). Arpund 6,500 people in the UK are thought to be eligible under the ACRS. The Government anticipates that resettlements of refugees in countries neighbouring Afghanistan will begin in spring 2022 (via referral by UNHCR). Resettlements of people at risk in Afghanistan are expected to begin later this year. 

The ex gratia and ARAP schemes for former employees

Some Afghan civilians (and family members) previously employed by the British government who fear reprisals from the Taliban are eligible for relocation in the UK. There are two schemes currently in use:

  • The ex-gratia redundancy and resettlement scheme, which will run until November 2022. It caters for people who worked directly for HMG on 1 May 2006 and had served for more than 12 months.
  • The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) is open to any current or former staff employed by HMG 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 or quota on the number of people eligible.

Changes made over summer 2021 included broadening ARAP eligibility rules to include Afghans dismissed from service for minor administrative offences; ensuring that interpreters who supported the UK military as contractors would be eligible for relocation under ARAP; and allowing people to apply for relocation from outside Afghanistan. A further set of changes made in December 2021 have subsequently narrowed the ARAP eligibility criteria.

Other immigration routes

Various other UK visa routes might be relevant to Afghan citizens, including:

  • Refugee family reunion rules: ‘Pre-flight’ immediate family members (partner and dependent children under 18) of adult refugees can join them in the UK under the refugee family reunion rules.
  • Family visa rules: The broader family migration immigration rules apply to other types of family case (sponsors/relatives ineligible under the refugee family reunion rules and relatives of British citizens and people settled in the UK). Significant application fees and more onerous eligibility requirements apply to these applications.

However, the Government is not currently encouraging people in Afghanistan to apply for a visa. This is because applications will not be processed whilst there are no facilities to submit supporting biometric information in Afghanistan.

Afghans who are outside of Afghanistan and able to access a visa application centre in another country can apply for a UK visa. But the Government is reluctant to suggest that people who feel at risk in Afghanistan should attempt to travel to another country to make an application.

Asylum seekers

It isn’t possible to apply for a visa for the purpose of claiming asylum in the UK. People can only apply for asylum upon/after arrival in the UK.

Updated Home Office policy guidance does not recommend granting asylum to all Afghans. It identifies several groups likely to be at risk of persecution by the Taliban. They are similar to the categories of people potentially eligible under the UK’s evacuation, relocation and resettlement schemes.

Enforced removals to Afghanistan are not currently taking place.

Documents to download

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