On 13 September, the Home Office published guidance for those seeking information on Afghanistan Resettlement and Immigration.
You can read this statement in full here, however below you will find a short summary of the information included.
- The emergency evacuation from Afghanistan (known as Operation Pitting) is now over and all UK military personnel left the country on 29 August.
- Given the difficult circumstances in which many arrived in the UK, the Home Office is offering indefinite leave to remain to those Afghan nationals and their family members who were evacuated, called forward or specifically authorised for evacuation by the Government during Operation Pitting. This applies to those who have already arrived in the UK and those who arrive after the evacuation.
Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP)
- The ARAP Scheme offers relocation and assistance to those who served alongside British armed forces in Afghanistan and provide important support to the British defence and security mission. This is primarily for those who were employed directly, or in special cases via contractors, and those who are assessed to be at serious risk as a result of such work.
- It is available to people regardless of rank or role, of length of time service. The policy provides the applicant to bring their close family members to the UK (spouse and children under 18).
- The ARAP scheme remains open to eligible applicants. It is also possible to make an application outside of Afghanistan. You can apply using this online form.
- All those under the ARAP scheme will be given indefinite leave to remain. The Home Office will contact those who arrived under the scheme prior to Operation Pitting and received limited leave to change this to indefinite leave free of charge.
Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS)
- The ACRS was announced on 18 August and will resettle up to 20,000 people, with 5,000 in the first year. This includes those brought to the UK under ARAP.
- The ACRS will prioritise:
- those who assisted British efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, women’s rights, freedom of speech, and rule of law (e.g. judges, women’s rights activists, academics, journalist);
- vulnerable people, including women and girls at risk, and members of minority groups at risk (including ethnic and religious minorities and LGBT).
- There will be no formal application process for the ACRS. Instead, eligible people will be prioritised and referred for resettlement to the UK in one of three ways:
- those who arrived under the evacuation programme will be resettled under the ACRS. Those who were eligible for evacuation and were called forward by the British Government but were not able to board flights, will be offered a place under the scheme if they subsequently come to the UK.
- the Home Office will work with the UNHCR to identify and resettle refugees who fled Afghanistan, prioritising those in most need of protection including women and girls at risk, and ethnic, religious and LGBT minority groups.
- the Home Office will work with NGOs in the region to implement a referral process for those inside Afghanistan and for those who have recently fled. This will seek to provide protection for members of Afghan civil society who support British efforts in the country.
- Those resettled under the ACRS will receive fee-free indefinite leave to enter and remain in the UK – including the right to work and immediate access to social security.
Afghan family members of British nationals, settled persons and refugees resident in the UK
- Family members evacuated as part of Operation Pitting will be granted indefinite leave to remain and settlement fees will be waived. The usual requirements of minimum income and English language skills will not apply. Should they arrive in the UK, indefinite leave to remain will also be available to those who were called forward for evacuation but were unable to board flights.
- For family members of British citizens and settled persons not called forward as part of Operation Pitting who are not offered resettlement under ACRS, they will need to apply to come to the UK under existing rules. They will be expected to meet eligibility requirements of their chosen route, including paying relevant fees and charges and providing biometrics. However, the British Embassy in Kabul has closed, and there is no way of providing biometrics in Afghanistan therefore the Home Office recommends people in Afghanistan do not make applications as they will not be considered without biometrics.
- Those Afghans outside of Afghanistan who can reach a Visa Application Centre to provide their biometrics are able to make an application in the normal way.
Afghans in the UK as visitors, or on economic or study routes
- Afghans in the UK on economic, work or study visas which expire soon may face difficulties extending their stay, so a concession will be introduced to waive certain document requirements. This will apply to anyone who had permission to be in the UK before 1 September 2021. Applicants will still be expected to pay fees and meet other requirements of the route.
- The Home Office will also allow Afghan nationals with temporary leave to switch to Skilled Worker or Student visas where they meet the requirements. This will also apply to those with leave as a visitor. Individuals must have arrived before 1 September.
On 20 August, the Home Office set up a dedicated helpline to provide information and support to Afghan nationals. This helpline remains open to offer general information about the relocation schemes. The helpline can be reach by calling +44 2475 389 980 (or 02475 389 980 in the UK).
The Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit has also provided a useful summary of important information you may be looking for, this is available on their website.