Published: 07 Feb 2022  |  Category: Resettlement  |  Stage: We are getting started

Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS)

Find out more about the ACRS and how you can get involved.

On 6 January 2022, the UK Government announced that the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme had opened,  having previously confirmed that Community Sponsorship groups were going to be able to resettle Afghans through the scheme and into their neighbourhoods. 

The UK Government will welcome up to 20,000 people from Afghanistan and the region over the coming years. This includes over 5,000 within the first year. Many of those arrived as part of the evacuation effort at the end of the summer in 2021. On 13th June 2022, the UK Government announced the opening of two further referral pathways onto the Scheme. Community Sponsorship groups who welcome will be offering places as part of this pledge, meaning the numbers of people they welcome will not be in addition to the pledge made, but included as part of the government quota. This is different from how the UKRS programme works, where numbers of refugees resettled through sponsorship are counted separately and considered additional.

Those who are resettled into the UK via the ACRS are given Indefinite Leave to Remain, and under existing rules, they will be able to apply for British citizenship after five years in the UK.

This page is designed to assist Community Sponsorship groups understand what resettling through ACRS will mean to them, and the difference in resettling through ACRS Pathway 1 and ACRS Pathway 2.

ACRS Pathway 1

Who will groups be resettling?

Under ACRS Pathway 1, Community Sponsorship groups will be resettling individuals who were evacuated in August 2021, following Afghanistan falling to the Taliban, as well as others who were called forward for evacuation but were unable to board flights, and arrived in the UK later. The evacuation effort was huge, and the priority was given to getting people out of the country quickly. Some families are still living in hotels, and having arrived in the summer, their need for onward accommodation and a chance to start their lives in the UK is great. 

As of August 2023, bridging hotels have been closed, which means there are now very limited number of families which groups can be matched with through ACRS Pathway 1. Of these families still under Pathway 1, most have urgent medical care needs, and need to be resettled in areas where they have access to the necessary healthcare services. 

What will groups be doing? 

Groups who welcome families who have been living in hotels will offer slightly different support to people on the UKRS programme. In hotels, there is some casework taking place from the Home Office, the DWP have registered families for their benefits, and children are attending schools. This means that some of the traditional actions groups are asked to take will be different. For example, you may be supporting individuals to:

  • Transfer benefits from one job centre to another 
  • Transfer children between schools 
  • Transfer or register with new GPs 

What won’t change is the integration support that your group offers a family; introductions to local services and the area, formal and informal English language support, supporting access to volunteering and employment, and assisting in helping a family to live independently in your community. Reset have adapted our ‘Preparing to Welcome’ training for groups welcoming through ACRS to help you navigate these differences from the UKRS scheme, and we’ll be adding more resources for groups to our website over time. 

It is possible that one member of the family will speak English. Don’t forget that you’re supporting individuals within a family unit and do not rely on speaking through one person only.

If you are applying to welcome a family through the Principal Sponsor Application Process, then you will need to have accommodation when submitting stage one of the application for ACRS Pathway 1.

What information will we receive about the family we are allocated? 

The Home Office will provide as much detail as possible about the family allocated to you, including family make up, ages, language spoken, level of English each family member has, and details of the casework support they have been given. You will not receive Resettlement Registration Forms (RRFs) or the Medical Health Assessments (MHAs) as you would through the UKRS programme.  

We would encourage groups to ask the Home Office to arrange contact between the family and group prior to acceptance. Whilst this might not always be possible, it does not hurt to ask and we believe would be helpful for everyone.  

Groups will be asked to prepare information about their group and their planned support, which will be passed to the family. For UKRS, you’re asked to provide 2 pages of A4 and no more. However, as the Home Office will pass on this information directly to the family, we’d encourage groups to ask the Home Office if they can submit videos or fuller information too.  

ACRS Pathway 2

Who will groups be resettling?

ACRS Pathway 2 was launched in June 2022. Under Pathway 2, groups can now apply to welcome Afghan families who are not already in the UK. These are Afghan families who have fled Afghanistan into neighbouring countries, and have been identified by UNHCR as being in need for resettlement. The majority of the initial Pathway 2 referrals from UNHCR will be Afghan families who have been living in exile in host countries such as Pakistan and Iran. For the time being, the majority of family referrals from UNHCR will be those consisting of 3-5 family members. This means to appropriately accommodate families of this size, the Home Office is looking for groups who can offer 2-4 bedroom properties.

These families will be referred by the UNHCR in line with their standard resettlement submission criteria, based on an assessment of an individual’s protection needs and vulnerabilities – this is the same criteria used for UKRS referrals.

A family welcomed through Pathway 2 will require the same level of support which groups offer to UKRS families. This includes:

  • Helping the family sign and understand their tenancy agreement
  • Helping them apply for benefits and navigate their initial benefit appointments
  • Helping the family access education and learn about the UK education system
  • Helping them register at the GP surgery and understand how our health system works

What information will we receive about the family we are allocated?

Groups who welcome under Pathway 2 will be referred families with documentation such as the RRFs and MHAs, as is the case with UKRS referrals. The Pathway 2 referrals will also be processed by the same team at the Home Office who process the UKRS referrals. The process for referring and accepting an ACRS Pathway 2 referral will be the same as the UKRS process.

Application process for ACRS

Groups should still use the existing application form and process when applying to the Home Office. Make sure you inform your local authority/authorities that you plan to welcome through ACRS when seeking their permission to apply. You should make clear to the Home Office when submitting your forms that the application is for an ACRS family, and you should think carefully about the languages you can support. The main languages spoken in Afghanistan are Pashto and Dari.

When completing the Property Offer Form (POF), if you are choosing to welcome a UNHCR referred family (UKRS/ ACRS Pathway 2) into an available property, then you must make this clear in the POF.

We can’t decide whether to welcome through UKRS or ACRS. Can you help? 

Whilst this is a decision that we cannot make for you, we’d be happy to talk this through with you so you can decide – just get in contact if we can help! For groups who are applying to welcome through ACRS, some of the questions they have asked themselves are: 

  • Do we have the right language provision to support an Afghan family? Are there local networks we can connect families with? 
  • Are we comfortable welcoming families where resettlement places will be counted toward government targets rather than in addition to? 
  • Many of the resources and learning that is available has been based on the previous Syrian resettlement programme and for people resettled from out of country. Do we feel we have enough information to support people who are coming from bridging hotels? What more do we need? 

The need for resettlement places that groups can offer is incredibly urgent, whether this is through UKRS or ACRS. At Reset, we’re here to help as you navigate your application to welcome and support those so desperately in need of assistance.