Visas: Ministers of Religion

Home Office written question – answered on 13th May 2019.

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Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if he will publish a response to Early Day Motion (a) 2358 on Changes to visa requirements for religious workers and (b) 2362 on Tier 5 visas for ministers of religion.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration

The Government very much values the importance of religious and cultural expression to our communities in the UK and we continue to welcome Ministers of Religion from all faiths who wish to come to the UK in accordance with our Immigration Rules.

There are two routes for Religious Workers in the current immigration system.

Tier 2 Ministers of Religion is for those playing a leading role as faith leaders in our religious institutions. This category requires those coming to have a strong command of the English language in order to ensure Ministers of Religion can lead their congregations effectively and can interact with the wider communities they serve.

The second route, Tier 5 Religious Workers, is for those undertaking non-pastoral roles supporting the activities of these institutions. In line with our other temporary work categories, Tier 5 Religious Workers are not required to demonstrate their English language skills when applying for a visa.

We have taken steps to prevent our temporary work categories being used as a means to live in the UK for longer periods. Tier 5 is designed to facilitate short periods of knowledge sharing and cultural exchange and yet we have identified evidence of migrants using our Tier 5 Religious Worker and Charity Worker routes to facilitate near continuous residence in the UK.

We made changes to the Immigration Rules in October 2018 to preclude the use of Tier 5 by minister of Religion and to introduce a ‘cooling off period’, preventing Tier 5 Religious worker and Tier 5 Charity Worker visa holders from returning to the UK, via these immigration routes, for 12 months after their visa expires. This approach underpins the Government’s intention that these are temporary routes.

Bona fide Ministers of Religion are still welcome to come to the UK and that there remains a route for them in the immigration system through Tier 2.

The Government wrote to faith leaders in December, setting out the detail and explaining the rationale for the changes. Officials remain in regular contact with stakeholders and we are embarking on an extensive programme of engagement, in connection with the future immigration system.

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