Bishop warns of challenges for religious workers under new UK immigration system

- Posted in United Kingdom by Visa Bureauon 30 December 2008

Bishop John Packer has said the new scheme would deter valuable religious workers applying for a UK visa to work in Briton. 

Under the new points-based system for immigration, migrants to the UK can apply for a UK visa under one of five tiers.  Religious workers can apply under the tier 2 or tier 5 of the new system. 

Tier 2 allows Ministers of Religion to gain a work permit to work in a religious organisation.  Workers can undertake missionary work, pastoral or preaching work, or work within a religious order or community, such as a monastery or convent. The Minister of Religion category is open to workers in religious organisations only.

Tier 5 has a Religious Workers category, which allows overseas people to work in the UK temporarily if they are on a break or holiday from religious work in another country.

"The restriction on charitable and religious workers will affect how people of faith from other countries come here and experience and contribute to the life of faith in this country," Bishop Packer during a debate on the new rules in the House of Lords.

"Christians from abroad influence and inform our own Christian growth, and it will be much more difficult to bring Christian ministers into this country to help us and them under these rules."

Lord Avebury, a Liberal Democrat peer, says the tier 2 category would make it difficult for monks to work in the UK, as it requires applicants to be fluent in the English language, which most monks are not. 

"It is by no means always true that a high-level knowledge of English is necessary for preaching and pastoral work to take place here," Bishop Packer added.

"Our own links, in Ripon and Leeds, are with the church in Sri Lanka.  We have gained much from clergy and others who have given of time and skill to come to this country to share with us, as we with them, although they may have very little English indeed."

The Government won a vote on the change by 75 to 31.

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK visa and immigration services.

Article by Jessica Bird, UK Visa Bureau.