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There are many special provisions in place for faith-based organisations with regards to immigration law. At Truth Legal we specialise in assisting faith-based organisations with their immigration issues.

If you want someone to work for your organisation, who requires permission to live and work in the UK, then are different rules in place, depending on where the individual comes from and what type of work he or she will do in the UK.

Employees from outside of the EU

If you want to employ an individual from outside the EU, then it is likely that you will need to sponsor them. There are two categories of sponsor licence aimed specifically at faith-based organisations: Tier 2 Minister of Religion and Tier 5 Religious Worker.

Tier 2 Minister of Religion

The Tier 2 Minister of Religion licence will allow you to sponsor an individual carrying out preaching or pastoral work. Before you can sponsor someone under this licence you will normally need to carry out a resident labour market test. This test is the means by which you show that the job cannot be filled by a suitable ‘settled worker’.

Once you have run the test then you will be able to apply for a certificate of sponsorship. If you do not already have a licence, then it is generally a good idea to have run the test before you apply for your licence.

The individual applying under this category will get a three-year visa, extendable by up to three additional years. This route leads to settlement: the individual can apply for indefinite leave to remain after completing a total of five years’ sponsorship in the Tier 2 category.

Tier 5 Religious Worker

Alternatively, faith-based organisations might be able to sponsor individuals under a Tier 5 sponsor licence. Sponsorship under Tier 5 is now fairly restricted, in terms of the types of job which can be sponsored. This is further to a rule change in 2019 which meant that Ministers of Religion (including pastors and preachers) are specifically excluded from sponsorship under Tier 5.

An individual sponsored under the Tier 5 Religious Worker category can only stay in the UK for up to 24 months. After this there is a ‘cooling-off period’ which prevents the individual from applying again in the Tier 2 or 5 category until 12 months have passed.

EU Employees

Although the UK has now left the EU, it remains relatively easy to recruit EU nationals and their family members. For the time being at least.

Free movement of EU nationals is being retained up until 31 December 2020. Also, any EU national who arrives by this date will be eligible to register under the EU Settlement Scheme.

The deadline to register on the EU Settlement Scheme is 30 June 2021.

Those who register are given either Pre-Settled Status or Settled Status. Settled Status is a form of indefinite leave to remain. Those granted Pre-Settled Status are given leave to remain for five years and can apply for Settled Status generally after they have built up five years’ residence.

It is essential that EU nationals register by the deadline, as a failure to do so will leave them in the position of being ‘overstayers’. Overstaying is both an immigration and criminal offence. Furthermore, as an employer, if you employ a someone without a right to work (such as an overstayer) then you will be liable for a civil penalty of up to £20,000 (per migrant).

Volunteers

For the time being at least, an EU national can work for you in a voluntary capacity without too much difficulty. However, the changes which take place from 2021 which affect employees will also affect volunteers.

The position is already more complicated regarding non-EU nationals that want to volunteer for a UK faith-based organisation. As with employees, volunteers need to be sponsored, under a specialist sponsor licence: Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Charity Worker). Note that this is a different sponsor licence from the Tier 5 licence you would use to sponsor employees.

Migrants in this category must only do ‘voluntary fieldwork directly related to the purpose of the charity’. This means a sponsored volunteer can only do activities that are not normally remunerated.

Individuals can only be sponsored for up to 24 months in this category and again a ‘cooling-off’ period applies for Charity Workers, which means an individual who has been in the UK in this category must wait 12 months before reapplying in this or any Tier 2 or 5 category.

Our Faith Based Immigration Services

The Immigration Team at Truth Legal are experts at supporting faith-based organisations with their immigration matters.

We can:

  • Help you to apply for a sponsor licence
  • Help you to run the resident labour market test and apply for a certificate of sponsorship
  • Adapt your HR systems to make sure they are Home Office compliance
  • Assist individuals with their visa application or issues
  • Advise and assist around Brexit and the EU Settlement Scheme
  • Advise on Right to Work matters

If you are looking for advice on behalf of a faith-based organisation, then contact the Immigration Team at Truth Legal who have expertise in assisting faith-based organisations on immigration matters. We also provide free training to faith-based organisations which have, or are interested in applying for, a sponsor licence. Contact the Immigration team today.

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