Under the current immigration system, there are many paths which applicants can use to gain entry to the UK. Many of these are related to the earning potential of the applicant, and emphasise their ability to contribute to the UK economy and skills marketplace. However, the Home Office recognises that there are many valid reasons for entry, and plenty of applicants can bring value to the UK without necessarily earning a great deal.
The UK is a proudly multicultural society with a great many different races, languages and religions, and since integration is an important aspect of the nation’s fabric there is also a need to accommodate the needs of each group’s cultural heritage. Part of this is allowing traditional religious practises to be carried out, which is fundamental to the cohesion and well-being of many different cultures. Because this is such a vital aspect of many parts of Britain, it’s imperative that the Tier 5 visa system permits religious workers and preachers to enter the country.
In this article we’ll highlight many of the aspects which make the Tier 5 visa for religious workers different from other visa applications, and cover the requirements which applicants must fulfil in order to apply. As always, any candidate for a visa must refer to the Government’s own documentation before applying, as a great deal of information is available from their Immigration website.
Religious Workers - Key Stats
At a glance we can cover the basic outline of this type of visa. The following are some of the key aspects which applicants should familiarise themselves with
- Maximum Stay:
24 months (or the length of employment + 28 days, whichever is shortest)
Applicants must have a certificate of sponsorship from a relevant institution, to show that they are entering a specific role. They must also hold £945 in cash or have their maintenance sponsored by their employer.
£235 for all applications (£180 if submitted from Turkey or Macedonia)
Applications may be submitted up to three months before an applicant begins working in the UK, and it usually takes around 3 weeks to process a visa.
Certificate of Sponsorship
A key requirement of the Tier 5 visa is the certificate of sponsorship reference number, which each applicant will need to submit along with their visa application. This must be obtained from the organisation which will be employing the candidate during their stay in the UK, and can be sought at any time prior to applying for the visa. A certificate of sponsorship only remains valid for three months, though, and may only be used once.
Applicants won’t actually receive a certificate from their sponsor, and will only be supplied with a reference number. This allows the UK immigration services to cross-check the applicant with the job they’ll be performing, and access important information regarding their role. This includes details on the specific work they’ll be carrying out, how much they’ll be paid for it, and how long the role will last.
Permissions and Restrictions
As with any visa, entrants under a religious worker visa face certain limits on what they can and cannot do whilst in the country. As with many Tier 5 visas, religious workers receive a fair degree of freedom once they’re in the UK, but there are certain activities which they won’t be allowed to perform:
- Study in the UK, though for some courses an Academic Technology Approval Scheme certificate may be required
- Work part-time in a related role to their main job
- Work part-time in a job on the Shortage Occupation List (available from the UK Immigration website)
- Bring family members with them
- Remain in the UK beyond the term specified on their visa
- Work in a role unrelated to the one on their visa
- Access public funds
Costs of a Tier 5 Religious Worker Visa
As a temporary work visa, the costs of a Tier 5 visa are somewhat lower than many Tier 2 applications. While a Tier 2 visa can cost nearly a thousand pounds for a two-year stay, most Tier 5 visas only cost around £200 (£235 in the case of the religious worker visa). However, there are other associated costs which must be taken into account.
Applicants will need to pay the “healthcare surcharge” for their stay, which is a fee to cover the average costs of NHS treatment during an applicant’s stay in the UK. This usually costs £200 per applicant per year, but cheaper rates are available in some cases.
Another financial issue to consider is the maintenance requirement, which stipulates that applicants must either have held £945 in their accounts for more than 90 days or have their maintenance sponsored. This is to ensure that immigrants are able to meet their immediate housing and sustenance needs once they enter the country, and don’t need to fall back on public funding.
Applying for the Tier 5 Religious Worker Visa
Applications made within the UK may only be used to extend an existing visa. Applicants from overseas will need to submit their biometric data at a visa application centre, which involves giving fingerprints and a current photograph. This can cost around £20, though it varies depending on which country the application is made from. The biometric residence permit must be collected within 10 days of the applicant’s stated date of entry into the UK.
As previously mentioned, a Tier 5 visa of this type usually takes around 3 weeks to be processed. Since applications may be made up to 3 months before travelling, this gives candidates plenty of time to organise their visa. However, some candidates may find themselves short on time and might need to reduce the waiting period for a decision as much as possible. If in the UK, it’s possible to take advantage of the premium “priority” service, which cuts the processing time down to just 10 days. However, this service costs an additional £500 on top of the standard application fee.