The Religious Worker visa is a Temporary UK Worker Visa for overseas nationals to work as visiting religious workers, in a non-pastoral role or religious order.
Replacing the previous T5 (Temporary Worker) Religious Visa, it allows the individual to work in the UK for up to 2 years.
The following guide to the Religious Worker visa explains what this visa allows and who can apply, and answers frequently asked questions for applicants.
What is the Religious Worker visa?
The Religious Worker visa is a temporary visa for overseas nationals looking to support the activities of UK-based religious institutions by conducting religious work, such as working in either a religious order or undertaking non-pastoral type work for a religious organisation. This visa has replaced the T5 (Temporary Worker) Religious Worker visa.
It is a sponsored immigration route, meaning the employer will need to be an approved sponsor.
If the engagement in the UK will involve leading a congregation in performing both the rites and rituals of the faith in question, and in preaching the essentials of the creed, the individual should apply for the T2 Minister of Religion route.
What does the Religious Worker visa allow?
If an applicant is successfully granted a Religious Worker visa, this will allow them to do the work for which they are being sponsored to do in the UK. The applicant will be given a visa to work in the UK for a period of up to 24 months, or up to 28 days more than the time on their certificate of sponsorship, although they may be sponsored for a shorter period.
The visa-holder will be permitted to enter the UK up to 14 days prior to the start date of their sponsored job role. Once they are in the UK, they will be able to study alongside their work, provided this does not interfere with their job. A Religious Worker will also be able to do a second job within the same sector and at the same level as their main job, or a job on the Skilled Worker shortage occupation list, in either case for up to 20 hours a week.
Who can apply for the Religious Worker visa?
An overseas national who has the offer of an eligible job to undertake religious work in the UK in a non-pastoral role or religious order will potentially be eligible for a Religious Worker visa, provided they are being sponsored by an employer approved to sponsor this category of worker. To be able to issue certificates of sponsorship, the prospective employer must hold a valid sponsor licence for the Religious Worker route. The work that the applicant will be doing in the UK must also relate to the sponsor organisation’s work.
Importantly, if the applicant has previously been granted either a Religious Worker visa or a Charity Worker visa during the course of the last year, unless they can prove that they were outside the UK for the whole of that time, they will not be eligible to re-apply.
Can dependants apply on the Religious Worker route?
Under the Religious Worker route, the immediate family of the principal applicant or primary visa-holder will be able to apply to accompany or join them in the UK. This includes the worker’s spouse or partner, or any children under the age of 18, provided their partner or children meet the relevant requirements for dependants under the rules.
A partner can include an unmarried partner, provided that person has lived with the principal applicant or primary visa-holder for a minimum period of 2 years. In the context of any dependent children aged 16 or 17, they must live with their parent(s), unless they are away at boarding school, college or university, and be financially supported by them. They must also not be married or in a civil partnership, or have their own children.
Provided the spouse, partner and/or child(ren) of the Religious Worker are successfully granted visas on this route, their permission to be in the UK will run for the same time as that of their partner or parent. They will be free to undertake any kind of work while they are in the UK, including self-employment or any voluntary work, except as a professional sportsperson or sports coach. They will also be able to study in the UK.
Religious Worker visa requirements
To apply for a Religious Worker visa, the applicant must have a valid certificate of sponsorship from their prospective UK employer. This is not a physical document, but rather a unique reference number that provides the information that UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will need about the applicant, their UK job role and their employer.
For a sponsorship certificate to be valid under this route, this must:
- confirm the applicant’s full name, that the applicant is being sponsored as a Religious Worker, details of the proposed job role and the pay that their UK sponsor is offering them
- include a start date no more than 3 months after the date of application
- confirm that the role meets the relevant requirements under this route
- confirm whether the applicant is a member of the sponsor’s order, where the sponsor is a religious order
- confirm that the applicant will receive pay and conditions that are at least equal to those given to settled workers in the same role
- confirm that the applicant’s pay will comply with or is exempt from the National Minimum Wage
- confirm that the requirements of the resident labour consideration in respect of the job have been complied with, where there are quite complex rules about how the UK sponsor can show this and for which legal advice may need to be sought.
In addition to being assigned a valid certificate of sponsorship, the applicant must also have funds of £1,270 to be able to support themselves on their arrival in the UK. This is known as the financial requirement, where they will need to have held those funds for a period of 28 consecutive days, where day 28 must fall within 31 days of the date of application.
If the partner or dependent children of the Religious Worker are also applying at the same time on this route, the following additional funds will be needed:
- £285 for the worker’s partner
- £315 for their first dependent child
- £200 for each further child.
For example, for an applicant applying with their husband or wife and three children, they would need to show total funds of £2,070 (£1,270 + £285 + £315 + £200). Alternatively, the worker’s prospective employer can certify maintenance on the applicant’s certificate of sponsorship. This means that they will guarantee to cover the costs of the Religious Worker and their family for the first month, up to the value of the amounts set out above.
How to apply for a Religious Worker visa
An application for a Religious Worker visa must be submitted online any time up to 3 months prior to the applicant’s start date, as set out on their certificate of sponsorship. As part of their online application, the applicant will be required to prove their identity and provide their supporting documentation, although how they go about doing this will depend on which country they are from and the type of passport that they hold.
In some cases, the applicant will be able to use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan their identity passport or other travel document, where they will also be required to create or sign into their UKVI account. In other cases, the applicant may be asked to attend an appointment at an overseas visa application centre. At the appointment, they will be required to have a scan of their fingerprints and a photograph taken, in this way enabling them to obtain a biometric residence permit once they are in the UK.
The applicant will be told whether they can use the ID app or if they must instead schedule an in-person appointment at a visa application centre when they apply. If they do need an appointment, they may have to travel to another country to get to their nearest centre. The centre personnel may also need to keep their passport and any other documentation while they process the application for a Religious Worker visa.
Religious Worker visa supporting documents
When applying for a Religious Worker visa, the applicant will need a passport or other valid travel document to be able to prove their identity. They will also need proof of the financial requirement, unless their UK sponsor has certified maintenance, together with their tuberculosis test results if from a country where they are required to take the test.
If the applicant’s dependants are applying at the same time, they will need proof of their relationship. They may also need other documentation depending on their circumstances.
Once an applicant has applied online, paid the application fee, proved their identity and provided their supporting documents, they will usually get a decision within 3 weeks.
How much does it cost to apply for a Religious Worker visa?
The costs of applying for a Religious Worker visa are as follows:
- a £259 application fee for each person applying
- a £624 healthcare surcharge for each year in the UK per adult (to be able to access the NHS), reduced to £470 for any applicants under the age of 18
The application fee and healthcare surcharge are in addition to any funds required to meet the financial requirement under the rules, where applicable. If the applicant is required to attend an appointment at a visa application centre, they may be able to pay an additional fee for a faster decision, although this will be on top of the other costs set out above.
Can a Religious Worker visa be extended?
A Religious Worker visa-holder can apply to extend their visa, although they must continue to meet the eligibility requirements and still be in the UK. They must also apply for an extension of stay before their current visa expires. However, a Religious Worker will only be able to extend their stay up to the maximum period of 24 months or the time on their certificate of sponsorship, plus another 14 days, whichever is the shorter.
It is also worth noting that when applying to extend a Religious Worker visa, the permission given to the partner or dependent children of the primary visa-holder will not extend at the same time. This means that any partner or dependent children must also apply to extend their stay in the UK. If an application is not made for further leave to remain, their visas will only be valid until their original end date. The dependants of Religious Workers can apply at the same time as their partner or parent, or at any time before their visas expire.
An extension of stay application can take up to 8 weeks, although the applicant(s) may be able to pay for a faster decision using one of the priority services. They will be told if they can fast-track their decision when they apply to extend their visa. Having submitted their application and prior to receiving a decision from UKVI, the applicant and their family will not be permitted to travel outside the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, otherwise they risk having their visa application(s) withdrawn.
Can a Religious Worker visa lead to settlement?
The Religious Worker route is not a route to settlement in the UK. This means that a Religious Worker will not be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) on this route to allow them to permanently settle. As such, if the visa-holder is looking to set up a life in the UK, they would need to apply to switch into a visa category that does provide a path to settlement ‘and’ meet the relevant requirements of that route.
For example, if applying on the Skilled Worker route, an applicant would need the offer of an eligible job role by a UK sponsor that meets the minimum skill and salary requirements. Additionally, even if successfully granted a visa on the Skilled Worker route, the visa-holder would then need to meet a 5-year continuous residence requirement to apply for ILR.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. For guidance on the Religious Worker temporary visa application process, contact us.
Religious worker visa FAQs
What is a Religious Worker visa UK?
A Religious Worker visa is the permission needed for overseas nationals looking to support the activities of UK-based religious institutions by conducting religious work, such as working in a religious order or undertaking non-pastoral type work for a religious organisation.
How do I get a religious visa for the UK?
To obtain a Religious Worker visa you will need to make an online application, pay the relevant fee, prove your identity and submit supporting documentation to show that you meet the eligibility requirements for this type of temporary work visa.
What is UK Tier 5 Religious Worker visa?
The Religious Worker visa under the UK’s Immigration Rules, designed for overseas nationals looking to come to the UK to work in a non-pastoral type role or religious order.
Last updated: 4 April 2023