Minister of Religion permission
Sinnott Solicitors are experienced in assisting our clients to obtain Minister of Religion Permission to enter the State as a Minister of Religion. Some of our clients include various Religious organisation whom we advise when those organisations wish to bring their members to Ireland as Ministers of Religion, Religious volunteers or otherwise. This permission allows a successful applicant to work with an eligible religious body or faith community in Ireland for up to 3 years (with a possible 3 year extension) subject to certain conditions.
If an applicant intends to stay in Ireland for less than 3 months, then an applicant should not apply for this permission. For example if an applicant intend to come to Ireland to purse a course of study or training within an eligible religions body of which an applicant is already a member, then a separate application is required and pre clearance is a pre requisite.
Who can apply for Minister of Religion Permission
An applicant may apply for permission to enter the State and work as a Minister of Religion if an applicant :
- Is a non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss citizen
- Is a qualified, ordained or professed member of a religious body or faith community that matches the criteria below
- Has been offered a role as a Minister of Religion by the same body or community of which an applicant is a qualified, ordained or professed member
- An applicant and an applicant’s family (if applicable), will be fully supported financially by an applicant, sponsoring religious body or faith community for the entire duration of an applicant’s stay in Ireland.
- Has 3 years verifiable experience as a Minister of Religion (evidence will have to be submitted)
- Can provide a police clearance certificate from an applicant r country of residence (not more than 3 months old)
- Has been vetted by An Garda Síochána to work with children and vulnerable adults in Ireland (evidence must be submitted)
- Has medical insurance from a company authorised by the Health Insurance Authority of Ireland to cover an applicant and an applicant’s family (if applicable) in place on an applicant’s arrival in the State for the entire duration of an applicant’s stay in Ireland.
If an applicant wishes for family (spouse/partner and children under 18 only) to join an applicant here, an applicant’s sponsor must be able to financially support an applicant’s entire family for the full duration of an applicant’s stay.
The work a successful applicant can do
The work an applicant does as a Minister of Religion must include all or most of the following for an established congregation in Ireland:
- Conduct spiritual worship and or ceremonies to an established congregation in Ireland
- Give pastoral care to members of an established congregation through preaching
- Conduct classes based on a religious ethos, supervising prayer meetings etc.
- Provide spiritual leadership
- Minister to the spiritual needs of an established congregation
- Conduct pastoral visitation
- Provide senior administration support of a substantially full-time nature to a religious institution/order/church
- Be a member of a religious community whose members take public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience
If an applicant intends to join a “closed” religious order in Ireland (of which an applicant is already a member) the applicant must apply for permission based on the last point above.
Permission to work as a Minister of Religion allows the successful applicant to do the following:
Work as a Minister of Religion with an eligible religious body or faith community subject to the following conditions:
- An applicant’s role must match the criteria for Minister of Religion described below
- The religious body or faith community must match the criteria for eligibility described below
- Stay in Ireland for 1 year initially, up to a maximum of 3 years
- Apply for one (possible) extension of 3 years after the normal 3 years has ended
- Do voluntary work, as long as it does not interfere with an applicant’s primary role as a minister
- Study, as long as it does not interfere with an applicant’s primary role as Minister
- Bring an applicant’s family with an applicant (spouse/partner and children under 18 only). The permission granted to the spouse/partner/children under this Programme will be dependent on the continued residence status of the Minister of Religion. In cases where the Minister of Religion leaves the country, the accompanying spouse/partner/children, if applicable, must also depart
- Travel abroad for short periods (e.g. holidays and attending conferences) and return to Ireland.
Minister of religion permission does not permit a successful applicant to do the following:
- Do any other paid work except the Minister of Religion role
- Bring other family members with an applicant g. elderly dependents, children over 18
- Change to a different immigration permission during an applicant’s stay
- Change the religious body or faith community while in Ireland
- Apply for permission to remain as a volunteer after an applicant’s permission to work as a Minister of Religion expires
- Rely on public services or claim any state benefits
Who can a successful applicant work for?
An applicant must be invited to Ireland by an eligible religious body or faith community.
To be eligible, the religious body or faith community must:
- Be already established in Ireland
- Have an active membership or congregation in Ireland, including full time serving Ministers of Religion
- Have dedicated premises in Ireland serving the religious body or faith community
An eligible religious body or faith community that invites an applicant to Ireland is called an applicant’s ‘sponsor’. A sponsor must be a body, it cannot be an individual. An applicant’s sponsor has important obligations and is responsible for an applicant in several ways. Before applying, an applicant’s sponsor must send an applicant a sponsorship letter and supporting documents confirming that:
- There is a verifiable need with the body or community for the person who is applying under this Programme
- The applicant is suitably qualified to discharge the duties and responsibilities of the position
- The applicant has a clean police record
- Child protection policies and procedures in line with the Children First Guidance are in place in the religious body or faith community
- The applicant is cleared to work with children and vulnerable adults and have a clean police record and documentary evidence not more than 3 months old
- The applicant (and his or her immediate family) will be supported through the provision from the sponsor of funds and/or accommodation that are sufficient to maintain the applicant throughout the period of his/her permission to remain in the State under the Programme.
An applicant must submit these supporting documents together with the Preclearance application form. Sponsorship also means that the sponsor cooperates with State authorities to ensure that the Minister of Religion leaves the State on the expiry of his or her permission, or if directed to do so by those authorities. Failure to cooperate with State authorities in this regard will impact on future sponsorship by that religious body or faith community.
An applicant will not be granted permission if an applicant does not have sponsorship from an eligible religious body or faith community or if an applicant is sponsored by an organisation that does not match the criteria above.
Preclearance Approval Letter
A new preclearance procedure applies to both visa and non-visa required non-EEA nationals. The pre clearance procedure is due to be reviewed by the Department of Justice in April 2021.
In order to be permitted entry to the State for the purpose of working as a ‘long stay’ Minister of Religion, the applicant must produce the appropriate preclearance approval letter. Sinnott Solicitors can assist and advise applicants on this type of application for a pre clearance approval letter.
Under the rules, qualifying religious personnel will be permitted to enter and remain in the State for up to three years where the applicant has demonstrated a need for their services and subject to compliance with all other immigration requirements that apply in individual cases.
All non-EEA nationals (both visa required and non-visa required) who have been offered a job with a religious body or faith community as a Minister of Religion in Ireland must seek prior approval (preclearance) to work in that capacity from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of the Department of Justice and Equality, before travelling to the State.
An applicant must apply for immigration preclearance to enter the state as a Minister of Religion before an applicant travel to Ireland. An applicant must be resident outside the State when making an application for permission to come to work as a Minister of Religion for a period longer than 90 days. The applicant must remain outside the State while their application is being processed. An applicant will not be permitted entry to the State, for the purpose of working as a long stay Minister of Religion, unless an applicant can produce a Preclearance Approval Letter.
Non-EEA Nationals requiring an Entry Visa
If an applicant does not live in China; India; Nigeria; or Pakistan, an applicant must wait until an applicant’s Preclearance application is successful before applying for a visa. If an applicant’s Preclearance application is successful, an applicant must then apply for a visa online. When an applicant has completed the online visa application process, an applicant must follow the instructions on the summary application form that is created by the online system The summary form will contain information on where an applicant must submit an applicant’s visa application. An applicant will need to submit an applicant’s Preclearance Letter of Approval, an applicant’s passport, signed visa application summary form, photographs and visa application fee. An applicant does not have to submit the other documents an applicant submitted in support of an applicant’s Preclearance application.
If an applicant lives in China; India; Nigeria; or Pakistan, an applicant must submit a visa application at the same time that an applicant makes the Preclearance application, and have an applicant’s biometric details recorded. When an applicant has completed the online visa application process, an applicant must follow the instructions on the summary application form that is created by the online system. The summary form will contain information on where an applicant are to submit an applicant’s visa application. An applicant will need to submit an applicant’s passport, signed visa application form, and visa application fee.
Non-EEA nationals not requiring an Entry Visa
Non-EEA nationals not requiring an entry visa must have prior approval from the Department of Justice and Equality, Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) under this procedure to enter the State as a Minister of Religion.
If an applicant is successful, an applicant will be granted a letter of approval. This letter of approval must be presented to the Immigration Officer at the port of entry on arrival in the State.
An applicant’s application under this Programme must be made from outside the State unless an applicant are seeking an extension to an existing permission with the same sponsor. Transitional arrangements (see below)
Documents required for preclearance letter
- A Full colour copy of the applicant’s current passport (all pages).
- Full colour copies of all pages of all previous passports (where available).
- A full colour copy of current passport (all pages) and a full colour copy of all previous passports for spouse and children (if applicable)
- Letter of sponsorship on headed paper from the religious institution/order/church. This should detail:
- an applicant’s intended role in the State
- that there is a verifiable need for an applicant
- that an applicant has a clean police record
- that child protection policies and procedures in line with the Children’s First Guidance are in place as per Section 9 iv of the policy document
- that an applicant is suitably qualified to discharge the duties and responsibilities of the position
- the location of the dedicated premises
- the number of current serving Ministers and congregation size and
- how they intend to support an applicant in the State.
An applicant must be financially supported by the sponsoring organisation within Ireland, financial support from sources outside the state will not be accepted as part of this Scheme.
- A full six months bank statement from an applicant or the Sponsor
- Bank statements must be on headed bank paper (An applicant may use a printed internet statement but it must be officially certified by an applicant’s bank. We will not accept uncertified internet statements)
- They must show an applicant’s name and address
- They must show the bank account number and account type, for example checking/current account, savings/deposit account
- They must show money paid in and out of the account over the last 6 months.
- A full six months bank statement from an applicant’s sponsor
- Audited accounts of the sponsor should be available if required by the immigration authorities.
- Colour copy of an applicant r Marriage certificate (if applicable)/Children’s birth certificates (if applicable)
- Evidence of educational qualifications
- Evidence that an applicant satisfy Paragraph 4.1 of the Policy Document (for example, an ordination certificate), and verifiable evidence of an applicant’s three years’ experience as a Minister of Religion
- Police Clearance Certificate (not more than three months old, to also include a criminal records check) from an applicant’s country of current residence and any country an applicant has resided in, in the 3 years prior to an applicant’s application.
- Confirmation from an applicant’s sponsor they have obtained Garda Síochána vetting for an applicant if an applicant will be working in a role involving children and/or vulnerable adults. A Garda Vetting certificate will need to be submitted as part of an applicant’s application
- If Garda Vetting is not submitted, then there must be a clear written undertaking from the sponsoring organisation, in the sponsorship letter accompanying the application, that an applicant will have no involvement with children or vulnerable adults during the course of an applicant’s work in Ireland.
- An applicant must be in a position to show evidence of medical/travel insurance for an applicant and any permitted family members, which covers the required amounts.
- If an applicant has previously been refused a visa, or deported from, or otherwise were required to leave any country, an applicant will need to submit the associated documentation from the authorities of that country.
If an applicant submits a document that is not in Irish or English, it must be accompanied by a full translation into one of these languages. Each translated document must contain:
- Confirmation from the translator that it is accurate translation of the original document
- Date of the translation
- The translator’s full name and signature
- The translator’s contact details.
An applicant and any permitted family member(s) must be covered by private medical insurance, from a company authorised by the Health Insurance Authority for the duration of an applicant’s time in the State. An applicant’s sponsor may include an applicant in their group insurance scheme. Travel insurance may suffice but only during the first year of an applicant’s stay, provided it covers an applicant :
- For the full period before an applicant arranges private medical insurance
- At a minimum of €25,000 for accident and €25,000 for illness and disease and
- For any period of hospitalisation
- In addition, it is advisable that applicants have insurance to cover repatriation in the event of serious illness or unforeseen events.
The minimum permitted period of residence under this Programme is one (1) year and the maximum is three years. This means that any period up to one year will reckon as a full year for the purpose of the Programme. An applicant may spend three full consecutive years in Ireland renewable annually or break the period into separate lots of one or two years, provided the overall period does not exceed three years.
An applicant may not, having spent a period in the State as a Minister of Religion, subsequently avail of the Volunteering in Ireland programme.
Decision and next steps
In general an applicant can expect a decision within an 8 week period after an applicant’s application is received.
An applicant’s family members
If an applicant’s family members, who intend to join an applicant in the State, need a visa they must apply online for a long stay Join Family visa before they travel to Ireland.
If their visas are granted, and after they arrive in Ireland, an applicant’s family must also apply for permission to stay here and register with immigration. If successful, their permission will then be dependent on an applicant’s permission. For example, if an applicant’s immigration permission is withdrawn or if an applicant leaves Ireland, an applicant’s family must also leave Ireland.
If an applicant’s family members, who intend to join an applicant in the State, are citizens of countries not requiring a visa to travel to Ireland, they do not need to apply for a visa before joining or accompanying an applicant to the State.
After they arrive in Ireland, and present themselves to an Immigration Officer at the port of entry, an applicant’s family must also apply for permission to stay here and register with immigration. If successful, their permission will then be dependent on an applicant’s permission.
If an applicant’s application is refused, the following rules apply
An applicant can request an appeal of this decision by responding to the refusal reasons with extra supporting documents if required. The appeal must be received by the Visa Office within six weeks of the date of the refusal letter. The appeal process is free of charge.
Appeal of the decision and Judicial Review
If an applicant’s appeal is approved, an applicant will be sent a preclearance letter. If an applicant’s appeal is refused, an applicant cannot request another appeal. IF an Applicant’s appeal is refused, then we can examine the decision and advise whether a Judicial Review of the decision to the High Court is possible.
Immigration permission, registration and renewal
After an applicant enters the country, an applicant must visit registration before an applicant’s landing stamp expires to:
- Extend an applicant’s permission to stay for longer than 90 days (i.e. as a Minister of Religion and to
- Register an applicant’s details with Immigration
If an applicant’s visit is successful, an applicant will be given immigration permission to stay as a Minister of Religion for an initial 12 month period based on stamp number 3.
Renew an applicant’s immigration permission
An applicant must visit a registration office to renew an applicant’s permission and registration about 6 weeks before they expire. Immigration policy for Ministers of Religion allows an applicant to renew twice, up to a maximum of 3 years.
Change to an applicant’s sponsoring organisation
To change to another Minister of Religion position in a different organisation, an applicant must dot he following:
- Leave Ireland and apply again from outside the State to the Preclearance Unit before the normal 3 year period of permission ends
- Pay the requisite fee
The rules state that an applicant can only work as a Minister of Religion in Ireland for a normal maximum of 3 years total, no matter how many times an applicant applies.
An applicant can break the normal 3 year period of permission/registration into separate periods. For example; 3 periods of 1 year each or 2 separate periods of 1 year and 2 years.