RELIGIOUS communities that have relied on members from the European Union to fill temporary posts will be hit severely when free movement ends on 31 December: the date on which the Brexit transition period ends, an immigration lawyer has warned.
Religious orders that fill short-term gaps in ministry and pastoral work with priests and lay people from overseas will be the most affected.
Julie Moktadir, a partner in the immigration team of the law firm Stone King, said that she was concerned that many religious communities were not aware of how they would be affected by Brexit.
Many religious communities, she said, currently took advantage of the free movement of European nationals, as when a priest took an extended break in the summer months and a Polish priest covered the absence. “With the end of free movement following the UK’s exit from the EU, religious communities need to consider alternative routes for this type of temporary role and how to fill them.”
Religious communities that hold sponsorship licences had been able to sponsor long-term workers on Tier 2 Minister of Religion visas, and temporary workers on Tier 5 Religious Worker visas, she said. Changes introduced last year, however, meant that they could no longer sponsor a worker in the Tier 5 category to fill the post of minister of religion.
She continued: “Further, many religious orders rely on free movement within Europe, and do not have the expertise or knowledge to understand immigration law and the alternative routes available once free movement ends.
“Detailed consideration will need to be given as to whether sponsorship will be required, or, indeed, whether the basis of the individual’s visit will fall within the visitor’s visa rules. This will also be important to organisations who are assisted by volunteers.”
Stone King has created a free online “self-audit” tool for religious orders to complete, which suggests what action they should take before the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December. The tool is free to use, and feedback is supplied free of charge by email, although any follow-up queries would generate a fee.