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How to apply for a religious work visa

The UK has two sponsored work routes for religious workers: the T2 Minister of Religion visa for those with a key leading role in their faith-based organisation or religious order in the UK, and the temporary Religious Worker visa for those who support the activities of religious institutions in the UK by working in a religious order or filling non-pastoral placements.

The ‘T2’ is a reference to ‘Tier 2’ of the old points-based system introduced in 2008. At the time of writing, this was one of the only remaining visa types not to have been fully renamed.

The Minister of Religion route leads to settlement after five years. The Religious Worker route is a temporary route for a maximum of two years and does not lead to settlement. Both routes have two main requirements: sponsorship and financial. Minister of Religion applicants must additionally meet an English language requirement.

A summary of the key differences may be a helpful place to start:

RequirementT2 Minister of ReligionReligious worker

Eligible employment

Work must be of a mainly pastoral nature, such as leading a congregation in performing rites and rituals, and preaching the essentials of the creed. This includes, but is not limited to, religious leaders such as priests, imams, rabbis, and other ministers of religion.

Work can involve performing religious duties to support the activities of religious institutions and can be either pastoral or non-pastoral. It can include working in a religious order. Ministers of religion cannot be sponsored under the Religious Worker route.

Resident labour consideration

No resident labour market test required.

Resident labour market test required.

English language

Level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for language in all four components (reading, writing, speaking, and listening).

Not required.

Maximum stay

Can be sponsored for up to six years and eligible to apply for settlement after five years.

Maximum stay of two years with no option to extend or apply for settlement.

Switching immigration category

In-country switching permitted.

In-country switching not permitted.

Cooling-off period


Applicants who have been in the UK as a Religious Worker or Charity Worker within 12 months of the date of application will be subject to a 12-month cooling off period before they can re-apply for entry clearance.


Dependant partner and children can apply.

Dependant partner and children can apply.

Sponsorship requirement

Applicants under both routes must be sponsored by a licensed religious sponsor in the UK and issued with a valid certificate of sponsorship for their role. The certificate of sponsorship must confirm that the applicant is being sponsored for work that is eligible under their chosen route.

For Ministers of Religion, this cannot involve mainly non-pastoral duties such as school teaching and clerical work which should instead be sponsored under the Religious Worker route.

Minimum wage

There is no stipulated minimum salary or hourly wage under either of the religious routes. Instead, the certificate of sponsorship must confirm that applicants will receive pay and conditions that are no less favourable than those given to settled workers in the same role. This may be a traditional salary, stipend, board and lodgings, or a combination of these, but, in all cases, must comply with, or be exempt from, the National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015.

Section 44A of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 contains an exemption for religious and resident workers. It provides that a residential member of a religious community does not qualify for the national minimum wage in respect of employment by the community, providing that:

  • The community is a charity or is established by a charity;
  • A purpose of the community is to practice, or advance a belief of a religious or similar nature; and
  • All or some of its members live together for that purpose.

If, therefore, the applicant is sponsored by a religious organisation in which there are a core group of people who live together in a community, and the applicant is living with the core group, they are exempt from the national minimum wage.

Resident labour market test for Religious Workers

A key difference between the two routes is the resident labour market consideration under the Religious Worker route. The resident labour market test is a hangover from the old Tier 2 working routes, requiring the role intended for sponsorship to first be advertised in the UK to give British and settled workers a chance to apply.

Any role intended for sponsorship under the Religious Worker route must be advertised for at least 28 days before it becomes eligible for sponsorship. Where possible, the role must be advertised in a medium appropriate to the organisation’s religion or denomination.

However, a resident labour market test is not required if the role is supernumerary or the worker will mainly live within and be a member of a religious order.

Financial requirement

There is a financial requirement for both routes. To meet the Minister of Religion financial requirement, applicants must show evidence of at least £1,270 held for at least 28 days prior to the date of application. If applying with dependants, additional funds of £285 must be shown for partners, £315 for the first dependant child and £200 for each additional child.

No financial evidence is required if the applicant has lived in the UK with permission in any route for 12 months or more prior to the date of application, or their sponsor has certified on the certificate of sponsorship that, if necessary, they will maintain and accommodate the applicant and any dependants for the first month of employment in the UK.

English language requirement for Ministers of Religion

Ministers of Religion must prove English language proficiency at Level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for language in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. They can do this by passing an approved English language test, having an academic qualification taught in English at UK bachelor’s, master’s degree or PHD level or providing evidence that they are a national of a majority English-speaking country listed in Appendix English Language.

No language requirement applies for Religious Worker visas.

Other visa options for religious workers

Religious organisations can also sponsor workers to fill temporary positions on the Charity Worker route, provided the work is unpaid and comes within the definition of voluntary fieldwork which applies on that route – this includes a requirement that the work is directly related to the organisation’s charitable aims.

Religious workers can come to the UK as standard visitors to preach or do pastoral work for up to six months without being sponsored, provided they will not take work which amounts to filling a role or providing short-term cover within a UK-based organisation. Visitors cannot receive payment, except reasonable expenses to cover the cost of travel and subsistence.

Lastly, there is nothing preventing a religious organisation from obtaining a regular Skilled Worker sponsor licence and sponsoring eligible staff such as directors under that route.

Relevant rules and guidance

The relevant immigration rules are at Appendix T2 Minister of Religion and Appendix Temporary Work – Religious Worker.

The Home Office publishes a combined guidance document for sponsors titled Sponsor a Minister of Religion or Religious Worker.

The actual caseworker guidance is separated for each of the two routes: there is a self-contained document for the T2 Minister of Religion route, and the Religious Worker guidance can be found within a broader Temporary Work caseworker guidance document.

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Picture of Jack Freeland

Jack Freeland

Jack is a solicitor specialising in immigration law at Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP. He advises on all UK immigration matters, with particular focus on family migration for spouses, partners and children, and foreign worker sponsorship and immigration compliance for businesses. His profile can be found here: https://shepwedd.com/people/jack-freeland


One Response

  1. “Can be sponsored for up to six years and eligible to apply for settlement after five years.” – Is this statement correct, implying that a T2G Minister of Religion CANNOT further extend their LTR beyond the 6 year term ? Thank you