The Minister of Religion Labour Agreement allows Australian religious organisations to sponsor the temporary and permanent entry of overseas Ministers of Religion to work in their religious organisation. It is the sole pathway which allows overseas workers to work in the occupation of Minister of Religion for an Australian organisation.
A Minister of Religion for immigration purposes can include Chaplains, Imans, Monks, Priests and Rabbis.
A prospective Minster of Religion visa applicant must show they have experience in the all or the majority of the following:
1. preparing and conducting services of public worship and acknowledgments of faith;
2.preparing and delivering sermons, homilies and special talks, and planning music for services;
3.participating in the social and welfare activities of communities, encouraging people to be aware of their responsibilities, and organising participation in community projects;
4. conducting classes of religious instruction, and supervising prayer and discussion groups, retreats and seminars;
5. conducting premarital and family counselling and referring people to professional service agencies where necessary;
6. performing marriages, funerals and special memorial services according to tradition and ecclesiastical and civil law;
7. visiting members of the community in their homes, hospitals and other institutions to provide advice and religious comfort.
If your religious organisation is successful in obtaining a Labour Agreement with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), it may be able to sponsor Ministers of Religion to come and work in Australia for the organisation pursuant to a Temporary Work (Skilled) Visa (Subclass 457) or under the Employer Nominated Scheme (Subclass 186).
The type of visa that the DIBP may allow the prospective visa applicant to apply for depends on the strength of the business case presented to them for an overseas Minister of Religion to come and work for your religious organization. The DIBP may allow the visa applicant to apply for a temporary visa only, a temporary visa with a pathway to permanent residence, or a permanent visa.
To be eligible to apply for a Minister of Religion Labour Agreement, your organisation must meet the definition of a Religious Organisation in the migration laws. The relevant definition of a religious organisation is as follows:
1. the activities of the organisation reflect that it is a body instituted for the promotion of a religious object;
2. the beliefs and practices of the members of which constitute a religion due to those members:
3. believing in a supernatural being, thing or principle; and
4. accepting the canons of conduct that give effect to that belief, but that do not offend against the ordinary laws.
5. the organisation meets the requirements of section 50-50 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997
6. the organisation’s income is exempt from income tax under section 50-1 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.
The last two requirements basically mean that your religious organisation must have charitable status with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Organisation and must have tax concession charity status with the Australian Taxation Office.
Foreign Ministers of Religion must demonstrate a score of at least 5.0 on the IELTS test. There are some limited exemptions to this requirement for Ministers of Religion who hold passports from certain countries or have completed at least 5 years of cumulative study at an educational institution(s) where all instructions was conducted in English.
A concession to English language proficiency requirements may be considered where the visa holder will be directly serving the needs of an ethnic group and interaction within the wider Australian society will be limited – for example they are working in a cloistered or monastic environment.
The overseas Minister of Religion nominated to work for your religious organisation is required to be offered a genuine leadership role within your organisation. The DIBP will consider the size of the organisation and its workforce composition in determining whether this is the case.
Ministers of Religion must have:
1. been ordained or have professed to a religious life as a minister of religion (or equivalent accreditation process within the faith tradition); and
2. minimum qualifications equivalent to a relevant Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) bachelor degree in a relevant field (e.g. Bachelor of Ministry or Theology); or
3. undertaken at least five years of relevant structured training or instruction (that can be verified through appropriate evidence).
If applying on the basis of holding relevant minimum qualifications, it is a good idea for the Minister of Religion to be “skills assessed” by the relevant assessing body, which is currently VETASSESS,
Minister of Religion visa applicants must be no more than 60 years of age at time of visa application for an Employer Nominated Scheme (Subclass 186) Visa, which is a permanent visa. No age requirements apply when applying for a Temporary Work Skilled (Subclass 457) Visa only, which is a temporary visa.
Concessions to the age requirements may be considered where there is not a tradition of retirement within the faith tradition and where the needs of aged religious workers continue to be met by the religious organisation without recourse to the aged pension.
Overseas Ministers of Religion must receive terms and conditions of employment that are no less favourable than that provided to an Australian Minister of Religion working in the same role in the same location.
This generally means that a Minister of Religion must be paid at least the Temporary Skilled Migration Threshold (TSMIT), which is currently $53,900 plus superannuation (which can include monetary benefits and some non-monetary benefits e.g. if the religious organisation pays for the Minister’s rent or lease costs on their home).
Where a vow of poverty is required by the wider religious organisation for the occupation, a religious organisation must provide evidence that this is the case and attest that overseas workers will be provided equivalent terms and conditions to that of Australians in the same occupation in the sponsoring organisation and will provide all living needs, including board and lodging, health, education, welfare and any other costs incurred by the Minister of Religion.
Our experienced immigration lawyers will ensure your application is given the best prospects of success.
We offer all our prospective clients an initial meeting, during which we will thoroughly explain the law surrounding Minister of Religion Labour Agreements and related visa applications to you and inform you of the process moving forward.
To organize a initial consultation with us, please contact one of our experienced immigration lawyers on (02) 9590 3987.