Archive 2010 Immigration and Visas

The following notes are intended for any UK Buddhist Centres wanting to bring monks or other visitors over. They were written in 2010 by Wilson Young, NBO webmaster.

Information received from The UK Border Agency
6th January 2010

I am writing to update you on the roll out of Identity Cards for Foreign Nationals, and to ask you to cascade this message within your organisation. From 6 January 2010, skilled workers with a UK sponsor and their dependants successfully applying to extend their stay under Tier 2 of the Points Based System will receive an identity card for foreign nationals.

Biometric Enrolment
In country applications for further leave to remain under Tier 2 made prior to the 6th January will not require biometric enrolment but, applications made on or after the 6th January will require biometrics to be enrolled. Updates have been posted on the UK Border Agency website and changes to the Tier 2 migrant guidance , application form, dependant form and change circumstance form are all available.

The UK Border Agency has this year increased the options for customers enrolling biometrics and there are now 11 Home Office biometric enrolment centres around the UK where foreign nationals can book an appointment either through the new online booking service or by telephone. To further improve customer choice, postal applicants living within certain postcodes are now able to enrol their biometrics at a limited number of Crown Post Offices nationwide. This is a walk-in service, with no need to book an appointment, but currently this trial only applies to individuals who have been sent an invitation to enrol their biometrics via the walk-in service.

Premium applications (applicants wishing to receive a decision on the same day as their application) are available at one of the UK Border Agency’s seven Public Enquiry Offices – Croydon, Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, Solihull and Sheffield).

Guidance on checking the cards is available on the UK Border Agency website to ensure all stakeholders are familiar with its design and security features and recognise the card when it is presented to them. There is also a pack of useful information available to download. The card is checked visually and physically. The applicant’s entitlement to work, study or access public funds is captured in the “remarks” section of the card.

Points based system

Employers need to be aware that under the Government’s new Points Based System for immigration, which started to roll out in 2008, businesses need to be licensed as sponsors by the UK Border Agency before they can bring in any skilled foreign workers from outside the EEA. Under PBS the sponsor will have to keep proper records of the migrants they have sponsored, including their contact details and a copy of their identity card, and supply those to the UK Border Agency on request.

Further information about the Points Based System is available on the UK Border Agency website.

September 24th 2009

We are:

Announcing our intention (subject to Parliamentary approval) to accelerate issuing cards to skilled workers with a UK sponsor extending leave under Tier 2 of the Points Based System (PBS) from April 2010 to January 2010.
Proposing bringing forward the issue of cards to highly skilled workers and temporary workers extending leave under Tiers 1 and 5 to the end of 2010.
Piloting biometric enrolment with Post Office Ltd at 17 Crown Post Office locations from October.
Identity Cards for Foreign Nationals make checking whether someone has the right to work simpler. They replace numerous other documents with a single recognisable and comprehensive proof of entitlement to live and work in the UK. They are a convenient, extremely secure and widely accepted way for any foreign national to prove their immigration status.

We initially began issuing identity cards to foreign national students and spouses or partners from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) wishing to extend their leave in the UK in November 2008. From March this year we rolled out to other categories, including students applying under Tier 4 of the PBS and people seeking to transfer their conditions of leave into a new passport. We have now issued 90k cards, ahead of our target to issue 75k cards by November.

The process of applying for an Identity Card for Foreign Nationals requires applicants to enrol their biometrics (fingerprints and facial image) before we make an immigration decision. To improve customer service choice, from October, 17 Crown Post Offices will begin piloting biometric enrolment. This will be a walk-in service with no need to book an appointment. Details will be made available on the UK Border Agency website as these sites come online.

In addition to the Home Office’s Biometric Enrolment centres in Croydon, Sheffield, Solihull, Cardiff, Liverpool, Glasgow and Belfast, since the summer foreign nationals have been enrolling biometrics at four Identity and Passport Service Interview Offices:

– Elephant and Castle (London)
– Brighton
– Birmingham
– Derby
We have made it more convenient to book an appointment at one of our offices by launching a new online booking service. Details of this can be found on the UK Border Agency website.

The UK Border Agency also has mobile enrolment capability to enable those unable to travel for medical reasons to enrol their biometric features. We are exploring the use of mobile enrolment for those applicants who wish to pay for an exclusive service to have their biometrics enrolled at their home, place of work or study. This would be a service that would be charged for over and above the cost of the immigration application fee.

More detailed information on Identity Cards for Foreign Nationals and the exact locations of our biometric enrolment centres can be found on the UK Border Agency’s website.

Employers need to be aware that under the Government’s new Points Based System for immigration, which started to roll out in 2008, businesses need to be licensed as sponsors by the UK Border Agency before they can bring in any skilled foreign workers from outside the EEA. Under PBS the sponsor will have to keep proper records of the migrants they have sponsored, including their contact details and a copy of their identity card, and supply those to the UK Border Agency on request.

Further information about the Points Based System is available on the UK Border Agency website.

August 2009 The dust has hardly begun to settle on the new rules & regulations regarding visas (see below) of which I am assured the UKBA are working at to simplify if at all possible ~ and already there is something else to consider. Quoting from the relevant UKBA web page:

“The Government has already made fundamental reforms to the immigration system, to control migration in a way that is firm but fair. We now want to take these reforms a stage further, to build upon and strengthen the principle of earned citizenship.

We (the Government that is, not the NBO, although a discussion via the information email group could be useful) would like to hear your views on a range of topics, including the introduction a new points test for earned citizenship, which would better manage the numbers allowed to settle permanently in the United Kingdom.

The consultation is open for 12 weeks from 3 August 2009, and we welcome your comments. You can send us your response direct by completing our online response form.

You can also visit our Consultations section to download the consultation document, a printable response form and impact assessments of the propsals being consulted on, all in PDF format.

Please send your response by no later than midnight on 26 October 2009.”

Most of us were caught out last time. There may be (I haven’t investigated yet) implications for some member organisations.
Don’t say you weren’t given (courtesy of the NBO) the opportunity to have your say.
Do it now

Immigration Regulations & Visa Applications

November 2008. The rules regarding the granting of entry visas to Ministers of Religion (in the case of most Buddhist organisations, missionary monks) have changed. All non EU nationals are now subject to the same points system

Quoting from the UK Border Agency website (link in their logo above):

“28 October 2008. Today Phil Woolas, Minister of State for borders and immigration, announced the go live date for tiers 2 and 5 of the points-based system. Tier 2, relates to skilled workers, replaces the current work permit scheme…….
From 27 November 2008 employers wishing to bring non-European Economic Area migrants to the United Kingdom under tier 2….will need to be a licensed sponsor. Sponsors will be responsible for issuing certificates of sponsorship to migrants and ensuring that their sponsor obligations are fulfilled. Migrants can then use the certificate of sponsorship to apply for entry clearance.
If you have not yet applied for a sponsor’s licence and wish to bring in migrants under tier 2… need to apply for your licence as soon as possible.”

Tier 2 includes Ministers Of Religion. Even though the question of ‘paid employment’ is not applicable, organisations that invite Missionary Monks are classified as Employers for this purpose,

This page is intended to offer guidance to NBO members (and to anybody else who has arrived here) in this rather complex process which at first glance seems as daunting as setting out on the eightfold path.

I (your webmaster) am not making this page entirely out of the goodness of my heart, as I’m embarking on the licensing process on behalf of my own organisation (the Buddhavihara Temple in Staffordshire) I don’t lay any claim to have expert knowledge, so what you will get here is a layman’s account of jumping through the many hoops to be negotiated. I will update my progress (or otherwise) from time to time, so keep looking.

I will ask Yann & Gina (who are our experts on the legislation of this subject) to keep an eye on the page to make sure I don’t put out any misleading information.

First, a couple of PDF** files sent to my by Yann as a result of his representing the NBO at the Interfaith Network
Guidance notes from the IFN on Ministers of Religion

Revised notes pertaining to Religious Workers (Tier 5)
Guidance notes from the UK Border Agency (Ministers of Religion)

Guidance notes from the UK Border Agency. Full version 158 pp 1.4Mb
The Border Agency have produced a survey to gather views of the system so far. Whether or not you are a registered Sponsor, or are in the process of applying, you may feel your views are worth communicating to the Border Agency.
Responses to be e-mailed (or posted) by 5th June 2009 for the attention of: or in writing to:
Jo Laker, Immigration Policy, 11th Floor, Apollo House, 36,Wellesley Road, Croydon CR9 3RR

older material

Consultation Meeting with the Border & Immigration Agency, London, 25/04/07
Follow this link for a report by Yann & Gina (NBO Activities Cttee legal eagle)

These pages have been on the NBO site for several years now, and so much of the information in the downloads available from them will be out of date in light of current legislation. They are included here simply as an archive
Follow this link for documents put out by the Home Office
Follow this link for documents put out by the Immigration Service
The Immigration Advisory Service have been very helpful. They are not part of the Border Agency, but an independent registered charity. They do not offer advice specific to Sponsoring bodies, but know the law inside out.
Read what Luangpor Khemadhammo has to say about this subject

and finally…

An account of my application to become a licensed sponsor…an ongoing saga

The very first thing that strikes me on looking round the Border Agency Website is that, like many government websites, it is full of internal links, so following a path to get at what I really need to know isn’t easy as navigation around the site is not at all obvious. I guess the information is all in there somewhere. The site is a microcosm of what is said about the internet in general ‘There’s nothing you can’t find out if you know where to look!’

The next thing is that following the checklist ‘to test whether we are ready to apply for a sponsor licence’ immediately brings out the message that all sponsoring bodies are lumped together under the general heading of an ’employer’ ~ furthermore, an employer that has an ‘HR Department’ as frequent references are made to such. I can see this being a problem not just for organisations such as ourselves, but for any small business wishing to import a skilled worker (the umbrella definition of Tier 2)

There is a fee of £300 for the application, which is non-returnable if the application fails, so it’s important to get it right.

The first hoop therefore is to create our own HR department within the Temple. There is no point in copying all the Border Agency material here, as I would end up duplicating their site, but suffice to say that I have read so far:

you must be a genuine organisation or sole trader operating legally in the United Kingdom. OK, no problem
there must be no evidence that you are a threat to immigration control (we look at the history and background of your organisation and key personnel). I sincerely hope not
you must nominate a level 1 user, a key contact and an authorising officer. I guess they mean me
you must be able to comply with your sponsor duties (we look at your processes like your HR systems to make sure you can carry out your duties). So we need to have HR systems in place ~ this could be tricky.
you must send all your supporting documents when applying. Discovering what these are is my next hoop
you must meet the additional requirements for the tier and category you are applying under. Ditto

The download at the top of this page Guidance notes from the UK Border Agency Ministers of Religion is but a short extract out of the full set of guidelines, a 158pp document which is the download at the bottom of the list.

18th Dec 2008 Beware ~ these guidelines seem to change with alarming rapidity. For example (and most relevant) in Tier 5, a religious worker’s duties ‘may now include preaching, pastoral……’, whereas previously (all of three weeks ago) Tier 5 refers to ‘visiting religious workers who have a non pastoral role’.

The main difference between Tier 2 & Tier 5 is that there are no English language requirements for the latter. It may be tempting to think that the language requirements could be circumvented for all religious ministers/workers by applying for them via Tier 5. However, as far as I am aware, an ordained monk must still be classified as a religious minister and therefore Tier 2 rules apply, including the English language requirement.

As the new guidelines are 25pp longer, the following page numbering may not apply

The appendix it refers to is itself 50 pp long, but to save you time, the relevant bits are:

Appendix A ~ For Charities: pp 84 – 87
Appendix A ~ For Religious/Faith Bodies: pp 87 – 91
In fact the only relevant bits are as above, plus Appendix D ~ pp 125 -129 which is about keeping documents. You can throw the rest away. I have (optimistically) thrown away the whole of appendix B & C which outlines all the offences one can commit if you or your monks get it wrong!

Next job. Decide which bit to follow, as we are a registered charity and a religious body.

OK, now throw away pp 84 – 87 as this refers to Charities in general who may also be a religious organisation. However, it would seem to add weight to an application as a religious body if you are a registered charity ~ in fact it says “Charities who are not registered according to the relevant charity legislation must explain the reason for non-registration along with their application for a sponsor licence”.

Appendix A: pp 87 – 91 tells you what documents to submit with your application. There has to be a minimum of four documents. I will be submitting as follows:

“Where there is a set hierarchy within the faith the sponsoring body must submit a letter of support from the head of that organisation (or their nominated person) to confirm that the sponsor is part of
that organisation. This document is mandatory for any organisation seeking to bring in a Religious Worker under Tier 2 or Tier 5, where there is such a hierarchy.”
Background information as detailed on p 89 of the guidelines This document is mandatory for any organisation seeking to bring in a Religious Worker under Tier 2 or Tier 5
Proof of registration as a Charity.
Proof ownership/lease of premises
Form 76 ~ effectively the authorisation from the General Register Office to conduct marriage ceremonies.
Our Public Liability Insurance
So far so good, and quite straightforward. The next step is to fill out the actual application form, which I’m sure is not going to be quite so easy.

I thought as much ~ this is where it gets difficult. The application is done on-line, and you can’t go to the next step until you have completed a page correctly.

The first page is easy ~ simply tick the box that says ‘Minister of Religion’ Unfortunately, subsequent pages still assume the applicant for a sponsor licence is a trading company.
For example, in the section ‘Organisation – Step 3 of 4’ one has to specify ‘the sector your organisation works in’
The drop-down menu offers a huge range of commercial activities, none of which remotely fits. A phone call to the (very helpful) helpline produced the correct answer, which is “Activities of Membership Organisations” ~ obvious really.

Later on, in spite of reading the guidelines to produce what I thought was the list of four required documents (as above), the page Supporting documents – Step 1 of 1 wouldn’t let me proceed until I had ticked four boxes, and I was hard pressed to be able to do so. In fact, if you aren’t a registered charity, don’t have audited annual accounts, don’t hold public liability and don’t own or lease your own premises, you could be a bit pushed to find four boxes to tick.

Items 1 & 2 in my list above are mandatory, but not counted in the four required documents, they are required in addition to them. Still with me?

You can save the part completed form while you go away and have a lie down in a dark room. I’m currently trying to pluck up enough courage to click the ‘Submit’ button, at which point I will have to pay my £300

The form and associated documents have gone, and I have received a receipt. Now I need to sit back and wait.

We are to be visited by a couple of people from the Border Agency. In a way this is a good thing as it will give opportunity to seek advice as to whether we are going about things in the right way.

I have devised forms for collecting what I think is the data they will require (in the absence of what is deemed to be correct, at least they can’t tell me they are wrong) All the monks have been very compliant and have filled them in promptly.

The inspection went ‘as well as can be expected’ It was in some ways rather frustrating that it becomes more and more evident that we (and others like us) are being shoe-horned into legislation designed for places of work, into which we just don’t fit.

There were (inevitably) some more more documents they want. It seems that once the visiting inspector has got all the documents asked for, he then writes & submits his report. It takes six to eight weeks from the submission of this report to issue a sponsor licence.

This is somewhat at odds with the impression given on the UKBA website that the whole process takes six weeks ~ a statement I have to confess, I can’t now find. I know I read it somewhere on the site when I first began this process, but as I mentioned above, the UKBA website is very convoluted and far from user-friendly.

I have been lying low for some time while our case was sorted out ~ the Border Agency itself does seem a little bemused by the ways in which organisations fail to fit the system they have devised. However, we now have our Tier 2 & Tier 5 Sponsorship Licence ~ rated at Grade A (after some misunderstandings on their part)

We have clarified the status of Tier 5 applicants. Contrary to what I was told by the Imnspecting Officer, ordained monks can apply under Tier 5. This appears to be a concession the Policy Unit made, but it seemed not to have filtered down through to their workers at the cutting edge. Currently there is no English language requirement for Tier 5 , but I’m told this is to change.

I have to say that in spite of all the difficulties so far, actually using the points based system to obtain certificates of sponsorships is quite straightforward and easy to follow without the need to refere to the E-Learning & Support Material CD they sent me (twice). I think I’ll sell them on Ebay !


Consultation Meeting with the Border & Immigration Agency, London, 25/04/07

The purpose of the meeting was for the Agency to inform various interested sectors on the progress of their planning for the Government’s new Immigration policy and to consult with us about how this can be implemented as inclusively as possible. It was evident from the round-table discussions (by sector) that there was a genuine desire to understand how the regulations would impact on our activities and how the Agency might best accommodate our needs. The sectors included faiths, education, health bodies, arts bodies, charities and the catering industry.

The original proposal appeared in the Home Office document A Points Based System: making migration work for Britain published in March 2006. It can be accessedhere and reference will occasionally be made to it.

On the faith sector table were two representatives from Shi’a organisations (one of them a fellow Faith Communities Consultative Council member), one representative each from the Methodist Church and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and myself for the NBO. A Hindu representative was on the delegate list but did not arrive. It soon became obvious from discussion that the impact of regulations would be particularly heavy on small ‘house groups’ – and some Buddhist monasteries could be described as coming into this category. It also fits the activities of some of the I-Kuang Tao sects of Confucianism, whose needs I therefore kept in mind as well.

The substance of what we were told is that in future any monk or religious teacher or leader who wishes to enter Britain for more than a ‘tourist visit’ cannot apply directly for a visa in his country of origin but must be sponsored by a body in Britain.  There is a points system applied to the five tiers (or categories) of potential entrants (see the Home Office document). Implementation of regulations for Tier 1 is targeted for the first quarter of 2008, with Tiers 2, 3 and 5 following in the third quarter of 2008 and Tier 4 (students) by Feb. 2009.

In the past some monasteries have also sponsored students, arts workers for skilled structural work, and some other categories than monastics. They have been lax in monitoring these and some of those sponsored have contributed to the number of illegal immigrants and workers in the black economy. They may discover in future that these defalcations have not been forgotten as they impact on their sponsorship applications in future.

So far as I can make out, religious workers fall into tiers 2 and 5, depending on how long they intend to stay in the country.  In future, applications to sponsor can only be made electronically through the Agency’s website which should be visited for more clarification. Potential sponsors must register with the Agency first and in certain circumstances enquiries might be made about them through the umbrella organisations to which they belong. This, by the way, provides one of the advantages of NBO membership. Belonging can smooth the way to registration with the Agency.

Although NBO might vouch that an organisation is in membership, responsibility for all stages of the sponsorship process rests with the sponsoring organisation. Its registration with the Agency must be renewed annually and it must sign a document guaranteeing minimum legal obligations, such as payment of the UK minimum wage and compliance with Health & Safety regulations. The latter include a regular Fire Inspection and Employers Liability insurance up to £5m (this can cost between £1,500-£2000 a year). Depending on present standing or past behaviour one will be issued either an A or B rating. B rating means they think you’re a risk and the sponsors will be monitored. They will then either move up to A rating or lose the right to sponsor altogether, depending on performance. A rating can also be lost for poor compliance. How one gets back on the register is still under discussion.

One registers separately for each tier of immigrant, although this can be done on the same occasion. It does mean, though, that if you are only registered for tiers 2 & 5, you cannot sponsor those belonging to other tiers without a new registration. Students will in future be sponsored by their place of education and only religious institutions providing education will be able to register for Tier 4 sponsorship in future. Tier 2 covers ‘Skilled workers with a job offer to fill gaps in the UK labour force’. We might argue for monastics to be treated as a separate category within this, since some of the specifications are not always appropriate, as in the definition above. The ’employer’ who makes the ‘job offer’ must prove it is in a ‘shortage occupation’. There will be an obligation to prove that the person is suitably qualified, which involves more than a close haircut; education up to NVQ 3 skill level is mentioned. ‘Leave’ is linked to ‘length of contract’ and permanent settlement in the UK is possible after 5 years. A fee will be charged for each sponsorship, the scale of which is yet to be fixed. This replaces the visa fee that used to be paid in the country of origin. Responsibility for sponsorship, and then letting the person concerned know his (electronic) certificate number so that s/he can then apply for a visa, rests with the sponsoring body.

Tier 5 is the one that’s going to create most problems: this includes ‘Youth mobility and temporary workers: people allowed to work in the UK for a limited period of time to satisfy primarily non-economic objectives’. Even if the visit is to be temporary in nature (leading a retreat, a teaching tour, a visitation from the home monastery) the same rules apply.
I wish I could have bilocated to the education table and asked about academic conferences; attending one might count as ‘tourism’ and, so long as one wasn’t going to stop around too long afterwards, delivering a paper might not count as ‘work’. However, my colleague Sheikh Abbas Ismail mentioned that they occasionally had people over to conduct six-week religious functions and he was not told that this did not count as a Tier 5 occupation.

There is a separate religious category included under tier 5 and a maximum stay of 2 years is mentioned. The two-year rule is partly to fit an exception to the regulations on ‘religious ministers’ that the Hindus were granted. You don’t have to have a level 6 qualification in English if your job is purely to chant scriptures in a single temple (or some equivalent ritual function). But the main intention is to cover any category of religious worker intending a shorter stay. They might not be earning, but if they’re dependent on the host(s) for financial and material support, then they’re not tourists. We need further clarification on this and I will be sure to air the question at a future meeting.

In addition, a sponsor must monitor the person involved and inform the Agency when s/he leaves the country or immediately s/he disappears from view. So long as these procedures are followed, the sponsoring body will not be penalised for breach of trust. Some cultures will be averse to reporting such breaches for reasons of ‘losing face’. It seems to me that ‘losing face’ with a Government agency for non-compliance with the law would have far worse consequences, however.

We have been asked to emphasise in our reports that many details have yet to be worked out and that present thinking about implementation (but not policy) may well change in the light of ongoing discussion. The three people from the Agency on our table seemed mesmerised by the complications raised by faith bodies and were certain that further discussion would be needed. It was suggested by them that some of their number might specialise in this field and by us that setting up a contact group (possibly arranged through the FCCC) might be useful. This proposal was well received and will probably be carried forward soon.

To sum up, the process of bringing into this country ‘religious workers’ – monastics, Rev. Masters, meditation teachers, etc – will be streamlined in future and handled largely by the sponsoring bodies in the UK. This will involve them in extra work and expense. I imagine the transition period will be rather uncomfortable until we get used to it. On the other hand, some people seeking entry at the moment (especially those of whom Communist China – and probably Communist Vietnam too – does not approve) are finding it increasingly difficult to get visas. Hopefully their entry will be made smoother by such procedures.

This consultation and others like it has made clear that we need a legal mind to help us in formulating the right questions to ask. We do in fact have Gina Clayton as a volunteer Legal Advisor and as a result of her input she has been invited to join the Activities Committee in this capacity. She says of herself: ‘I am fairly knowledgeable on immigration and asylum law and human rights law; and out of date but competent to update myself because of former familiarity on housing law, public law generally and family law. Like any solicitor, I have a basic familiarity with legal principles in all areas. I have a decreasing capacity to handle anything the more commercial it gets, and also have never studied commercial or international law.’

I am grateful to Gina and my other colleagues for their responses to the first draft of this report, which has been expanded and clarified in the light of these.

Yann Lovelock