The 408 Visa for Religious Workers
Temporary Activity Visa (Subclass 408)
Religious workers previously had their own visa subclass, but now (from 19 November
2016) fall under one of ten activity types under the Temporary Activity Visa (Subclass 408).
The activity types:
- Invited participant
- Religious worker
- Special program
- Superyacht crew
- Domestic worker (executive)
- Australian Government Endorsed Event (AGEE)
In our last article, you will find the basic eligibility factors that run across all activity types.There are specific criterion that are individual to each activity type, so do your research before engaging!
Religious worker – who is eligible?
Religious workers who may apply for this visa include those who have relevant religious training and whose stay in Australia are for the purposes of providing spiritual leadership, conducting worship and ministering, pastoral care or proselytising.
- The applicant is seeking entry only for the provision of services as a religious worker
- The applicant has been invited by a person or organisation that is a religious institution lawfully operating in Australia
- The applicant will be engaged on a full time basis to participant in activities that are predominantly non for profit, serves the religious objectives of the institution and has the relevant qualification and training requirement for the fulfilment of the activity
Religious workers who intend to move longer term / permanently to Australia will not fall under this stream. Options, however, are more limited, as the occupation of religious worker does not fall under the consolidated sponsored occupation list (CSOL).
The applicant should be able to produce evidence of qualifications and experience that are relevant to their religious work to be undertaken in Australia. The applicant must have had been involved in a religious institution for the 2 years prior to the application and well as have previously served in a similar capacity to their intended role in Australia.
Missionaries that do not require and hold qualifications may be considered to be eligible so long as the application supports that the applicant’s intentions in Australia are to carry out a mission. An example of evidence may be the attendance of or intention to attend missionary training. Mormon missionaries are common and well understood but other religious organisations will be assessed on its own merits.
DIBP considers full time to be 38 hours a week. Work that is to be undertaken outside regular hours in the form of pastoral care, celebratory religious ceremonies, funerals and so forth are considered to contribute to work hours.
Time spent in supportive and administrative duties are expected in any role, but cannot constitute the majority of the role. In other words, work cannot be ancillary support (e.g. domestic work, prepared magazines and meals etc), construction of religious buildings, or study or pastoral care that does not require religious qualifications.
Religious worker sponsor
Under the Temporary Activity Visa (Subclass 408), the applicant is required to pass the supporter test, if they are outside Australia at the time of application as well as have an intended stay of under 3 months, and otherwise are required to pass the sponsorship test.
The applicant passes the sponsorship test if the sponsor has an approved sponsorship application and has, in writing, agreed to being a sponsor for the applicant and any dependents. The letter must also acknowledge that the sponsor is aware of their obligations as a sponsor. These obligations differ depending on which activity the applicant is being sponsored to be in Australia for.
Supporters only need to produce, in writing, a letter of support for the applicant (and dependents, if applicable). The letter should contain the following information:
- Identifying the event, activity or work and details
- Date(s) and location(s)
- Why the applicant is needed and their duties; this criteria may be fulfilled with evidence of a contract
- Remuneration (not allowance)
- Support that will be provided to the applicant during their stay
If the sponsor is already an approved sponsor and is still within the validity period, there will be no need for a new application. The sponsor may apply to extend the validity if need be. Sponsorship applications when approved are valid for 5 years.Religious work is classified as an unpaid activity and is excused from the remuneration requirements. The obligations attached to a sponsor is different for each activity type.
The general criteria for approval as a Temporary Activities Sponsor:
- Australian organisation / government agency / foreign government agency / sporting organisation / religious institution lawfully operating in Australia, or organisation / person who is captain or owner of a superyacht, or foreign organisation operating lawfully in Australia
- Capable of complying with sponsorship obligations
- No adverse information
These basic requirements that span all activities under the 408 visa will be discussed in greater detail in a future article, so do check back with us!
Assessment of religious institute
As part of the criteria, the DIBP will assess if the religious institution is lawfully operating. The religious institution is not limited to major religions (e.g. Christianity, Buddhism, Islam). It’s activities must reflect its objective and typically include:
- Religious services and celebrations
- Regular and scheduled gatherings for fellowship, study and prayer
- Counselling and pastoral services
- Involvement in social services and action
It is not required for the institution to have exactly those activities but a similar structure should exist. In cases where the DIBP is uncertain of the religious nature of the institution, they may request documentational evidence of memoranda, constitutions, rules, even financial statements for proof that the religious organisation is legitimate.
The institute must also meet the requirements of s50-50 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 as well as be exempt from income tax under s50-1 of that Act. Charities are not automatically exempt and must apply to the ATO for exemption. It is sufficient to provide ‘Evidence of Notification of Endorsement for Charity Tax Concessions’, if the religious institute is not yet exempt.
The institute may be assessed for if it operates within local government zoning laws. As religious institutes are taken to have an impact on the community in terms of streetscape, noise levels, traffic and so forth, it is expected that an authentic religious organisation has satisfied these responsibilities.
The sponsor for religious worker needs to be aware of the following obligations:
- Obligation to cooperate with inspectors
- Obligation to pay travel costs to enable applicant to leave Australia
- Obligation to pay costs incurred by the commonwealth to locate and remove unlawful non citizen
- Obligation to keep records
- Obligations to provide records and information to the Minister
- Obligation to provide information to Immigration when certain events occur
- Obligation to secure an offer of a reasonable standard of accommodation
- Obligation to ensure primary applicant works or participates in activity in relation to which the visa was granted
- Obligation not to recover, transfer of or take actions that would result in another person paying for certain costs
Still have questions? We can help. Contact the Australian Immigration Law Services team for personalised visa advice.
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