Getting A Temporary Activity Visa (Subclass 408) As A Religious Worker
The Temporary Activity Visa (Subclass 408) covers a number of streams for temporary entrants:
- Invited participant
- Religious worker
- Special program
- Superyacht crew
- Domestic worker (executive)
- Australian Government Endorsed Event (AGEE)
In this article we will cover what the Department of Home Affair (DOHA) requires in the application for the Temporary Activity 408 visa as a religious worker.
Who may be considered a religious worker
Religious workers for the purposes of this visa are those who intend to engage in full time religious work in Australia. Religious work is work of a devotional or which the applicant has had relevant religious training including, for example, providing spiritual leadership, conducting worship and ministering, pastoral care or proselytising. The religious work supported must directly serve the sponsoring organisation’s religious objectives.
- 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 in religious work (detailed below)
It is a criteria that the applicant possesses the appropriate qualifications and experience to undertake the work or activity. Examples of positions in which a religious worker may be sponsored for include ministers, priests, monks, nuns, deacons, rabbis and imams and other trained religious leadership roles within a religious organisation. As you can tell, these are all positions which require that the religious worker has achieved a certain level of qualification or experience to be able to fulfil.
The applicant should provide evidence such as employment records and references, as well as show that they have had an ongoing association with the religious institution (generally more than 2 years) prior to the visa application and have previously served in a similar capacity to their intended role with the institution or similar institution overseas or elsewhere in Australia.
An exception is in the case of non-qualified missionaries only where the activity is a usual and accepted practice of the religious organisation. An example would be if the applicant is a Mormon missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church). Mormon missionaries are common and their religious commitments is well documented.
The applicant needs to undertake work in Australia that is:
- Full time
- Directly serves the religious objectives of the religious institution
- Predominantly non-profit in nature
The DOHA takes full time work as at least 38 hours a week for the purposes of this visa. In understanding the nature of work, the DOHA will be flexible in considering work down serving the congregation outside of standard working hours, such as involvement in:
- Pastoral care
- Representational duties
- Death attendance
- One-off or occasional ceremonies
The applicant can be involved in multiple duties. These duties must have be delegated by and serve the religious institution in its religious objectives. In assessing the hours of work, each religious duty that is to be undertaken will be assessed, as certain duties may be non-religious in nature and if substantial, would not meet the full time work requirement.
This is not to say that a religious worker cannot engage in some administrative duties as exists in any job. It is important that the 38 required hours are significant in work that is religious in nature and cannot be performed by a person who is not religiously trained.
A religious worker is not to be taking on additional employment outside of Australia.
Directly serves the religious objectives of the institution
Examples of activities that directly serve the religious objectives of the institution (and would count towards the full time requirement) include but is not limited to:
- Conducting worship
- Providing spiritual leadership
- Teaching of or guidance in religion
- Ministering, pastoral care or proselytising and/or
- Full-time choral director or religious conservator.
Examples of activities that do not directly serve the religious objectives of the institution (and would not count towards the full time requirement) include but is not limited to:
- Providing ancillary support to a religious institution such as domestic work, preparing magazines/newsletters, providing meals for the community
- Being involved in building or construction projects for a religious institution
- Undertaking training or courses to attain a qualification within the institution or organisation
- Providing pastoral care that does not require, or is not conducted by, a qualified religious worker (such as a teacher looking after the social and personal well-being of children and young adults)
- Engaging in any other activities not directly related to the religious objectives of an institution
Should the above make up a majority of the applicant’s purpose in Australia, this is not the appropriate visa for their entry into Australia.
Predominantly non-profit in nature
No contract is required as no salary is expected, however a list of duties and details of what those duties entail would be very useful in the application for this visa.
Religious worker sponsor
If the applicant is outside Australia when the application is made and the proposed length of stay does not exceed 3 months, the religious institution would only need to pass the support test.
If the applicant is in Australia at the time the application is made and/or the proposed length of stay exceeds 3 months, the religious institution must be temporary activities sponsor that has passed the sponsorship test.
A Non-government school that has a religious ethos are unable to be considered as a religious institution and so are unable to sponsor religious workers. However, a religious worker sponsored by a religious organisation associated with the school is able to provide religious services to the school within their broader range of duties agreed with the sponsor.
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
Adverse information for religious institutions
The DOHA may assess for adverse information in relation to a sponsorship application by a religious institution by checking to see if an ongoing place of worship or assembly operates in accordance with local government zoning laws.
Local governments have the responsibility for deciding whether a supported land use complies with the relevant land zoning laws. This is to ensure that land uses such as places of worship or assembly have a minimal impact on the amenity of adjoining dwellings in terms of appearance, streetscape presentation, noise, light emission or adverse impact on traffic flow.
If an ongoing place of worship or assembly is not compliant with local government zoning laws the religious organisation may be prosecuted and/or ordered to close down their operations on the land concerned. It also raises doubts with regards to the professional standing and/or integrity of the religious organisation.
If the work to be undertaken by the visa applicant includes participating in religious ceremonies, a delegate should be satisfied that the ongoing place of worship or assembly of the sponsor operates in accordance with local government zoning laws.
What is a religious institution?
The DOHA defines a religious institution as:
- One that is lawfully operating
- Who’s activities advance or promote religious purposes
- Meet the requirements of the s50-50 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997
Advance or promote religious purposes
A religious institution is not limited to the more widely practiced religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. Written governing document/s such as memoranda and articles of association, constitutions, rules or charters, copies of annual reports and financial statements can be provided as evidence that the religious institution exists to promote a religious object.
The religious institution will need to promote its religious purposes through activities. Examples of some of the activities that the DOHA may be looking out for when assessing a religious institution are:
- Religious services and celebration of, for example, weddings, births and holy days
- Regular meetings for fellowship, communion, study and/or prayer
- Counselling and pastoral services
- Involvement in social services/social action
The above activities are again, examples. Some religious institutions may operate differently, however a similar structure and purpose of the activity types are expected.
It tends to be that such activities are scheduled and advertised. Materials that detail their existence, then when and the where would all count as evidence.
Charities are not automatically exempt and must apply to the ATO for exemption. They must, in other words, 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. Evidence of this is provided through a Notification of Endorsement for Charity Tax Concessions.
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
Are you looking to sponsor a religious worker? We understand that it might be quite complicated and are here to help. Call +61 2 8054 2537, 0434 890 199 or book online today to speak to our migration specialists.