Dear TBSUK Members,

This is to inform you of the results of a meeting with Mark Harper, Minister for Immigration, on March 26th. This was arranged by Lord Avebury who accompanied me, together with the Thai nun from The Forest Hermitage.

It was an extremely useful meeting and I put to the Minister our concerns about the English language requirement in Tier Two, the complication of the local labour market test or supernumary status for monks and nuns applying to come here and the confusion over their employment status, and  I complained about the rigorous inspections experienced, particularly by Amaravati. We also asked about eventual settlement rights of monks and nuns who might have been here under Tier Two, expressing our concerns about continuity etc.

We were listened to carefully and courteously and I am pleased to say that at the end of the meeting Mark Harper also felt the meeting had been a useful one and passed the comment that he had learnt from it.

His immediate comments on the day were: that it was unlikely that anything could be done about relaxing the English language requirement, that Tier 5 without an English language requirement offers an alternative route and opportunity to improve a monk or nun’s English, we then asked if a monk or nun here on Tier 5, once they had passed the English language exam could be allowed to switch from Tier 5 to Tier 2 without having to return to their country of origin and he said he would consider that; he said they would look at removing the resident labour market test requirement and clarifying the role of monks and nuns as not employed, and he said they would look again at the supernumary term; he agreed that the inspections complained of had been over the top and said he would instruct his officials to look into that; and he stated that having spent 5 years here under Tier 2 monks and nuns are eligible to apply for settlement.

Afterwards Sister and I called at the Thai Embassy where we briefed the Minister, M.R. Adisorndej Sukhasvasti, about the meeting we had just had with the Immigration Minister.

Since the meeting there has been further correspondence seeking and receiving clarification and decisions on various points discussed at the meeting. I copy for you below relevant extracts from one letter for your information and use.

I can confirm that there will be no test of earnings when those using Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) category apply for settlement in the UK. They will be exempt from the £35,000 threshold which will apply to workers in other Tier 2 categories from 2016.

I can confirm that it is not a requirement for temples to keep copies of passports for unsponsored residents, nor to report authorised absences from the monastery grounds.

Mark Harper MP, 23/04/2013

On Monday 10 June 2013, a number of minor changes to the Immigration Rules were published which came into force on 1 July 2013. These include the following amendment to Appendix A:

92A. To confirm that the Resident Labour Market Test has been passed or the role is exempt from the test, and for points to be awarded, the Certificate of Sponsorship Checking Service entry must confirm:

(b) That the role involves living mainly within and being a member of a religious order, which must be a lineage of communities or of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, for example an order of nuns or monks.

So you don’t have to advertise but we have been advised that the requirement to include an explanation will remain. To avoid further refusals, Sponsors of monks or nuns should ensure they complete the Certificates of Sponsorship correctly.They should tick the box to indicate that the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) has been complied with. In the free text box which follows, they should explain that the role is deemed to have met the RLMT as it will be carried out by a member of a religious order living in a segregated religious community. Please do not forget this.

I have also been given a contact person with whom I can liaise and who will help me produce a simple guide to applying for a visa for monks and nuns.

I’d better make clear that we did raise the matter of the English language requirement at the meeting and we did ask for a reduction in the standard required or  the chance for monks and nuns who might have been here under Tier 5, when they could have been improving their English, to  transfer to Tier 2 without having to go back to their country of origin. He was reluctant but agreed to think about it. He has since said that it would be inappropriate to allow switching from Tier 5 to Tier 2. So no progress on the English language requirement I’m afraid.

Yours in the Dhamma,

Ven. Chao Khun Bhavanaviteht (Luangpor Khemadhammo) OBE

Chairman, TBSUK