Immigration rules throw churches into confusion

UK Border Agency has not taken into account the complexity of religious activities, the Evangelical Alliance says 22nd April 2009: The new immigration system is throwing Christian workers and organisations into confusion because the UK Border Agency has not taken into account the complexity of religious activities, the Evangelical Alliance has said. 

The Alliance has drawn up a set of guidelines to help Christians navigate the system, following a number of cases where individuals and groups who travelled to the UK to speak or volunteer were refused entry. 

American Christian singer Don Francisco was refused entry into the UK in March, when he arrived to give a free concert in Dorset. He said immigration officials did not believe he would perform for free. 

In a separate incident, a group of American church volunteers were deported from Scotland because their applications for temporary work visas, required under the new legislation, had not been processed in time. 

Daniel Webster, from the Evangelical Alliance, says a number of questions still remain, and has written to the UK border agency asking for clarification. 

"Recent abuses of the immigration system have shown the need for tighter rules, so churches and others who want to bring people over need to find out how to abide by these. But in some cases they will struggle to know how their particular situation fits in. 

"Some of the problems we have seen are due to churches not being aware of their new responsibilities, while on other occasions immigration officials have wrongly banned people from the country because they haven’t understood their own rules. 

"While drawing up our guidelines for the new system, it became clear that the Border Agency hasn’t taken into account the way Christian activities work in practice." 

Mr Webster said that one unclear area is whether donations can be made to a charity promoted by an unpaid visiting speaker – a common occurrence for churches hosting visiting speakers. 
"We are hoping to obtain greater clarity from the Border Agency to help churches fully comply with the regulations, but in the meantime we are advising churches to read our guidance and be aware of their responsibilities under the new rules," said Mr Webster.

Read the Guidance to the Points Based Immigration system

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