Minister of Religion

Permission to enter the State as a Minister of Religion allows you to work with an eligible religious body or faith community in Ireland for up to 3 years (with a possible 3 year extension) subject to the conditions below.

You should not apply for this permission if your intended stay in Ireland is for less than 3 months.

Please note: You will not be permitted entry to the State for the purpose of working as a ‘long stay’ Minister of Religion by an Immigration Officer at the Border unless you can produce the appropriate preclearance approval letter.

1. About this permission

A new preclearance procedure to facilitate and streamline entry to the State of Ministers of Religion from non-EEA states applies from 30 April, 2018. The procedure applies to both visa and non-visa required non-EEA nationals. It will be reviewed after three years of operation. A separate procedure applies to persons who wish to serve as religious volunteers, under a new Volunteering in Ireland programme.

Under the Minister of Religion permission, qualifying religious personnel will be permitted to enter and remain in the State for up to three years, where there is a demonstrated need for their services and subject to compliance with all other immigration requirements that apply in individual cases.

All non-EEA nationals (both visa required and non-visa required) who have been offered a job with a religious body or faith community as a Minister of Religion in Ireland must seek prior approval (preclearance) to work in that capacity from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of the Department of Justice and Equality, before travelling to the State.

You must apply for immigration preclearance to enter the state as a Minister of Religion before you travel to Ireland. Please note that an applicant must be resident outside the State when making an application for permission to come to work as a Minister of Religion for a period longer than 90 days. Proof of residence outside the State may be requested, and the applicant must remain outside the State while their application is being processed. You will not be permitted entry to the State by an Immigration Officer at the Border, for the purpose of working as a long stay Volunteer, unless you can produce a Preclearance Approval Letter.

If you are currently in the State on this permission, transitional arrangements will apply. Please see the policy document for further details.

Permission to work as a Minister of Religion allows you to:

Work as a Minister of Religion with an eligible religious body or faith community subject to the following conditions:

  • Your role must match the criteria for Minister of Religion described below
  • The religious body or faith community must match the criteria for eligibility described below
  • Stay in Ireland for 1 year initially, up to a maximum of 3 years
  • Apply for one (possible) extension of 3 years after the normal 3 years has ended
  • Do voluntary work, as long as it does not interfere with your primary role as a minister
  • Study, as long as it does not interfere with your primary role as Minister
  • Bring your family with you (spouse/partner and children under 18 only). The permission granted to the spouse/partner/children under this Programme will be dependent on the continued residence status of the Minister of Religion. In cases where the Minister of Religion leaves the country, the accompanying spouse/partner/children, if applicable, must also depart
  • Travel abroad for up to 90 days e.g. for vacation, conference etc., subject to any re-entry visa requirements

With this permission you cannot:

  • Do any other paid work except the Minister of Religion role
  • Bring other family members with you e.g. elderly dependents, children over 18
  • Change to a different immigration permission during your stay
  • Change the religious body or faith community you work for while you are in Ireland
  • Apply for permission to remain as a volunteer after your permission to work as a Minister of Religion expires
  • Rely on public services or claim any state benefits for you (or your family if applicable) e.g. health services

2. Eligibility and conditions

Who can apply

You may apply for permission to enter the State and work as a Minister of Religion if you:

  • Are a non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss citizen
  • Are a qualified, ordained or professed member of a religious body or faith community that matches the criteria below
  • Have been offered a role as a Minister of Religion by the same body or community of which you are a qualified, ordained or professed member
  • You, and your family (if applicable), will be fully supported financially by your sponsoring religious body or faith community for the entire duration of your stay in Ireland.
  • Have 3 years verifiable experience as a Minister of Religion (evidence will have to be submitted)
  • You can provide a police clearance certificate from your country of residence (not more than 3 months old)
  • Have been vetted by An Garda Síochána to work with children and vulnerable adults in Ireland (evidence must be submitted)
  • Have medical insurance from a company authorised by the Health Insurance Authority of Ireland to cover you and your family (if applicable) in place on your arrival in the State for the entire duration of your stay in Ireland.

If you wish your family (spouse/partner and children under 18 only) to join you here, your sponsor must be able to financially support your entire family for the full duration of your stay.

The work you do

The work you do as a Minister of Religion must include all or most of the following for an established congregation in Ireland:

  • Conduct spiritual worship and or ceremonies to an established congregation in Ireland
  • Give pastoral care to members of an established congregation through preaching
  • Conduct classes based on a religious ethos, supervising prayer meetings etc.
  • Provide spiritual leadership
  • Minister to the spiritual needs of an established congregation
  • Conduct pastoral visitation
  • Provide senior administration support of a substantially full-time nature to a religious institution/order/church
  • Be a member of a religious community whose members take public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience

If your intention is to join a “closed” religious order in Ireland (of which you are already a member) please apply for permission based on the last point above.

3. Who can you work for

You must be invited to Ireland by an eligible religious body or faith community.

To be eligible, the religious body or faith community must:

  • Be already established in Ireland
  • Have an active membership or congregation in Ireland, including full time serving Ministers of Religion
  • Have dedicated premises in Ireland serving the religious body or faith community

An eligible religious body or faith community that invites you to Ireland is called your ‘sponsor’. A sponsor must be a body, it cannot be an individual. Your sponsor has important obligations and is responsible for you in several ways. Before you apply, your sponsor must send you a sponsorship letter and supporting documents confirming that:

  • There is a verifiable need with the body or community for the person who is applying under this Programme
  • The applicant is suitably qualified to discharge the duties and responsibilities of the position
  • The applicant has a clean police record (verification required)
  • Child protection policies and procedures in line with the Children First Guidance are in place in the religious body or faith community
  • The applicant is cleared to work with children and vulnerable adults (verification required)
  • The applicant (and his or her immediate family) will be supported through the provision from the sponsor of funds and/or accommodation that are sufficient to maintain the applicant throughout the period of his/her permission to remain in the State under the Programme.

You must submit these supporting documents together with the Preclearance application form.

Sponsorship also means that the sponsor cooperates with State authorities to ensure that the Minister of Religion leaves the State on the expiry of his or her permission, or if directed to do so by those authorities. Failure to cooperate with State authorities in this regard will impact on future sponsorship by that religious body or faith community.

You will not be granted permission if you do not have sponsorship from an eligible religious body or faith community or if you are sponsored by an organisation that does not match the criteria above.

Other requirements

Clearance to work with children/vulnerable adults

You must be in possession of a clean police record and provide documentary evidence of same including a current (not more than 3 months old) criminal records check and police clearance certificate from your home country or certified English language translation of a criminal records check and police clearance certificate.

You must be, where the work demands it, cleared to work with children and vulnerable adults (verification will be required). This has to be sourced locally in Ireland through An Garda Síochána and you will not be permitted to work with children and vulnerable adults until such clearance is received.

Medical Insurance

You and any permitted family member(s) must be covered by private medical insurance, from a company authorised by the Health Insurance Authority for the duration of your time in the State. Your sponsor may include you in their group insurance scheme. Travel insurance may suffice but only during the first year of your stay, provided it covers you:

  • For the full period before you arrange private medical insurance
  • At a minimum of €25,000 for accident and €25,000 for illness and disease and
  • For any period of hospitalisation
  • In addition, it is advisable that applicants have insurance to cover repatriation in the event of serious illness or unforeseen events.

The minimum permitted period of residence under this Programme is one (1) year and the maximum is three (3) years. This means that any period up to one year will reckon as a full year for the purpose of the Programme. You may spend three full consecutive years in Ireland (renewable annually) or break the period into separate lots of one or two years, provided the overall period does not exceed three years.

You may not, having spent a period in the State as a Minister of Religion, subsequently avail of the Volunteering in Ireland programme.

4. Fee

A non-refundable fee of €100 applies to this application and must be paid in full at the time of the Preclearance application. The fee must be paid by Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT). The bank details for EFT are set out on the application form. When making any transfer please take into account potential bank charges and currency exchange rates. To avoid additional bank charges, or exchange rate fluctuations, you may wish to make an arrangement with your sponsoring organisation in Ireland for them to make payment on your behalf from within Ireland, and for you then to submit evidence of this to the Preclearance Unit. Other fees, including a fee in respect of a visa if applicable to you, and a registration fee, may also apply.

Non-EEA Nationals requiring an Entry Visa

If your Preclearance application is successful, you must then apply for a visa online.

However, persons resident in countries where biometrics are recorded as part of the visa application process must make their visa application at the same time that they make their Preclearance application, and have their biometric details recorded . The countries where biometrics are currently recorded are China, India, Pakistan and Nigeria.

When you have completed the online visa application process, you must follow the instructions on the summary application form that is created by the online system. The summary form will contain information on where you are to submit your passport. If you have already submitted all the required supporting documentation with your Preclearance application, you will not need to submit the documentation again for the visa application. You will just need to submit your visa application form and your passport. If your family are planning to join you in Ireland, and they are visa required, they should apply for Join Family visas only when and if you are granted Preclearance permission. They should submit all the required supporting documentation for a Join Family visa.

Non-EEA nationals not requiring an Entry Visa

Non-EEA nationals not requiring an entry visa must have prior approval from the Department of Justice and Equality, Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) under this procedure to enter the State as a Minister of Religion.

If your application is successful, you will be granted a letter of approval. This letter of approval must be presented to the Immigration Officer at the port of entry on arrival in the State, who will verify its contents by reference to the applications system. You will not be permitted entry to the State for the purpose of working as a Minister of Religion and/or will not be registered by INIS/GNIB as a Minister of Religion, without prior approval obtained under this procedure before travel to the State.

Your application under this Programme must be made from outside the State unless you are seeking an extension to an existing permission with the same sponsor. Transitional arrangements (see below)

5. Documents required

Your Preclearance application will not be processed if you do not attach ALL the documents required (listed below). If you submit any false or misleading information or false supporting documentation as part of your application, it will result in the refusal of your application. It may also result in you being prevented from making any further applications for a period of up to 5 years. The Preclearance Section reserve the right to request the originals of these at any time.

  • Copy of current passport (all pages) and full copy of any previous passports. The Preclearance Section deserve the right to request the originals of these at any time
  • Copy of current passport (all pages) and full copy of any previous passports for spouse and children (if it is intended they will join you in the State).
  • Letter of sponsorship on headed paper from the religious institution/order/church detailing your intended role in the State and how they intend to support you in the State. You must be financially supported by the sponsoring organisation within Ireland, financial support from sources outside the state will not be accepted as part of this scheme
  • Full six months bank statement from the sponsor
  • Full six months bank statement from yourself (the applicant)
  • Audited accounts of the sponsor should be available if required by the immigration authorities
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable)/Children’s birth certificates (if applicable)
  • Evidence of educational qualifications
  • Police Clearance Certificate (not more than three months old) from your home country of residence. This must be issued by the police force of that country and must include a full check of that country’s national and local records. Criminal record checks conducted by private companies will not be accepted
  • Confirmation from your sponsor they have obtained Garda Síochána vetting for you if you will be working in a role involving children and/or vulnerable adults. If Garda Vetting is not submitted by you then there must be a clear written undertaking from the sponsoring organisation, in the sponsorship letter accompanying the application, that you will have no involvement with children or vulnerable adults during the course of your work in Ireland
  • You must be in a position to show evidence of medical/travel insurance for you, and any permitted family members, which covers the required amounts, when arriving in the state. See the published policy document for full details
  • Verifiable evidence of your three years experience as a Minister of Religion

If you submit a document that is not in Irish or English, it must be accompanied by a full translation into one of these languages. Each translated document must contain:

  • Confirmation from the translator that it is accurate translation of the original document
  • Date of the translation
  • The translator’s full name and signature
  • The translator’s contact details

6. How to apply

You need to apply for immigration preclearance to enter the State as a Minister of Religion before you travel to Ireland.

Application form (Version 1.0 published 30 April 2018)

Document icon

Preclearance application form - Minister of Religion (.docx 327KB)

Please complete the Preclearance application form and send it together with the required supporting documentation (listed above) to:

 

Preclearance Section
Visa Division
Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service
13/14 Burgh Quay
DO2XK70
Dublin 2
Ireland

 

After you apply

After we receive your application and documents, we will check that you have:

  • Answered all questions
  • Attached all requested documentation
  • Paid the application fee

7. Decision and next steps

In general you can expect a decision within an 8 week period after your application is received. Applications are generally processed in the order they are received.

If your application is approved

We will notify you if your application is approved, and will send you a Preclearance letter. Your Preclearance letter is an important document and should be treated as such. You will need it to cross border control into Ireland and to finalise your permission to enter the State as a Minister of Religion and immigration registration after you arrive here.

The Preclearance letter is valid for 6 months. If you do not use it in time within this time period, you must submit a new application from the beginning.

Your family

If your family members, who intend to join you in the State, need a visa they must apply online for a long stay Join Family visa before they travel to Ireland.

If their visas are granted, and after they arrive in Ireland, your family must also apply for permission to stay here and register with immigration. If successful , their permission will then be dependent on your permission. For example, if your immigration permission is withdrawn or if you leave Ireland (and do not renew your permission), your family must also leave Ireland.

If your family members, who intend to join you in the State, are citizens of countries not requiring a visa to travel to Ireland, they do not need to apply for a visa before joining or accompanying you to the State.

After they arrive in Ireland, and present themselves to an Immigration Officer at the port of entry, your family must also apply for permission to stay here and register with immigration. If successful, their permission will then be dependent on your permission. For example, if your immigration permission is withdrawn or if you leave Ireland (and do not renew your permission), your family must also leave Ireland.

If your application is refused

We will notify you by letter if your application is refused outlining the reasons why your application was refused. You can request an appeal of this decision by responding to the refusal reasons with extra supporting documents if required. The appeal must be received by us within six weeks of the date of the refusal letter. The appeal process will be free of charge.

Appeal of the decision

If your appeal is approved, we will send you a preclearance letter as described above. If your appeal is refused, we will send you a letter outlining the reasons. You cannot request another appeal. Do not attempt to come to Ireland without preclearance approval (and a visa if relevant) as you will not be allowed enter the country.

Border Control

When you arrive in Ireland, you must show your original preclearance letter (and visa, if applicable) to the Immigration Officer at border control. If you cannot satisfy the Immigration Officer, you will not be allowed to enter the State. Both the letter and the visa must be valid on the date you arrive here. If you are given permission to enter, the officer will place a ‘landing stamp’ in your passport. The landing stamp gives you permission to stay up to the date indicated by the stamp (typically 90 days).

Important: A Preclearance letter and visa (if applicable) allows you to travel to Ireland only. They do not give you permission to enter the country or to stay here. An Immigration Officer at border control can refuse you entry even if you have a preclearance letter and visa.

Immigration permission and registration

After you enter the country, you must visit a registration office before your landing stamp expires to:

 

  • Extend your permission to stay for longer than 90 days (i.e. as a Minister of Religion and to
  • Register your details with Immigration

If your visit is successful, you will be given immigration permission to stay as a Minister of Religion for an initial 12 month period based on stamp number 3.

Read how to extend your permission and register for the first time

Renew your immigration permission

You must visit a registration office to renew your permission and registration about 6 weeks before they expire. Immigration policy for Ministers of Religion allows you to renew twice, up to a maximum of 3 years.

8. Extend your immigration permission

In the normal course, as a Minister of Religion you may be eligible for one extension of this three-year period of a further three years. This application for an extension must be made before your current permission expires. It can only be for service with your then current sponsor and will be considered only if your sponsor can demonstrate a genuine need. A non-refundable fee of €50 applies to an application for an extension.

To apply for a renewal of your permission:

Ask your sponsor to write you a new sponsorship letter explaining why they want you to stay

Send the new sponsorship letter plus the same documents you would normally use to renew your permission/registration by post to:

Residence Division Unit 2
13/14 Burgh Quay
D02XK70
Dublin 2
Ireland

 

If your application is successful, we will send you an approval letter with information about the decision, including what to do next. You must apply for a renewal before your existing permission and registration expires.

Change your sponsoring organisation

To change to another Minister of Religion position in a different organisation, you must:

  • Apply to Residence Division, as set out above, before the normal 3 year period of permission ends
  • Leave Ireland and apply from outside the State
  • A non-refundable fee of €50 applies to an application for change of sponsor. Please check with Residence Division, regarding the method of payment, when making the application

You will not gain extra time to stay in Ireland if you re-apply. You can only work as a Minister of Religion in Ireland for a normal maximum of 3 years total, no matter how many times you apply.

If you choose you can break the normal 3 year period of permission/registration into separate periods e.g. 3 periods of 1 year each or 2 separate periods of 1 year and 2 years

Transitional arrangements for pre-existing Ministers of Religion

These arrangements apply to persons who have served as a Minister or Religion in Ireland in the past, or who are currently working in that capacity in the State, and have not spent in the aggregate more than 3 years in the State in that capacity.

If you are currently active in the State as a Minister of Religion under the previous Minister of Religion Programme and your aggregate time in the State at the expiry of your current registration is less than three years, you may be granted a further year, if your application is successful under this procedure.

9. Applying online for your visa

AVATS is the online visa application system. To apply for a visa, answer all questions in AVATS fully and honestly.

Apply for an Irish visa online via AVATS

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Contact

Contact details of Preclearance Unit

Preclearance Unit
Visa Division
Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service
13/14 Burgh Quay
DO2XK70
Dublin 2
Ireland

 

If you have questions, email preclearance@justice.ie

 

The immigration permission and application system described on this page is based on the Immigration policy for Ministers of Religion published 30 April, 2018. The Department of Justice and Equality reserves the right to amend or suspend this policy at any time. The information above is intended as a guide only, the policy document Minister of Religion outlines all of the relevant criteria for eligibility for this programme.

Updated: 6 July 2018