Below is an update from Gene McKinley, who is a missionary church planter in Mullingar. The issues discussed to not directly affect those of us who are missionaries in Northern Ireland. The situation with their visas is quite serious, so we really need to be in prayer for them.
Dear Pastors and Praying Friends,
Please continue to pray about the immigration situation in Ireland. Many missionaries are going to be effected by the outcome of this.
Below are 2 articles (and the web link) recently put out by a News group here in Ireland discussing the Immigration issue of missionaries, pastors, and charity workers. The Department of Justice and Immigration claim that this issue of a 3 year maximum stay for “religious workers” is a long standing policy, but of all the religious workers that I know (not just Baptist), only one missionary was every told of such a policy. Neither has anyone ever been able to show such policy or legal statute. Personally, I would expect that such a policy would be made known to these “religious workers” upon entering the country and receiving their first stamp of “permission to remain in the country”. But, on the contrary, we are finding out now at the end of three years (some in their 4th year, some in their 9th year, etc.) that we are required to leave.
We also still do not know: If a person is here for 3 years then leaves the country for a period of time (how long is a major question), would they allow that person to come back for another period of 3 years?
Please keep Ireland, the missionaries, and the mission churches here in prayer as we continue to seek permission to remain in the country. Several “infant” churches will be left without leadership in the next year or two should this issue not be resolved.
Your servant in Christ,
P.S. None of the religious groups that I know of are claiming that the issue is discriminatory, but as mentioned here in the below article, it is some of the solicitors (lawyers) making that statement.
– which was introduced only recently by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform –
have not been able to renew their permission to live and attend to their congregations forthe past several months.In one refusal letter sent last April, which has been seen by Metro Éireann, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) told the pastor in question: “Missionaries and their families are allowed into the State for a maximum of up to three years on the basis that the religious body takes full financial responsibility for them while they are in the State.”
However, some new generation ministers who are aware of the ongoing difficulties faced by some of their colleagues in obtaining renewal of their status, said they believe that the Department of Justice is being discriminatory in the implementation of a three-year maximum stay policy.
According to them, there is no evidence that any immigrant minister representing the wellestablished Roman Catholic Church or Church of Ireland, and who has lived in the State for more than three years, has been affected by what they term a “secret policy”.
Immigration experts who spoke to Metro Éireann believe there is no logic or reason behind the introduction of the policy, aside from an alleged attempt by the Department of Justice to discourage immigrant ministers from certain countries coming to live in Ireland.
Many of the experts believe that limiting the missionary activity of such pastors to just three years’ duration would be discriminatory to missionaries who do not practice celibacy.
Derek Stewart of Stewart & Co Solicitors told Metro Éireann: “From a practitioner’s point of view, it seems difficult to understand why they have a policy that appears to discriminate against one faith of denomination as opposed to another.”
He added: “For those pastors who are married with children, it is having an injurious effect on their normal family.”
At press time, the Department of Justice had not responded to our request for comment on the issue.
Permit rules for migrant pastors ‘under review’
Written by Chinedu Onyejelem
Thursday, 19 June 2008
PERMISSION is being granted to some immigrant church pastors on missionary permits to remain in Ireland for a further period of one year, pending a review of the policy that allows them and their families a threeyear maximum stay, the Department of Justice has told Metro Éireann.
In a statement, following an exclusive report in last week’s Metro Éireann on the plight of the pastors, the Department of Justice said: “There is no formal scheme in place admitting religious, missionary or volunteer workers to the State.
However, it is a long-standing immigration policy that, on a case-by-case basis, religious and volunteer workers providing their services to certain charities or churches in Ireland could be allowed enter the State and remain here for one year at a time up to a maximum of three years.” It continued: “In recent months a number of such workers were refused further registration as they had been in the State for several years. In some of those cases it was decided to permit the persons to remain in the State for a further period of one year pending a review of the area. The review will be undertaken in light of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill.”
On the allegation of discrimination against those pastors whose permits have so far been refused, the department stated it cannot confirm who has been affected. “It is not clear what cases are involved here. Cases are reviewed on their merits and… some persons have obtained further permission to remain on a case by case basis,” the statement said. At present, missionaries receive a Stamp 3 permit, which does not allow them to work in the State. However, they are officially in Ireland to work for their religious organisations. In most cases, they are paid salaries by their churches and they contribute part of this as tax to the Government. The Department of Justice stated it does not see any contradiction in this. “Immigration Stamp 3 reflects the fact that these volunteers are not regarded as having access to the general labour market,” the statement said. “They were granted permission to be in the State on the basis that their church or charity would take full financial responsibility for their upkeep. “Some of these volunteers may be paid by their churches or charities and this may give rise to tax liabilities. Stamp 3 is the appropriate stamp for persons providing their services to churches or charities.
However, the area will be reviewed, as stated above.” While holders of Stamp 3 permits who are dependants of those with employment authorisation, such as a working visa, are entitled to apply for longterm residence after 60 months of legal residence in the State, religious workers with a Stamp 3 may not apply for such status.
However, they can still apply to become Irish citizens after five years of residency. “A person (including immigrant church pastors) holding a Stamp 3 for periods totalling five years out of the nine prior to application, where the residence for the year immediately preceding that date of application is continuous, may apply for the grant of a certificate of naturalisation.” Such a decision is at the discretion of the minister, the statement concluded.