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New Zealand introduces new residence pathway for religious workers

Immigration instructions have been introduced from November 2011 to enable religious workers to provide New Zealand communities the opportunity to practice, maintain and advance their religious beliefs.

Religious workers may be eligible for a work visa for two consecutive periods of up to two years each, and may apply for a resident visa after holding a Religious Worker work visa for at least three years.

Religious work includes:

•teaching or guidance in religious scripture or philosophy
•leading religious practice, worship or prayer
•conducting religious initiations, ordination or ritual
•ministering or pastoral care, or
•roles of religious leadership in relation to any of the above.

A religious worker can be sponsored by an organisation that is registered with the New Zealand Charities Commission with a primary purpose of advancing religion.

A religious worker may qualify for a work visa if they:

•will be undertaking religious work in New Zealand
•have a sponsoring organisation who has agreed to support them for the duration of their visa
•have training and/or experience of at least two years in religious work related to the work they are applying for
•are of good health and character, and
•have evidence to support the above.

Who may qualify for a Religious Worker resident visa?

A religious worker may qualify for a resident visa if they:

•have held a Religious Worker work visa (or a Ministers of Religion, missionaries, and members of religious orders work visa, or Specific purpose or event work visa for pastors and lay missionaries) for at least three years
•will be undertaking ongoing religious work in New Zealand
•have a sponsoring organisation who has agreed to support them for five years from the day their resident visa is granted
•have training and/or experience of at least five years in religious work related to the work they are applying for
•are 55 years or younger on the date they apply for a resident visa
•meet a minimum standard of English
•are of good health and character
•have not applied for or been granted welfare assistance for the duration of their work visas, and
•have evidence to support the above.

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