London: New proposals relevant to the entry into Britain of Hindu and Muslim priests, as well as religious workers belonging to other faiths, have recently been announced by the government. ( The proposals are still subject to Parliamentary approval, but that is likely to be forthcoming in the near future.)
The new ideas have come about after extensive consultations by the Home Office with various differing religious communities on the difficult issue of immigration of priests and other religious workers into the country, difficult because of problems over language, quotas, nationality and the like.
The proposals have broadly been welcomed and, for example, Ramesh Kallidai, Secretary General of the Hindu Forum of Britain, said that: “We have informed the minister that we are pleased that the Home Office has listened to our views and acted appropriately. It seems that the consultation process has definitely worked”.
The main changes in procedures that have been proposed include extending the time limit for citizenship tests to four years for priests from abroad – it has been two years until now – and English language testing would be required up to a specific level. There will also be a new non-settlement visa introduced for religious workers that will cover people who do not actively preach, but who perform non-pastoral duties.
These non-pastoral duties include, for example, those of pujaris who lead worship at the altar or who perform sacramental rites and will also cover bhandaris who are trained cooks.
Such religious workers will not have to take English language tests and they can apply for a two-year non-settlement visa.
Further, the proposals suggest that there will be the introduction of certain pre-qualification criteria and an accreditation process for ministers of religion that will vary depending on the particular faith.
The Hindu Forum had asked the government that such proposals as these should be included in the new rules and will be working closely with the Home Office to define an acceptable accreditation process that will work for the Hindu community in Britain.
This is crucial, for, as Ramesh Kallidai pointed out: “Some temples have a formal process of ordainment, while others do not. We are therefore proposing a two-dimensional model of accreditation”.
It seems clear, then, that all sides are happy with the new rules and the proposals should be in operation in the very near future.