Scotland’s pulpits are in danger of being left empty as churches struggle with new immigration rules which have more than doubled the cost of visas for clergy visiting the UK.
Home Office changes to the visa system have already impacted on the ability of Scotland’s agriculture and tourist industries to recruit staff, but now religious organisations are also being affected.
The category “Minister of Religion” has been removed from the £244 Tier 5 entry visa to the UK, and switched to Tier 2, which costs £610 per visa. As a result, many churches have been unable to find cover for clergy when they need to go on sabbatical or holiday, or they have had to reduce worship schedules.
The Catholic Church in Scotland said that without the support of visiting priests “much of the positive work in and around Catholic parishes, which engenders a great sense of community” was being compromised.