Religious worker visas are being used to exploit migrant workers

religious worker

Newsroom reports that last year three priests laid a complaint with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) about the way a North Island organisation is using the Religious Worker Category (RWC) visa.

The priests allege some religious organisations are using RWC visas to bring migrants to New Zealand for ulterior motives.

The allegations are contained in an MBIE report, seen by Newsroom, which deals with the broader issue of the way the RWC is being used.

The report says there is a real possibility that some religious organisations are misusing the RWC to bring migrants to New Zealand.

According to the report, the priests told the Labour Inspectorate that workers were promised weekly wages of $600. However, after arriving in New Zealand, they were informed they would be paid at a lower rate – and would receive the money only at the end of their six-month tenure.

The priests also said the religious organisation which sponsored the workers’ visas confiscated their passports and air tickets for a short period.

They were made to perform domestic duties instead of religious work.

Domestic duties like cooking and cleaning are permitted as “secondary roles” under the religious worker visa rules.

Furthermore, the priests alleged the organisation had been engaged in “this behaviour” for at least a decade.

The Labour Inspectorate was unable to pursue the case to prosecution – closing its investigation because an employment agreement could not be found.

Newsroom did not identify individual organisations as some may still be under investigation.

To be granted an initial work visa under the religious worker category, a person needs to have an offer of religious work from a religious organisation as well as their sponsorship.

If the offer of work and sponsorship continues, a person can apply for a second work visa, then after 3 years in New Zealand, for a resident visa.


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News category: New Zealand.

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