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Published On: Wed, Jan 14th, 2015

UK’s ‘Youth With a Mission’ battling to keep visa status after audit

The England and Wales office of YWAM (Youth With A Mission) may lose more than 350 missionaries and their families by April in the wake of British immigration officials suspending the ministry’s visa sponsor status.

“Whilst we recognize and support the [UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) office’s] legitimate right to concern over compliance to the rules, we do not feel that the issues raised in the letter from the UKVI justify such a draconian outcome as losing our license would produce,” wrote YWAM Harpenden in an “urgent request” sent by the Evangelical Alliance UK (EAUK).

YWAM Youth with a mission Facebook photoFollowing a September audit related to the UK’s attempt to reduce immigration numbers, UKVI officials found that YWAM had discrepancies in two out of the seven areas audited.

While the missions organization says it “immediately” submitted a corrective action plan to the government, the UKVI warned that YWAM could be downgraded, limited in its visa sponsorship capacity, or lose its license over the errors.

On December 23, YWAM learned that its license had been suspended for 20 business days, for reasons unrelated to the initial inspection.

Should the ministry prove unsuccessful at resolving concerns by January 20, the UKVI may revoke its license and require missionaries to leave the country within 60 days, YWAM stated. The ministry is asking supporters to write members of Parliament.

Mark Vening, a missionary at YWAM’s Wrexham office, told CT that YWAM had operated for 44 years “hand in glove” with the UK government.

In fact, six years ago, YWAM and other Christian groups worked with the British government on a special provision which allowed religious nonprofits to issue two-year visas, rather than the standard one-year nonprofit visa, he said.

“The British government has said they want to reduce immigration by one third. So they are going to have to find organizations that currently have licenses and potentially take them away in order to meet that target,” said Vening, detailing what he feels changed.

“We wonder whether or not faith-based organizations are providing perhaps a soft target for that.”

He noted that the UKVI revoked the licenses of other faith-based organizations, including Wycliffe Bible Translators and Nations’ Trust, in 2014.

The UKVI’s possible revoking of YWAM’s visa sponsor status would affect nearly half of YWAM’s England and Wales workforce and 70 percent of its Wales staff, all of whom raise their own support, said Vening.

 

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