Today, 27 January 2015, we learned that UKV&I has decided to formally reinstate Youth With A Mission’s Visa Sponsor Licence to that of a Grade A Sponsor. YWAM England & Wales has held a Grade A Visa Sponsor Licence for Tier 2 and Tier 5 visas since 2009 and has been regularly audited by the government’s Sponsor Management Unit (SMU) during the period since with no major issues ever being recorded.

We are extremely grateful for this positive outcome, but admit that we have had to learn several hard lessons about our internal processes and our approach to record keeping. We are already implementing important changes to these areas and will work with diligence to live up to the high expectation of the UKV&I.

During our last inspection, in September 2014, several issues were discovered during what turned out to be a tough audit. An action plan was immediately submitted and we believed that all of the issues raised had been successfully remedied.

Despite these best efforts, on 23rd December 2014 another government department, the Sponsor Compliance Unit (SCU) suspended our licence citing further additional breaches, some of which had not been previously communicated to YWAM via the SMU. After another round of extensive effort to address and allay these concerns, YWAM is delighted that the SCU have concurred and seen fit to reinstate our Grade A licence.

In addition, an opportunity may arise in the near future where we would be able to discuss our experiences directly with representatives of the UKV&I. We are grateful to receive this offer and welcome this opportunity, as we did in 2008, when YWAM acted as a Christian consultant to the government with regard to the then new and upcoming Points Based System. We felt heard and understood during that process, and believed that we had genuinely contributed to the largest redraft of visa law ever undertaken in the UK. We hope to once again contribute to a better understanding between the UKV&I and Christian organisations that hold a Visa Sponsor License.

YWAM has always respected and supported the UKV&I in its legitimate search for unscrupulous and fraudulent organisations who attempt to flout or skirt the UK’s generous visa laws. We are pleased that a number of now remedied issues have not risked YWAM being considered as amongst this group.

To build on this positive outcome, YWAM will be participating in discussions with other Christian organisations that hold a Visa Sponsor Licence who, like us, have seen a marked change in the way that government now relates to them. Therefore, under the auspices of Global Connections (http://bit.ly/1zU47lk), we hope to meet with other Christian movements and even perhaps with government ministers later this year to explain our experiences. In doing so we hope to reassure and, if necessary, make any repairs to the relationship between our government and the wealth of Christian organisations operating in the UK.

The consequences for YWAM, should our licence have been revoked, would have been profound. Several hundred volunteer missionaries would have been told that they are no longer entitled to remain in the UK and would either have had to leave or find an alternative sponsor. In stark terms, almost half of YWAM’s missionaries (approximately 300 people plus spouses and children) would have had to make alternative future plans. It would have affected YWAM’s activities, in-house training, social outreach and external ministries.

We thank God that this situation has been so satisfactorily resolved and wish to offer our heartfelt thanks to all who have given support to us during this trying time. We have felt supported and encouraged and remain wholly committed to our pledge ‘to know God and make Him known’.

For more information please contact :  tneely@oval.com

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