|The legal framework|
The complexity and depth of the situation cannot be stated summarily. Religious visas are categorized into two types: A2 and A3 Religious Sponsored Visas. The A2 visa is a visa specific to students and covers those studying in the Minor Seminary and the (major) Seminary for studies for the priesthood. It also covers Postulants and Novices in religious orders of both men and women. This visa poses particular problems and is also subdivided by age and country of origin. The visa applies to students under 18 years of age and over 18 years of age, from Arabic speaking countries and from all other countries. All students from non Arabic speaking countries are NOT subject to one year single entry visas and may come and go as they please for the duration of the visa. Arabic speaking students are issued only one year single entry visas and must renew their visa abroad before returning and this process can take from four to eight weeks.
A number of factors are pertinent and critically important here:
The A2 student visa also covers those studying in the (major) Seminary (and Novices in the Religious Orders of men and women) who have now committed to studies for the priesthood and the religious life. These students are subject to the same visa regulations as described above and because they are no longer minors (under 18 years of age), they are also subjected to rigorous and intensive "Security" checks which not only affect them but also their families and relatives. Before they are granted a new visa to return to the Holy Land they are obliged to submit a comprehensive list of the names, addresses, telephones, mobile phones and Email addresses of all family members and friends.
The results in the end are very similar with the academic year left in a shambles and fewer and fewer young men and women and their families remaining willing to make the sacrifices necessary to assist their children in reaching ordination or final profession.
The A3 Religious Sponsored Visa covers all ordained or professed religious and treatment under the visa also depends on age and country of origin. For priests and religious from non Arabic speaking countries there are few problems of multiple entry / exit visas and for the most part they may come and go as they please or their superiors direct.
Arabic speaking priests and religious are subject to the same requirements as those stated above for the A2 Student Visa and of course the consequences are doubly difficult since mature age, committed religious are more often than not in a position of responsibility for pastoral care activities. Thus they and their families and friends are submitted to stringent, discretionary and often arbitrary “Security” checks while the priest or religious is forced into prolonged periods of absence from pastoral care duties which causes inconvenience and often hurt and injury to parishioners, orphans, students or the elderly and infirm under the care of their pastoral duties and responsibilities.