15 April 2009

UK visa rules could shear away hundreds of farmers

The new UK visa rules are proving to be difficult for the hundreds of Australian and New Zealand sheep shearers who circuit the world every year to shear sheep.

The UK visa rules require the sheep shearers to return home after their season in America to have a biometric test and wait up to 12 weeks to have their UK visa application approved.  Traditionally, the UK visa rules allowed the shearers to move straight from continent to continent, and only took up to three or four weeks to have a UK visa application approved.

The new UK visa rules also require sheep shearers are required to pass a points test and be sponsored by an employer with an Employers Sponsorship Licence (and employers must prove they have exhausted local labour before hiring an overseas worker).

With only a few weeks to go until the sheep shearing season starts in the UK, farmers are worried that their flocks will face a serious problem of not being sheared.

"These guys are world-class shearers who can each deal with up to 400 sheep a day," executive member of Britain's National Association of Agricultural Contractors Robert Morris said.

"Unless all 500 of the shearers are allowed into the country, we can't shear a national flock in time and we will lose thousands of sheep to diseases and other problems."

According to the New Zealand Herald, young shearers are encouraged by contractors in New Zealand to get work offshore while the seasons are quiet at home, so that the older shearers who cannot travel can still get work t home.

Labour MP Michael Foster said he would request for the sheep shearing UK visa applications to be prioritised to avoid delays.

"I don't think these new rules were intended to prevent skilled workers like sheep shearers from coming to the UK," he said.

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK visa and immigration services.

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