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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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International sheep shearers granted access in special concession

International sheep shearers have been granted a special concession to enter the UK this year to provide a “vital” source of professional and experienced staff to assist UK contractors during the shearing season.

The National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) has welcomed the news as, it has for the past, twelve years, “worked closely” with the Home Office to successfully manage a special concession for highly skilled, overseas shearers to come to the UK to assist in shearing the UK’s 15 million sheep.

The UK has relied on the input of overseas shearers, and this resource is “essential” to ensure that sheep can be shorn within the necessary time scale and to high animal welfare standards.

The scheme has meant that the UK has been able to encourage non-visa national shearers from overseas (particularly New Zealand and Australia) to come for a short, limited period to ensure that sheep are shorn on time, thus protecting their welfare.

Jill Hewitt, NAAC Chief Executive, has said that “it is a relief that post-Covid, we can now welcome back our team of overseas shearers to support UK contractors and farmers”.

“We are relieved that the concession has been extended. It has been a nerve-wracking few months to reach an agreement, but we are assisting NAAC members in compiling the necessary paperwork for shearers to enter the UK.”

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Sheep shearing, she highlighted, is a skilled and physical occupation that should only be carried out by professionals trained to shear carefully and sympathetically.

Non-visa nationals will be able to travel to the UK, particularly coming from Australia and New Zealand, between April 1st and June 30th.

All those entering will only be allowed to stay for a three-month maximum period (i.e., the latest expiry of leave would be September 30th), after which they are required to leave.

Shearers arriving in the UK in 2023 must satisfy an immigration officer they are here temporarily to be employed as a sheep shearer.

The NAAC is supplying its members with the necessary paperwork to “smooth” the entry process and is requesting that the NAAC be notified of all shearers visiting the UK to provide rapid assistance if any issues arise at customs.

Specific entry requirements include:

  • The applicant is genuinely seeking entry to undertake employment or provide services as a sheep shearer and must supply an appropriate contract of employment and;
  • The applicant will be able to maintain and accommodate themselves without recourse to public funds, and;
  • The applicant will leave the UK at the end of their stay, and;
  • The applicant arrives in the UK for this purpose between April 1st and June 30th, 2023.
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