UK contractors negotiate visa exemption for overseas shearers

Sheep Central, May 3, 2023

AUSTRALIAN and New Zealand shearers now have easier access to the United Kingdom with the announcement of an annual visa exemption by the UK’s National Association of Agricultural Contractors.

Ms Hewitt said the visa exemption for non-visa shearers has come about due to NAAC lobbying with the UK Government.

“It has been an annual negotiation and this year has taken longer and raised more concerns as we need to get pre-COVID levels of shearers back.

“It isn’t linked to the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement and is a UK initiative.”

NAAC chief executive Jill Hewitt said as of 29 April the NAAC got the special exemption for overseas shearers agreed and the UK’s borders are now open to non-visa nationals to work in the UK.

“You can come in until end of June 2023 and need a contract of employment and necessary paperwork to legally work. No cost or applications involved though,” she said in a Shearing Global Facebook post.

Ms Hewitt said unfortunately, this currently isn’t reciprocated in Australia and UK shearers haven’t got the same agreement when travelling.

“This is something that we can start discussions on again with our opposites in Australia and New Zealand as we have had our UK end confirmed again.”

Similar visa exemptions needed here

Meanwhile, Australian shearing contractors and wool producers are still waiting on the mooted implementation of labour changes to come out of the Australia-UK FTA or the Federal Government’s migration review, or efforts to effect industry-friendly changes to visa rules and skilled labour classifications.

Shearing Contractors of Australia secretary Jason Letchford said if shearing was added to the ‘short’ term (DIMMI/Homeaffairs ) list, then the Australian 400 Visa (, would serve the same purpose for the Australian Industry as the UK exemption.

Mr Letchford said the Australian industry was looking for a more permanent solution to the shearer shortage issue.

“That is, an appropriate visa scheme that industry can rely on, not a scenario where we are lobbying every year.

“Given that the Department of Education and others, for training purposes, are recognising shearing as a skill shortage, then you would imagine it is not a great leap to add shearing to that Department of Immigration/Home Affairs short term skilled list,” he said.

“Adding shearing to that (occupation) list is the simplest process because the visa is set up for it, we’re not asking for special consideration, we just believe it’s an oversight that we haven’t been added to that list.

“And therefore as a commonsense approach, that would be the lowest hanging fruit.”

Relief that UK visa exemption was approved

In a media release last month, the NAAC said that since 2011 it has 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 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.

“We are relieved that the concession has been extended, as we are expecting shearers to enter the UK within days,” Ms Hewitt said.

“It has been a nerve-wracking few months reaching agreement but we are assisting NAAC members in putting together the necessary paperwork for shearers to enter the UK.

“We have relied on an input of overseas shearers, and this resource is essential to ensure that sheep can be shorn within the necessary time-scale and to high standards of animal welfare,” she said.

“It is a relief that post-COVID we can now welcome back our team of overseas shearers to support UK contractors and farmers.”

UK Visa exemption details – NAAC

  1. Non-visa nationals will be able to travel to the UK, particularly coming from Australia and New Zealand, between 1 April and 30 June. All those entering will only be allowed to stay for a three-month maximum period (i.e. the latest expiry of leave would be 30 September), after which they are required to leave.
  2. Shearers arriving in the UK in 2023 will need to satisfy an immigration officer they are here, for a temporary period, 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 is notified of all shearers visiting the UK so that rapid assistance can provided if any issues arise at customs
  3. Specific entry requirements include:  The applicant is genuinely seeking entry for the purpose of undertaking employment, or providing 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 1 April and 30 June.


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