16 October 1998

The many hurdles you

will need to jump over

ANYONE wanting to emigrate has to jump a number of hurdles covering legal, health, character, financial, business and family issues. You dont have to score 10 out of 10 on all categories and a strength in one can make up for a weakness in another.

&#8226 Legal. Simple but important. Do you satisfy the criteria for entry set by the destination country? This is sometimes judged under a points system.

&#8226 Age. If you can raise £500,000 from your farm sale, you may not be required to meet these countries age rules, which can be tough. However that is not the case if you have little money to invest. New Zealand, for example, limits such immigrants to age 56 or under while Australia limits certain categories of migrant to 40 years or under, unless they have relatives living in the country.

&#8226 Health. All potential immigrants have to take a thorough health check. Healthy people should have little to worry about, but if you have heart problems, cancer or any other condition that might involve dependence on the countrys free health service, you might be rejected.

&#8226 Character. They are unlikely to want anyone with a criminal record or who has overstayed a visitors visa in the past. Previous business failures or bankruptcies will count heavily against applicants.

&#8226 Money. You can get a visa with few assets, but generally you need to have family ties or be in a sought-after occupation to do so – which farming isnt. But most farmers should have a sizeable sum to invest from the sale of their UK farm. Some countries put a minimum figure on this business investment. Australia and Canada stipulate £80,000-90,000, NZ and the US as much as £400,000, depending on exchange rates.

&#8226 Occupation. Sought-after occupations include nursing, teaching, computer programing, diesel mechanics, chefs and electronic engineers, among many others. Having a spouse/partner in a sought-after occupation could help your application more than £300,000 in the bank.

&#8226 Qualifications. Governments are keen on having well-educated and trained immigrants. An HND or degree in agriculture will greatly help your application.

&#8226 Business plan. For most farmers emigration will involve two things. One is gaining a visa; the other is selling their UK farm and buying another one abroad. Its a good idea to run the two processes simultaneously, but youll need to have both sorted at the end of the day.

Selling 1000 acres of prime land and having £2m in the bank would probably guarantee entry into most countries, criminal records notwithstanding. But if your assets are less than that you may have to submit a business plan to the government of the country youre hoping to move to. This is one of the services Four Corners offers.

It will need to include a copy of the accounts of the farm youre planning to buy, as well as cash-flow projections for the next five years. Planning to employ locals is looked on favourably.

If it is happy with the business plan, the government may give you a full visa. Equally, it may want to check your accounts four years later before giving you the final stamp.

If youre putting together a business plan as part of your visa application, a bit of entrepreneurial savvy can help. Selling a 300-acre cereal farm in the UK to buy a 600-acre one in Canada where grain prices are similar and theres no arable aid, though costs are lower may not always look logical from a business point of view.

If, you can identify particular crops, markets or methods of production that have a realistic chance of success, that will look more impressive.

&#8226 Family. Being married to a citizen of the country you hope to emigrate to is probably the single biggest advantage you can have. That usually applies to unmarried couples too, but some governments stipulate a minimum co-habitation period.

&#8226 Time-scale. Allow up to 15 months for the visa application. Some countries take longer than others to process applications and complicated applications take longer than simple ones.

UNLIMITED FARMLAND?

All four destinations handled by Four Corners Emigration are sizeable countries with (US-excepted) tiny populations. So there is a lot of land out there. However emigration controls are being tightened by all countries, for political as well as economic reasons. Even if you dont intend emigrating for a year or two, it may be wise to get a visa now. One-year visas can often be extended by visiting the country. This year 68,000 visas are being issued by Australia, 34,000 by NZ, 230,000 by Canada and 1m by the US.

CAPITAL GAINS TAX

The 1998 Finance Act affected the amount of Capital Gains Tax (CGT) paid by non-UK residents and needs to be borne in mind when selling the farm. Where you are when the transaction is completed and where you intend to reside in the future will make a big difference to the amount of CGT to be paid. Its a complex area and Richard Gregan is happy to answer queries on the subject at no charge.