16 October 1998

Wanting to farm

abroad? Then dont

forget the visa

So youve decided to sell your farm and emigrate? Where do

you go from here? Richard Gregan, senior consultant at

Four Corners Emigration, explains the pitfalls and

possibilities of applying for visas to David Cousins

If theres one thing that illustrates the rocky state of farming at the moment its the sharp increase in the number of growers looking to sell up and farm elsewhere in the world.

Land agents from Canada and other countries report packed houses at seminars in the UK, particularly in the north and west. Embassies and consulates have also seen an increase in serious enquiries from farmers and their families.

Someone else who has noticed a sudden surge in interest from farmers is Richard Gregan, senior consultant at Manchester-based Four Corners Emigration. The company was set up five years ago to guide people through the emigration maze. At that time, farmers were a tiny part of its clientele.

Mr Gregan says farmers and their families now make up 40% of the 600 people a year that Four Corners Emigration successfully helps to move overseas.

"We always had three or four farmers a month contacting us, but noticed a big upsurge after the beef crisis," he says. "Now 15-25 farmers a month contact us about selling up and moving abroad."

You dont have to go to an emigration consultant, he admits. The DIY route, which involves contacting embassies direct, can work but its not for the faint-hearted.

Harder to get in

"Twelve years ago you could pay the Australian government £10 and they would ship you there for free because they were keen to boost their population," he says. Similarly, 14 years ago a British passport gave you full migrant status in Canada."

"Now governments have made it much harder to get in. They only want suitable people and want to know what you can do for their country as much as what it can do for you.

"A pioneering-spirited farmer with time and money could do it, but it would take a month in time and several thousand pounds in fees. Theres also a high chance the application will have a flaw that will mean it is rejected."

You could also buy a farm via a foreign realtor (land agent) and let them organise the visa application for a fee. But Mr Gregan points out that the realtor is working primarily for the vendor of the farm and may not always be able to offer the independent specialist knowledge of a firm like Four Corners.

Four Corners farming clientele are headed in four main directions – hence the firms name. About 35% are looking to go to Australia, 30% to Canada, 17% to the United States and 17% to New Zealand.

Though nearly all are selling farms in the UK to fund the process, only 60% want to continue farming in other countries. The other 40%, says Mr Gregan, are looking to go into related sectors such as landscaping, horticulture, fishing, forestry and agricultural engineering.

WHAT FOUR CORNERS EMIGRATION OFFERS

The whole package, according to Richard Gregan. First step for hopefuls is to write or ring for the firms four-page assessment form. This aims to establish whether or not you stand a good chance of making it to the end of the process and asks for details of employment, training, education, main assets, proposed destination and relatives living there. It costs £19/country, but proportionately less if you are interested in several countries.

Three-quarters of farmers pass this stage with ease, says Mr Gregan. They can then decide whether to proceed, opt for a DIY attempt or chicken out.

Four Corners Emigrations range of services extends to far more than visa application matters. A network of farm consultants in host countries means it can provide advice on the state of the agricultural economy in the part of the world youre interested in.

"If someone says they want to do dairying in New Zealand, for instance, well tell them that prices are low at the moment and that dairy prospects are better in New South Wales (Australia)," he adds. "Obviously the final decision must be taken by the farmer and his family but we can provide all the background information."

It can also sort out weather maps, transport facilities, proximity of schools and hospitals and pretty much anything else you want to know. The only thing it wont do is sell you the farm, though it can put you in touch with someone who can. For that youll need to contact a realtor (ads can often be seen at the back of FARMERS WEEKLY), place an advert in a farm magazine in the intended country or go there and drive around a lot.)

What will it cost? A simple application (like a farmer married to a nurse) takes 6 months and would cost £1400-£1900 + VAT. A small-medium farm selling up and moving to Australia or Canada would cost £3-5000 and a large farm with a complicated application might cost £6-9000.

Fees are paid one-third up front, one-third during the course of the application and one-third on joyous receipt of the visa. If the application fails for reasons that are not the farmers fault, money paid is reimbursed.

Four Corners can be contacted on 0161-499 3888 (tel) or 0161-498 9889 (fax).

Above: As farming fortunes sink lower in the UK, increasing numbers of farmers are interested in farming abroad. Left:Richard Gregan, senior consultant at Four Corners Irrigation. Below: If your spouse or partner is in a sought-after occupation, that will help your application greatly.