The process of making a UK ancestry visa renewal application is rarely straightforward. The following guide looks at the criteria for UK ancestry visa renewal and how to maximise your prospects of being granted further leave to remain in the UK.
What is the UK ancestry visa?
The UK Ancestry visa is the leave granted to a qualifying Commonwealth citizen to live in the UK on a long-term basis, typically for an initial period of up to 5 years. A Commonwealth citizen will be eligible for an ancestry visa where they are able to prove they have ancestral links to the UK, ie; that one of their grandparents was either born in the UK, the Republic of Ireland before 31 March 1922, or on a British-registered ship or aircraft.
The applicant must also be able to demonstrate that they have the ability and intent to work in the UK, and can maintain and accommodate themselves and any dependants while in the UK without recourse to public funds.
As the holder of an ancestry visa, you will be allowed to live and work in the UK for the period of leave granted, generally without restriction as to the nature of the work that you undertake. You will also be allowed to bring certain family members with you, including your partner and dependant children, again for the period of leave that you, as the primary visa holder, have been granted.
As such, having established a new work and family life in the UK, you may then be looking to extend your stay. You may even be looking to settle in the UK on a permanent basis. Below we look at both these options.
Ancestry visa eligibility criteria
Having been granted an initial period of leave, typically up to 5 years, it is open to you to renew or extend your UK ancestry visa for a further period of time. However, there are still strict eligibility criteria that you must continue to satisfy.
As the holder of a UK ancestry visa, you will have already satisfied the most basic criteria, namely that you are a Commonwealth citizen aged 17 or over and have the requisite ancestral links to the UK through at least one of your blood or adoptive grandparents.
However, having lived in the UK for a lengthy period of time, you must also be able to show the following:
- You have secured employment, either through an employed role or self-employment, or that you are actively seeking work
- You have been able to adequately maintain and accommodate yourself, together with any dependants, without recourse to public funds, and can continue to do so
- There are no general grounds for refusal
Please note, when applying for a UK ancestry visa renewal, you are not required to be continuously employed while in the UK. Instead, the requirement is for you to either stay employed or to seek further work. As such, even if you are currently out of work, your application for an extension to stay in the UK may still be granted if you are able to show that you are genuinely looking for work.
When do I need to apply to renew my UK ancestry visa?
When applying for UK ancestry visa renewal you will need to submit an online application, together with your documentation in support, with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) prior to the expiry of your existing visa.
You will also need to include any dependants who are on your current visa, such as your spouse, partner or children, including children who have turned 18 during your initial period of leave in the UK.
Please note that if you fail to renew your ancestry visa prior to expiry of your existing leave, you risk your application being refused on the grounds of overstaying.
How do I apply for UK ancestry visa renewal?
Having submitted your online application with UKVI using Form FLR (IR), and having paid the requisite visa fee, you will be asked to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to provide your biometric information, ie; a scan of your fingerprints and digital photograph of your face.
You will also need to provide the necessary documentation in support. You can upload any documentation into the online service or, alternatively, have them scanned at your UKVCAS appointment.
How much does UK ancestry visa renewal cost?
If you are applying for UK ancestry visa renewal, the application fee is £1033, together with a fee of £19.20 for enrolling your biometric information. This is using the standard service, which can take up to 8 weeks to get a decision.
Under the super priority service, you will receive a decision on your application by the end of the next working day after enrolling your biometric information where your appointment is on a weekday, or two working days if the appointment is at the weekend. However, the cost of the super priority service is an additional £800.
Please note that payment for the faster service does not guarantee a successful outcome, nor does it necessarily guarantee a decision within the guide times. In some cases, where an application is not straightforward, for example, where an applicant has been convicted of a criminal offence during their time in the UK, or requires UKVI to verify documentation, this can significantly prolong the time it will take to reach a decision.
Additionally, as part of your application costs, you may be liable to pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS) to allow you to continue using the National Health Service in the UK. The IHS is calculated on the basis of how much leave you are granted, typically at a rate of £400 per year.
What documentation will I need for UK ancestry visa renewal?
A UK ancestry visa will be granted for a period of up to 5 years. Further, in the event that you satisfy all of the eligibility criteria and none of the general grounds for refusal apply, UKVI will grant your application for UK ancestry visa renewal for a further period of 5 years.
However, you may first want to consider whether or not to apply for an extension of your visa or, alternatively, to apply to settle in the UK on a permanent basis. The best option for you will very much depend on your individual circumstances, including for how long you intend to remain in the UK and whether your previous stay has been continuous (see below).
How long will an extension be granted for my UK ancestry visa?
If you are providing your biometric information in the UK there is a set fee of £19.20, if you are applying from outside the cost will be included in your application fee.
Am I eligible to apply for UK indefinite leave to remain?
By way of alternative to UK ancestry visa renewal, you may be eligible to apply to settle in the UK permanently if you have lived in the UK for 5 years under this category. This is known as applying for indefinite leave to remain (ILR).
However, to qualify for ILR, you must have been living in the UK continuously for a period of 5 years and have spent no more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12 months during each of those 5 years.
Further, in addition to the residency requirements, you must also satisfy what’s known as the KoLL requirement. This refers to knowledge of language and life in the UK. Unless you are exempt because of your age, physical or mental condition, to satisfy the knowledge of English language requirement you must either be a national of a majority English-speaking country or:
- Have a speaking and listening qualification in English at B1 level or above of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)
- Have an undergraduate degree that was either taught or researched in English.
So as to satisfy the knowledge of life in the UK requirement you must pass the “Life in the UK” test at an approved test centre booked through GOV.UK.
Please note, if you are granted ILR, having lived in the UK continuously under an ancestry visa for a period of 5 years and satisfied the KoLL requirement, this will potentially provide you with a route to British citizenship. However, you will need to hold ILR for a period of 12 months before you can apply to naturalise as a British citizen.
Will my partner be eligible for UK ancestry visa renewal?
In the event that you, as the primary visa holder, have limited leave to remain in the UK under an ancestry visa, or you have subsequently qualified for ILR or become a British citizen, your spouse or partner may be eligible to apply for UK ancestry visa renewal.
However, s/he must satisfy the necessary relationship requirements, in particular that your relationship is genuine and subsisting and you intend to continue living together as partners. As a couple, you must also be able to support yourselves without recourse to public funds.
What happens if I overstay on my UK ancestry visa?
If you are applying for a UK ancestry visa renewal, you must not have remained in the UK after the expiry of your original grant of leave at the date of your application. This is known as overstaying.
There are limited circumstances in which overstaying will be disregarded, namely:
Where there is good reason beyond your control, and the application is made within 14 days of the expiry of leave, explain why this prevented the application being made on time.
Where you previously made an in-time application that was refused, and the current application was made within 14 days of any refusal or administrative review.
Save as set out above, if you are found to have overstayed by UKVI, this will constitute a ground for refusal of your UK ancestry visa renewal.
Can my UK ancestry visa renewal be refused?
There are various reasons that may result in refusal of your UK ancestry visa renewal application. This may be because you have failed to meet all of the eligibility criteria, or provided insufficient documentary evidence to satisfy UKVI that you qualify. However, you may also fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal, namely where you have:
- A criminal record in the UK or another country
- Provided false or incomplete information to the Home Office
- Broken UK immigration laws
There is no longer a right of appeal against refusals made on or after 2 March 2015. However, if you think UKVI has made an error in considering your application for a UK ancestry visa renewal, you can apply for an administrative review. Details of how to make an administrative review application will be included in your decision letter.
DavidsonMorris are experienced UK immigration specialists offering guidance and support to individuals in relation to UK immigration status and Home Office applications. We can advise on the eligibility criteria you will need to evidence for a UK ancestry visa renewal and the process you will need to follow for your application. We can also help where you have dependants applying with you.
For specialist UK immigration advice, contact us.
Last updated: 4 March 2022