The UK Ancestry visa allows nationals of Commonwealth countries with a grandparent born in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man to live and work in the UK for a five-year period.
The visa can be used for a temporary stay in the UK to work or it can be used to gain eligibility for UK indefinite leave to remain (ILR). With ILR, you can then look to apply for British citizenship.
What are the main requirements of the UK Ancestry Visa?
The following criteria would need to be met by anyone wanting to apply for a UK Ancestry Visa:
- You must be a Commonwealth citizen
- You must be applying from outside the UK
- You must be able to prove one of your grandparents was born in the UK
- You are able and intend to work in the UK
- You are aged 17 or over
- You have enough money to support yourself and any dependants while in the UK
In addition to the above, you will need to show that your relevant grandparent was either:
- Born in the UK, including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man
- Born before 31 March 1922 in what is now the Republic of Ireland
- Born on a British-registered ship or aircraft
You can also claim ancestry if you or your relevant parent were adopted. UK ancestry cannot, however, be claimed through step-parents.
There are no restrictions on the type of work you can undertake while on the Ancestry Visa. For example, you could be self-employed or start your own business – making the Ancestry Visa a more attractive route into the UK than other business-related and entrepreneurial visa schemes.
What evidence will I need to show?
- Your full birth certificate
- Your relevant grandparent’s full birth certificate
- Your parents’ marriage certificate
- Legal adoption papers if you or your parents were adopted
- Your marriage or civil partnership certificate if your spouse or civil partner is applying as a dependant
- Funds to sustain yourself (and any dependants). This would usually be around £1600 in your account 90 days prior to your date of application. This can be from your own funds or sourced from a sponsor, such as a parent, friend. If you are relying on a sponsor, they will be required to provide a letter confirming you have the requisite funds to sustain yourself during your first few months of living in the UK.
- Intention to work in the UK – you do not need to have found employment before applying for the UK Ancestry visa. Proof that you are looking for a job would include communications with recruitment agencies in Britain.
Can I switch to an Ancestry visa from within the UK?
The answer to this is no. If you are already in the UK on another type of visa you will not be able to switch to an Ancestry visa.
Working under the Ancestry Visa
The main benefit of the Ancestry Visa is that employees are free to work for any employer in the UK and have the flexibility to move around should it be required.
It is possible to study in the UK while on the Ancestry visa, but you will also be required to work, usually a part-time role.
How long does the UK Ancestry Visa last?
The maximum amount of time a person can spend in the UK on an Ancestry visa is 5 years. After this, you should be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
After 5 years of continuously being in the UK lawfully, you may be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, providing you meet all the requirements, for example:
- You continue to satisfy the requirements of the UK ancestry visa
- You have spent a period of five continuous years in the UK
- You have worked throughout that five year period
- You have not spent more than 90 days each year outside the UK during this qualifying period
Holding Indefinite Leave to Remain means you are free of immigration control. It grants an applicant the right to live and work in the UK without any immigration restrictions and entitles them to apply for naturalisation for British citizenship.
If you don’t qualify for ILR or do not wish to apply for ILR, it is possible to apply to extend Ancestry Visa status.
Can my dependants join me in the UK?
Your dependants – spouse, civil partner, minor children – can apply to join you under the Ancestry Visa. They will usually be granted the same period of leave as the main visa applicant and can also take up employment.
How to apply
Applications are made completing the online form and submitting supporting documents to the British diplomatic post in your home country. You will also need to pay the relevant visa processing fee.
You will also be required to submit biometric information at a visa application centre.
Visa processing times can vary between embassies, but for postal applications, you should expect a decision in around 8 weeks. In-person applications are generally decided on a same-day basis.
Eligibility for the UK Ancestry Visa under the intention to work and financial support requirements are not always straightforward. While each case will be taken on its own merit, taking professional advice to help compile and submit your application will help ensure you present a comprehensive case to the Embassy.
Which countries are Commonwealth Countries?
The following countries are part of the Commonwealth Countries and citizens of these countries may be eligible to apply for the Ancestry Visa:
• Antigua and Barbuda
• The Bahamas
• Brunei Darussalam
• Fiji Islands
• The Gambia
• New Zealand
• Papua New Guinea
• Sierra Leone
• Solomon Islands
• South Africa
• Sri Lanka
• St Kitts and Nevis
• St Lucia
• St Vincent and the Grenadines
• Trinidad and Tobago
• United Kingdom
• United Republic of Tanzania