UK Ancestry Visa Application & Requirements

uk ancestry visa


As a Commonwealth citizen with ancestral links in the UK, the ancestry visa can provide you with the right to live and work in the UK on a long-term basis.

In this guide for applicants, we take a practical look at the UK ancestry visa, from what it allows you to do, to how to make your application to the Home Office.


What is the UK ancestry visa?

The UK ancestry route is for Commonwealth citizens aged 17 years or over who are looking to live in the UK, and who have a grandparent who was born in the UK or Islands. A UK ancestry visa is essentially a visa that will allow a Commonwealth citizen with qualifying ancestral links to the UK to live and work in the UK for an initial period of 5 years.


What does the Ancestry visa allow you to do?

There are generally no restrictions under an ancestry visa as to the type of work you can undertake. Effectively, you will be allowed to carry out any type of work in the UK at any skill level.

You may wish to work in an employed role for an employer or, alternatively, you may want to establish your own business to enable you to work for yourself. It is even possible to do both under this type of visa, unlike other visa options that do not provide the same flexible employment options.

You will also be allowed to volunteer and you can also study at the same time that you are working or actively looking for work.


Are you eligible for a UK ancestry visa?

You may be eligible to apply for a UK ancestry visa if you are any one of the following:

  • a Commonwealth citizen
  • a British overseas citizen
  • a British overseas territories citizen
  • a British national (overseas)
  • a British subject
  • a citizen of Zimbabwe

In broad terms, you must also prove that one of your grandparents was born in the UK, or the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, and meet the other eligibility requirements.


UK ancestry visa requirements

To be eligible for a UK ancestry visa, you must meet the following requirements:

  • be aged 17 and over
  • be a qualifying citizen
  • be able to prove that one of your grandparents was born in the UK or Islands
  • be able and planning to work in the UK
  • be able to satisfy the financial requirement.

To satisfy the ancestry requirement, you must have a grandparent born either in the UK (including the Channel Islands and Isle of Man), or what is now Ireland (before 31 March 1922), or on a British-registered ship or aircraft. The birth of a grandparent in a British colony or a military base overseas will not make you eligible for an ancestry visa.

You can still claim ancestry if you or the relevant parent was adopted or born outside of marriage in the UK, although UK ancestry cannot be claimed through step-parents. It also cannot be claimed if relying on the birth of a grandparent in either a British colony or an overseas military base.

You must show you can accommodate and financially support yourself, as you will be ineligible to access public funds in the UK. To satisfy the financial requirement, you must have enough money to support and house yourself in the UK without recourse to public funds or, alternatively, have a credible offer of financial support from a third party, such as a relative or friend.

When it comes to the work requirement, to be eligible for a UK ancestry visa you do not have to be working at the time you apply, although you must have the ability and intention to work in the UK. This essentially means that you must able to show that you genuinely intend to seek work in the UK and you have a realistic prospect of finding work.


How to apply for a UK ancestry visa

You have to apply for a UK ancestry visa from outside the UK. 

This involves completing the online application form with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), the division of the Home Office responsible for the United Kingdom’s visa system.

You cannot switch into this visa category if you are already in the UK on another type of visa, you have to be overseas to make your application.

As part of your application you will need to prove your identity and nationality. You will need to schedule an appointment at an overseas visa application centre (VAC) to enrol your biometric information, including a scan of your fingerprints and a photograph of your face.


Ancestry visa supporting documents

When submitting your application for an ancestry visa, in addition to providing your current passport or valid travel document, you will need to provide various documents in support to demonstrate that you satisfy the eligibility criteria. Depending on your circumstances and the basis of your eligibility, these documents could include:

  • your full birth certificate
  • the birth certificates of the parent and grandparent that your ancestry claim is based on
  • the marriage certificates for your parents and grandparents, if they were married
  • legal adoption papers if you or the parent that your ancestry claim is based on are adopted
  • proof you are planning to work in the UK, such as any job offers or a business plan
  • recent bank statements to show that you have enough money to support yourself, dated no more than 31 days before the date of application for entry clearance, or credible evidence of the promise of financial support from a relative or friend
  • any tuberculosis test results, if from a listed country.

You may also need to provide additional documents, depending on your circumstances. These could include written parental consent if you are aged under 18 when you apply.

In relation to the ‘work’ requirement, you do not have to be working at the time you apply for an Ancestry Visa, but you must have the ability and intention to work in the UK. In other words, you must show with reference to documentation that you genuinely intend to seek work in the UK and have a realistic prospect of finding work.

As such, you will either need the offer of a job from a UK employer or, where you plan to work for yourself, a business plan for self-employment.

You can upload your supporting documents into the UKVI online service or have your documents scanned at your VAC appointment.


How much does a UK ancestry visa application cost?

The Home Office application fee for a UK ancestry visa is £637.

Depending on which country you are applying from, you may be able to pay an additional fee to get your visa processed faster. You will need to check with your visa application centre as to what priority services are available.

You will also be liable to pay an immigration health surcharge to be able to access the UK’s NHS. This is calculated on an annual basis, payable upfront, for the length of your visa.


How long does a UK ancestry visa application take?

The earliest that you can apply for an ancestry visa is 3 months before you travel.

Having submitted your application and supporting documentation for a UK ancestry visa, and enrolled any biometric information, a decision will usually be made within 3 weeks.

You may be able to pay for a faster decision, where you will be told this when you apply.


Can you bring family on the UK ancestry route?

If your application for a UK ancestry visa is approved, you will be allowed to bring eligible family members to live with you in the UK. This means that any spouse, partner and dependent children can apply to accompany or follow to join you on this route. However, you must have sufficient funds to support and house your family in the UK as neither you, nor any family members coming with you, will be eligible to claim UK state benefits. When applying on the UK ancestry route, each dependant must also provide evidence of their relationship with you. You must also be able to prove that, as a family, you have enough money without help from public funds for maintenance and accommodation purposes.

In summary, you will need to show:

  • There will be adequate accommodation for both you and your partner, without recourse to public funds, that you own or occupy exclusively
  • You and your partner will also be able to maintain yourselves adequately without recourse to public funds
  • Your partner does not intend to stay in the UK beyond any period of leave granted to you as the primary visa holder
  • Your partner does not fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal

In addition, specific relationship requirements must be met to qualify as the unmarried partner of the primary visa holder, namely:

  • Any previous marriage or civil partnership, or similar relationship, by either partner has ended
  • You are not blood relatives
  • You have been living together in a relationship akin to marriage or a civil partnership of two years or more, and
  • You both intend to live together as partners during the primary visa holder’s stay in the UK, and the relationship is genuine and subsisting


Any dependants must apply separately and pay the application fee. They will also each be liable to pay the healthcare surcharge. Dependants will usually be granted the same period of leave as the main visa applicant and can also take up employment.

Applications for entry clearance from outside the UK as the partner or dependant of someone with a UK ancestry visa are made online. Ideally, it is best that you and your partner submit any application at the same time to enable you to travel together to the UK, although your partner can apply at a late date to join you.

Your partner can also apply to switch their visa from a different category if they are already in the UK. However, if they were last granted entry clearance as either a visitor or short-term student they will not be eligible to do so. They will also be ineligible if they were granted temporary admission or temporary release.

As part of the application process for entry clearance and/or leave to remain, your partner will need to enrol their biometric information, ie; a scan of their fingerprints and a digital photograph of their face, either at a visa application centre in their country of residence or at a UKVCAS service point if applying to switch or extend their leave from within the UK.

Having submitted their application and paid the relevant visa fee, your partner will also need to file any documentation in support.


What if my ancestry visa application is refused?

There are various reasons why an application for an Ancestry Visa may be refused, for example, where the applicant has failed to prove that they are actively seeking work or where they have been unable to locate their grandparent’s original birth certificate.

However, in the event that your Ancestry Visa application is refused, there is no right of appeal. You will only be able to ask UKVI for an Administrative Review of their decision where you believe that the initial decision was incorrect.

In circumstances where your application has been refused on the basis that you failed to meet the eligibility criteria, or to provide the necessary documentation in support, then the refusal decision is unlikely to be overturned on review.

Take professional advice on your case to understand your options to challenge the Home Office’s decision, or whether a new application or a different immigration route would be appropriate in your circumstances.


Extending your UK ancestry visa

When applying for entry clearance on the UK ancestry route, you should be granted leave for 5 years. You can also apply to extend this visa from within the UK for a further 5 years.

To be eligible to apply to extend a UK ancestry visa, you must be able to show that:

  • you are working or have been actively seeking work in the UK
  • you have been able to adequately maintain and accommodate yourself, together with any dependants, and can continue to do so without recourse to public funds
  • there are no general grounds for refusal.

When applying to extend a UK ancestry visa, you are not required to show continuous employment or self-employment throughout your initial 5-year stay in the UK, although you must continue to be able to work, and intend to seek and take employment. This means that even if you are currently out of work, your application for an extension to stay in the UK may still be granted, provided you can show that you are genuinely looking for work.


How do you apply to extend your UK ancestry visa?

To extend a UK ancestry visa, you will need to submit an online application prior to expiry of your current visa, together with your documentation in support. If you are looking to extend your visa, your partner or child’s visa will not automatically extend at the same time. This means that they must also apply for a visa extension, where they can either apply to extend their visa at the same time or any time before their existing visa expires. If they do not extend their own visas, these will be valid until their original end date.

When applying for an extension of stay on this route, you and any dependants will each be asked to provide supporting documentation and to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to re-enrol your biometric information. You can upload any documents in support of your application into the online service or have this scanned at your UKVCAS appointment.

If you are applying to extend your visa from within the UK, the application fee is £1,048. You and any dependants will also each need to pay the annual healthcare surcharge.

When applying to extend your UK ancestry visa, a decision will usually be made by UKVI within 8 weeks. During this time, you will not be permitted to travel outside of the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man. Your application will be withdrawn if you leave this Common Travel Area, although you may be able to pay for a faster decision.


How long can you be out of the UK on an Ancestry Visa?

If you leave the UK and your ancestry visa expires, you can apply for a new visa from your home country. Remember also that if you want to apply for ILR, you must not have excessive absences from the UK.


Does the UK ancestry visa lead to settlement in the UK?

The UK ancestry visa is a route to settlement in the UK, also known as indefinite leave to remain (ILR). This means that, provided you meet the eligibility requirements for ILR, you will be able to settle in the UK on a permanent basis, without any time restrictions.

You can apply to extend a UK ancestry visa as many times as you like, provided you continue to meet the eligibility requirements, although applying for ILR will allow you to stay in the UK without the need for an extension application. You can also use ILR to apply for British citizenship after living in the UK for an additional 12-month period.

You can apply to permanently settle in the UK if you have lived there continuously for 5 years as a UK ancestry visa-holder. In addition to the continuous residence requirement, you must also satisfy a knowledge of language and life in the UK. To satisfy the knowledge of English language requirement you must either be a national of a majority English-speaking country, have a degree that was taught or researched in English, or obtain an intermediate level speaking and listening qualification in English. To satisfy the knowledge of life in the UK requirement you must pass the ‘Life in the UK’ test at an approved centre.

You must also prove you have enough money to support yourself and any dependants, that you can and plan to work in the UK, and that you are still a Commonwealth citizen.


How do you apply for settlement on the UK ancestry route?

To apply for ILR, you will again need to submit an online application, together with your supporting documentation, and pay the relevant fee. The fee to apply for ILR is £2,885. However, you do not need to pay the annual healthcare surcharge if you are applying to become a permanent resident.

As with a visa extension, if you are looking to settle in the UK on the ancestry route, your partner or any children will need to apply separately. They must also meet the financial requirement, as well as the KoLL requirement if over the age of 18. You will each need to have your biometric information re-taken at an UKVCAS service point as part of your settlement application and provide any documentation in support.

You will usually get a decision on a settlement application within 6 months if you apply using the standard service, although you may be able to pay for a faster decision.


UK ancestry and British citizenship

Naturalising as a British citizen is a time and cost-intensive process. The eligibility criteria are stringent, including an assessment of the length of your UK residency, absences from the UK during your residency period, your character, language ability and financial means. If your citizenship application is refused, you will lose the application fee.

If you were born outside the UK and one or both of your parents are British citizens, you may already be classed as a British citizen by descent. In these circumstances, you will not need to apply to naturalise as a British citizen.

Seek expert immigration advice if you are looking to attain British citizenship to ensure you understand your current status and nationality options, and if you do proceed with the citizenship application, ensure your submission is comprehensive in evidencing your eligibility.

Changes under the new British Nationality and Borders Act 2021, which received Royal Assent in April 2022, mean that someone who currently qualifies for UK Ancestry could apply to register for British Citizenship. Registration under UK(M) or UK(F) routes allows individuals to avoid substantial government fees when becoming a British citizen.

However, for applicants with a spouse and/or children who are under the age of 18, this could become a more costly process. This is because when registering as a British Citizen, your dependents would then fall under appendix FM and the family route. Where there are dependants, a more economic route would be to enter the UK as a UK Ancestry visa holder. Upon entering as a family unit, you would qualify for registration as a British citizen. This also means the partner or spouse would qualify for settlement.

A way to engineer settlement and citizenship for your family unit would be for the main visa holder to qualify for registration, then register your children as British citizens under the age of 18 after three years of residence in the UK and apply for settlement for your spouse, who can then apply straight away for British citizenship by way of naturalisation under 6(2).

This is fully incorporated in the UK Ancestry Appendix, from the previous immigration rules.  This could enable a family to all hold British citizenship within 3 years. In summary:

  • For dependent children – if they were to wait 3 years, rather than apply for ILR, the children (under 18 years of age) could be registered as British citizens under section 3(5) of the BNA 1981, removing the need for them to apply for settlement.
  • For the dependent partner or spouse – apply for ILR after three years in the UK and one granted, straight away apply to naturalise.


Which are the 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
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Botswana
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Cyprus
  • Dominica
  • Fiji Islands
  • The Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nauru
  • New Zealand
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Samoa
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore
  • Solomon Islands
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Swaziland
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tuvalu
  • Uganda
  • United Kingdom
  • United Republic of Tanzania
  • Vanuatu
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe


Need assistance?

Securing a UK Ancestry Visa can be life changing. With so much at stake, you will need to ensure you complete the application form correctly and provide all necessary supporting documents to evidence your eligibility.

As UK immigration specialists, DavidsonMorris provide expert guidance on all aspects of the UK ancestry visa, including advice on eligibility and applications and routes to UK settlement and citizenship. If you have a question about the ancestry visa, contact us.


Ancestry visa FAQs

Who qualifies for UK ancestry visa?

The UK ancestry visa is for Commonwealth citizens aged 17+ with ancestral links to the UK. To qualify, you must have a grandparent who was either born in the UK or Islands, or on a British-registered ship or aircraft.

How much money do you need in your account for a UK ancestry visa?

To be eligible for a UK ancestry visa, there is no set level of funds that you must hold. However, you must be able to show you can maintain and accommodate yourself, and any dependants, without access to public funds.

How many times can you extend UK ancestry visa?

You can apply to extend a UK ancestry visa as many times as you like, provided you continue to meet the eligibility requirements, although you may also be eligible for indefinite leave to remain after 5 years.

Can you get married on a UK ancestry visa?

If you are living in the UK on a UK ancestry visa, you can get married without applying for any additional immigration permission. You can also apply for settlement after living in the UK for 5 years in a row.

Last updated: 3 October 2023


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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