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.
How to apply for a UK ancestral visa
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.
When submitting their application for entry clearance or leave to remain, your partner will not only need to provide their passport or other valid travel document, they will also need to provide documentary evidence to prove each of the eligibility criteria, including:
- Evidence to prove the necessary relationship requirements, for example, that you have been living together in a relationship akin to marriage or a civil partnership which has subsisted for 2 or more years,
- Evidence of the maintenance and accommodation requirement, ie; that you have somewhere to live and sufficient money to support yourselves without recourse to public funds.
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
How much does the UK ancestry visa cost?
The fee to apply for entry clearance as the unmarried partner of someone with a UK ancestry visa is £516. However, your partner may be able to pay an additional fee to get their visa processed faster.
In addition to the visa application fee, your partner may also be liable to pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS) as part of their application to enable them to use the National Health Service once they are living in the UK.
The IHS will be calculated on the basis of how much leave your partner is granted, typically at a rate of £400 per year, for example, if they are granted 5 years leave the IHS will amount to £2,000.
How long is processing for the UK ancestry visa?
In the event that your partner submits their application for a visa from outside the UK they ought to get a decision from UKVI within a matter of a few short weeks. However, as previously indicated, they may be able to get their visa faster depending on what country they are applying from.
They will need to check with the visa application centre as to what priority services are available and at what additional cost.
Can my partner and family join me in the UK?
Under an ancestry visa, you will be permitted to bring certain family members from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland to live with you in the UK, including your unmarried partner, spouse, civil partner and dependent minor children.
They will usually be granted the same period of leave as the main visa applicant and can also take up employment.
For dependants to apply with you, you must 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
To apply for entry clearance from outside the UK as the partner or dependant of someone with a UK ancestry visa, this must be done 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 the application is refused?
There are various reasons why your partner’s application for entry clearance or leave to remain may be refused, such as where s/he has failed to provide sufficient documentary evidence of the necessary relationship requirements, for example, that you have lived in a relationship akin to marriage or a civil partnership which has subsisted for 2 years or more.
Although there is no right of appeal from a decision to refuse their application, they may be able to ask UKVI for an administrative review of their decision if there is any basis upon which to argue that the original decision was incorrect.
What does the ancestry visa allow?
Your conditions of stay under an ancestry visa will permit you, as the primary visa holder, and as a Commonwealth citizen with ancestral links to the United Kingdom, to live and work in the UK on a long-term basis.
Accordingly, in the event that your partner is successfully granted permission to accompany or join you in the UK, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will grant them leave in line with the expiry of your own visa.
In particular, paragraph 195 of the Immigration Rules provides that a person seeking leave to enter the UK as the partner of a person with limited leave to enter or remain in the UK under an ancestry visa, may be given leave to enter for a period not in excess of that granted to the primary visa holder.
As such, if you are initially granted leave for a period of 5 years, it is likely that your partner will also be granted leave for the same amount of time, or for the time remaining on your existing period of leave in the event they apply at a later date.
Further, there are generally no restrictions under a UK ancestry visa as to the type of work that either you or partner can undertake. This can include employed and/or self-employed roles. Your partner will also be eligible to undertake a course of study.
Please note that while you, as the primary visa holder, will be required to undertake employment, or at the very least be actively seeking employment as part of your conditions of stay, your partner will not be required to meet any such employment requirement. They will simply be granted the flexibility of being able to work if they so choose.
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.
Can my partner and dependants also renew their visa?
Your unmarried partner may be eligible to apply to extend their leave to remain in the UK if you, as the primary visa holder, continue to have limited leave to remain in the UK, or you have subsequently qualified for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or become a British citizen having satisfied the residence requirements for ILR or citizenship under a UK ancestry visa.
However, your partner must continue to satisfy the relationship requirements, in particular that you intend to live together as partners and the relationship is genuine and subsisting. They must also continue to satisfy the maintenance and accommodation requirements and not fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal.
If your partner is applying to extend their visa from within the UK, the application fee is £1033. A decision will usually be made by UKVI within around 8 weeks using the standard service.
In the event that your partner is looking to process their request for an extension on a faster basis, they can pay for the super priority service at an additional cost of £800, together with a fee of £19.20 to enrol their biometric information.
Under the super priority service, where the appointment is on a weekday, they will receive a decision on their application by the end of the next working day after enrolling their biometric information, or 2 working days if their appointment is at the weekend.
In the event that you are applying for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK, your unmarried partner may also apply at the same time to settle with you. ILR, or settlement as it otherwise known, means your partner can stay in the UK free from any immigration restrictions on an indefinite basis.
If, on the other hand, you have already been granted ILR or have become a British citizen, your partner may still apply to settle so long as they satisfy the relationship requirements and other criteria as set out above.
In addition, however, your partner must be able to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the English language and sufficient knowledge about life in the United Kingdom. This is known as the KoLL requirement.
The ability to communicate in English and show an understanding of life in the UK forms an integral part of the commitment to respect its laws, values and traditions. Unless an applicant is exempt because of their age, physical or mental condition, to satisfy the knowledge of English language requirement your partner must either:
- Have a speaking and listening qualification in English at B1 level or above of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)
- Have a degree that was taught or researched in English
- Be a national of a majority English-speaking country
To satisfy the knowledge of life in the UK requirement they must pass the “Life in the UK” test at an approved test centre booked through GOV.UK.
Applications for the UK ancestry visa can raise a number of complications. The rules can be complex to apply, and the evidentiary requirements strict.
DavidsonMorris are experienced UK immigration specialists offering guidance and support to individuals in relation to UK ancestry visa applications. We can advise on the eligibility criteria you will need to evidence for a UK ancestry visa 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.
Ancestry visa FAQs
Do I qualify for a UK Ancestry Visa?
Under the Ancestry Visa requirements, you have to be 17 years of age or over and a citizen of a commonwealth country.
How much is the ancestral visa application?
The application fee for the UK Ancestry Visa is £516 as at January 2020. You will also have to pay the healthcare surcharge.
How many times can I apply for an ancestry visa?
The Ancestral visa is granted for five years. After that time, you can apply to extend your visa or you can apply for UK indefinite leave to remain if you can show five years' continuous UK residence.
Last updated: 3 February 2020