The UK Ancestry Visa allows Commonwealth citizens who meet certain eligibility criteria to come to the UK for up to 5 years to work and study, and to be accompanied by family members. In this Ancestry Visa guidance, we look at what the UK Ancestry visa is, who could be eligible and the process to follow when making your application to the UK Home Office.
What is the UK Ancestry Visa?
An Ancestry Visa is a visa that will allow a Commonwealth citizen with ancestral links to the United Kingdom to live in the UK. As such, if your application for an Ancestry Visa is successful, under your conditions of stay you will be allowed to work and study in the UK. You will also be allowed to bring family members to live with you.
There are generally no restrictions under an Ancestry Visa as to the type of work you can undertake. You may wish to work in an employed role for a UK 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.
Note also that Ancestry Visa holders must show they can accommodate and financially support themselves, as they are ineligible to access public funds in the UK.
Who is eligible?
You will be eligible to apply for an Ancestry Visa if you meet all of the following eligibility criteria:
- You are aged 17 and over
- You are a Commonwealth citizen
- You are able to prove that one of your grandparents was born in the UK and Islands
- You are able and planning to work in the UK
- You are able to satisfy the maintenance and accommodation requirement, ie; you have sufficient funds without recourse to public funds to support and house yourself and any dependants
To satisfy the “ancestry” requirement, you must show that you have a grandparent born in any one of the following circumstances:
- In the UK, including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man
- Before 31 March 1922 in what is now the Republic of Ireland
- On a British-registered ship or aircraft
Please note that 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, however, still claim ancestry even if either you or the relevant parent were adopted, or born outside marriage in the UK. That said, UK ancestry cannot be claimed through step-parents.
What are the 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.
This documentation could include the following:
Your full birth certificate
The full 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
The legal adoption papers if you or the parent that your ancestry claim is based on are adopted
Evidence that you are planning to work in the UK
Recent bank statements to show that you have enough money to support yourself
Any tuberculosis test results if you are resident in a country where you are required to take the test
Other documents may be required depending on your circumstances. Taking professional advice will ensure you compile and submit a comprehensive submission.
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.
How long does the Ancestry Visa take to process?
The earliest that you can apply for an ancestry visa is 3 months before you travel. However, once you apply you should get a decision from UKVI within 3 weeks. However, due to ongoing COVID restrictions, applicants are advised to confirm processing lead times when making their application.
How much does the Ancestry Visa cost?
The fee to apply for an Ancestry Visa from outside the UK is £516. You will need to check with your visa application centre as to what priority services are available.
In addition to the visa application fee, you will also be liable to pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS) as part of your application. By paying the IHS, once your visa has been granted, this will entitle you to use the National Health Service in the UK. The IHS will be calculated on the basis of how much leave you are granted, typically at a rate of £624 per year per applicant.
Does an Ancestry Visa lead to ILR?
If you have lived in the UK under an Ancestry Visa for a period of 5 years or more, you may also be eligible to apply to settle in the UK permanently. Settlement, or ‘indefinite leave to remain‘ (ILR), means you can stay in the UK free from any immigration restrictions on an indefinite basis.
As well as meeting the residence requirement, you must also show that throughout the qualifying period you have been working or genuinely seeking work. If you do not meet all the necessary requirements for ILR, you can instead apply for an extension to your Ancestry Visa to ensure you retain lawful status.
With ILR, you are also on the route to British citizenship. To apply for citizenship, you must have lived in the UK for 12 months with ILR status, unless you are married to a British citizen or person with UK settled status, in which case you can apply as soon as you attain ILR.
That said, where 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 apply for 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.
Can I extend my Ancestry Visa?
With a UK Ancestry Visa, you can stay in the UK for a period of up to 5 years, and you’ll be able to extend from within the UK for a further 5 years.
To renew your visa, will need to submit an online application prior to expiry of your existing visa, together with your documentation in support. You will also need to include any dependants who are on your current visa, including children who have turned 18 during your stay.
You will be asked to make an appointment at a UKVCAS service point to provide your biometric information. There is a fee of £19.20 for enrolling your biometric information. You can upload any documentation into the online service or, alternatively, have them scanned at your UKVCAS appointment.
If you are applying to extend your visa from within the UK, the application fee is £1033, with the IHS fee still payable.
When applying to extend your Ancestry Visa, a decision will usually be made by UKVI within 8 weeks of your application date if using the standard service.
We here at My Legal Services, serving the WC1V, London, SW18 areas and the UK. We 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 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 or where you are looking to extend your visa.