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UK Ancestry visa Guide

Table of content


The UK Ancestry route is for a Commonwealth citizen aged 17 or over who have a grandparent who was born in the UK or Islands to come to the UK initially for 5 years to live and work at any skill level with their eligible dependents.

2. UK Ancestry visa Eligibility

The basic eligibility criteria are found in the Immigration Rules Appendix UK Ancestry, you must prove that you:

  • are a Commonwealth citizenship;
  • have a grandparent born in the UK and Islands,
  • are 17 or over (there is no upper age limit);
  • meet the financial requirement: you have enough money to support and house yourself and any dependants without help from public funds and
  • are able to work and intend to seek and take employment in the UK.

You must not fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal for having a criminal conviction and not be in breach of immigration laws or in immigration bail. English language is not required for an initial visa, but applicants must meet an English language requirement and pass the ‘Life in the UK’ test to qualify for settlement.

3. Commonwealth citizen

You must be a Commonwealth citizen aged 17 or over on the date of your intended arrival in the UK if applying for entry clearance or have previously been granted permission on the UK Ancestry route if applying for permission to stay. A Commonwealth citizen is national of a country listed in Schedule 3 to the British Nationality Act 1981. You must submit your passport as evidence of your identity and Commonwealth citizenship. Applicants aged under 18 must have written consent from both of their parents or one parent, if that parent has sole legal responsibility for the applicant, or their legal guardian to the application, proposed living arrangements in, and travel to, the UK.

4. Your UK ancestry

You must show that you have at least one grandparent born in one of the following jurisdictions:

  • the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man,
  • before 31 March 1922 in what is now Ireland or
  • in a ship or aircraft that was either registered in the UK or belonged to the UK government

You can claim ancestry if you or your parent were adopted or if your parents or grandparents were not married. However, you cannot claim UK ancestry through step-parents. The grandparent can be a biological grandparent, or grandparent by adoption. In adoption cases, it can be either the applicant who has been adopted by a parent whose own parent was born in the UK; or the applicant may be the biological child of a parent who was adopted by someone who was born in the UK. In all cases, the adoption must be a recognised adoption.

You cannot qualify on this route on the basis of having a great-grandparent or more distant ancestor, born in the UK and Islands.

Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to learn how to apply for your visa.

5. Work requirement

You must be able to work and intend to seek and take employment in the UK. You must indicate on your application form if you intend to work in the UK. If you tick ‘no’ to this question, your application may be refused. You must provide evidence that you are either already working or self-employed in the UK or able to work and intend to seek and take employment.

You do not have to be working or have a confirmed job at the time you apply. You need only demonstrate you are able to work and intend to seek and take employment. Evidence of this could include, but is not limited to:

  • job offers from UK employers,
  • evidence of previous work history (in any country) or relevant qualifications,
  • evidence of applications you have made to UK employers,
  • evidence of registration with a UK recruitment agency,
  • evidence of any steps you have undertaken to improve your chances of finding work – for example, relevant training courses,
  • a business plan or expressions of interest from potential clients (if you intend to be self-employed)

You can do any kind of work, at any skill level, including full-time or part-time work, self-employment or voluntary work and the work does not have to be with a licensed sponsor.

It should be noted that the definition of ‘employment’ in paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules includes “paid and unpaid employment”; this means that if you are undertaking, or intends to undertake, voluntary work, particular attention will be paid to your ability to meet the financial requirement.

6. Financial and accommodation requirement

The financial and accommodation requirement, at the initial visa application stage, is relatively liberal. All applicants must meet the financial requirement however there is no set level of funds the applicant must hold but they must show they can maintain and accommodate themselves and any family members applying to join them in the UK, without access to public funds. Evidence of finances must be as set out in Appendix Finance to the Immigration Rules and be dated no more than 31 days before the date of application.

This would mean showing that:

  • the applicant has more money available than a British family would receive in Universal Credit, or that their savings exceed the Universal Credit level; and
  • that the proposed accommodation would be owned or legally occupied by the applicant and their dependants, and not be overcrowded.

But there is no need to stick rigidly to the Appendix FM rules as applicants can rely on credible support from a third party (such as money from a parent or friend) to meet this requirement.

7. Documents you must provide

As this application is based on the British Citizenship of a grandparent, you will be required to provide enough evidence to demonstrate the lineage and their British heritage and any other relevant documents.

When you apply you’ll need to provide:

  • a current passport (with a blank page for your visa) or another valid travel document
  • your full birth certificate
  • the full birth certificates of the parent and grandparent your ancestry claim is based on
  • evidence that you’re planning to work in the UK, for example job offers you’ve received or a business plan if you’re self-employed
  • evidence, such as bank statements, that prove you can support yourself and any dependants in the UK – it must be dated within 31 days from when you submit your application

Depending on your circumstances, you might also need to provide:

  • your CV,
  • if you have previously worked: evidence of previous work such as payslips, contracts of employment or reference letters,
  • evidence that your parents or grandparents have changed their name since birth, for example marriage or civil partnership certificates or a deed poll
  • legal adoption papers if you or your parents were adopted.
  • your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country where you have to take a TB test
  • your marriage certificate or civil partnership registration document if your spouse or civil partner wants to join you in the UK

Given that the Immigration Rules do not specify what evidence the applicant must submit, alternative evidence may be accepted if you are unable to provide one or more of the documents above.

If you wish to find out more about your immigration matters, our team of experienced lawyers is happy to assist.

8. Application process

You must apply online for a UK Ancestry visa before you travel to the UK. A UK Ancestry visa costs £516 and you may also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application.  You should get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks when you apply from outside the UK.

As part of your online application, you will need to book an appointment at a visa application centre to prove your identity. You’ll have your fingerprints and photograph (known as ‘biometric information’) taken at your appointment. The visa application centre may keep your passport and documents while processing your application.

9. Conditions of stay

Entry clearance or permission to stay on this visa is granted for 5 years with no access to public funds; employment and study are permitted. you can extend this visa as many times as you like, as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements however you must apply before your current visa expires. You can also apply to settle in the UK permanently after 5 years continuous residence if you meet the relevant requirements; however.

10. Family members

Your partner and children can apply to join or stay with you in the UK as your ‘dependants’ if they’re eligible. A ‘dependant’ is any of the following: your partner, your child under 18, your child aged 18 or over who was previously on your or your partner’s visa as a dependant. You’ll need to provide evidence of your relationship when you apply.

They cannot apply to switch within the UK if they’re currently on a visitor visa, Short-term study visa, Parent of a Child Student visa, Seasonal Worker visa, Domestic Workers in a Private Household visa, immigration bail or because they were given permission to stay outside the immigration rules, for example on compassionate grounds. If they’re in one of those categories, they must leave the UK and apply for a UK Ancestry visa from abroad.

Partners can now apply for entry clearance (as well as permission to stay) to join a person who has been granted settlement as a person with UK Ancestry or who has become a British Citizen having previously had permission on the UK Ancestry route.

Although there is no qualifying period for dependants, subject to limited exceptions, a child can only qualify for settlement if both parents have been granted, or are being granted at the same time, settlement on the UK Ancestry route (previously, only the person with UK Ancestry needed to have, or be eligible for, settlement).

11. Settlement requirements

In order to settled on this route, you must:

  • be in the UK at the time of application,
  • continue to meet the initial eligibility requirements,
  • have spent 5 years in the UK on this route,
  • have met the continuous residence requirement throughout the 5-year period
  • show English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in speaking and listening to at least level B1 and
  • meet the knowledge of Life in the UK requirement.

To discuss your UK visa application with one of our immigration lawyers, contact our immigration lawyer team or select one of our packages below.

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We advise clients on any immigration issues for UK visa

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We help clients make UK visa applications to move or stay in the UK

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We assist clients to appeal a refusal of their visa application to the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum)

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