The UK Ancestry visa allows Commonwealth citizens with a grandparent born in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, to live and work in the UK without restriction for an initial five-year period. Commonwealth countries that qualify include South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Ancestry visa

What are the UK Ancestry visa benefits?

Work in the UK without restriction

A UK Ancestry visa allows you to work in any field you’re qualified to work in. You can change jobs without having to get approval from the Home Office and your employers don’t need to worry about your visa status. 

Bring your family with you

Your dependants can either be your married or unmarried partner and any children (adopted or biological) under the age of 18. They will have the same rights as you and will be eligible for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) when you are – no matter how long they’ve been in the UK. Should they only be able to join you at a later stage, it’s possible to add them as dependants after you’ve moved to the UK.

Travel around Europe

From the UK, you can easily explore the rest of Europe by plane or train (you will need to obtain a Schengen visa for your travel if you do not hold an EU passport). You could even sneak in a spontaneous weekend trip to Paris or Rome. There is no limit to the amount of times you can re-enter the UK.

See more: UK spouse visa or UK Ancestry visa – which one should you apply for?

Are you eligible for a UK Ancestry visa?

You can apply for a UK Ancestry visa if you’re a Commonwealth citizen and are able to show that one of your grandparents was born:

  • In the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
  • Before 31 March 1922 in what is now Ireland
  • On a ship or aircraft that was either registered in the UK or belonged to the UK government
In addition, you must be able to show that:
  • You are 17 years or older
  • You are able to work and that you intend to work or seek employment in the UK for the duration of your visa
  • You can support and accommodate yourself and any dependants without access to any public funding
You can also claim ancestry if either you or the relevant parent were adopted. You may not, however, claim UK ancestry through your step-parents.

What rights do you have if your application is successful?

If your visa is granted, you will be allowed to work without restriction, whether employed or self-employed, for the duration of your stay in the UK. With an Ancestry visa, you are also entitled to freely exit and re-enter the UK multiple times.

This visa is also an excellent option if you have a spouse, partner and/or children. As an Ancestry visa holder, you may bring a spouse/partner and any dependent children (under the age of 18) with you and they may stay for the same length of time as you.

See also: How to get a UK Ancestry visa as an Australian

Does an Ancestry visa lead to UK citizenship?

Ancestry visas are normally issued for five years, after which you may apply for ILR if you meet the following requirements:

After spending a further 12 months in the UK on ILR, you may apply for UK citizenship through naturalisation and, if successful, you will be able to get a British passport.

See also: Indefinite leave to remain made simple

How much does a UK Ancestry visa cost?

The fee for an Ancestry visa in 2021 is £516. You must apply for your Ancestry visa from your home country, or have a right to be in a country you are currently residing. You cannot switch to this visa from within the UK. 

You will also have to pay a healthcare surcharge in order to use the National Health Service (NHS). The current fee is £3120 for an Ancestry visa, however this is subject to change.

How long does it take to process the Ancestry visa?

The earliest you can apply is three months before you want to travel. You should get a decision on your visa within 15 working days when you apply from outside the UK.

What documents do you need to apply for an Ancestry visa?

When you apply for your Ancestry visa 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 –  they must be dated within 31 days from when you submit your application<
  • Your TB test results if you are coming from South Africa or other countries where tuberculosis tests are required
You may also be asked for:
  • Evidence if your parents or grandparents have changed their name since birth
  • Marriage or civil partnership certificates or a deed poll
  • Legal adoption papers if you or your parents are adopted
  • Your marriage certificate or civil partnership registration document if your spouse or civil partner wants to join you in the UK.

Free British citizen assessment

If you have a UK-born grandparent it would be advantageous to take our easy-to-use online British citizenship assessment. You could be eligible for a British citizenship rather than an Ancestry visa. 

Our assessment tool shows you all the British nationality solutions that you and your children could qualify for. Here you can find out about all the different routes to British nationality applicable to you. By clicking on each one, you can read more about each solution and how you appear to qualify for it.

If you think you may be eligible for an Ancestry visa, get in touch with us on or give us a call on +27 (0) 21 657 2180.

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