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The UK Ancestry visa is one of the most sought-after UK visas for Australians. Not only does it allow you to live and work in the UK (almost) without restriction – it’s also a direct route to permanent residency in the UK. We’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions about the Ancestry visa to help you find out if you’re eligible.

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This blog was first published in March 2015 and has been revamped and updated.

What is a UK Ancestry visa?

An Ancestry visa is a type of UK visa that’s available to citizens from Commonwealth countries, such as Australia, who have a UK-born grandparent. One of the major advantages of this visa is that it allows you to live and work in the UK without restriction. This means that you can get any job you want without needing approval from the Home Office.

How do I qualify for a UK Ancestry visa?

To be eligible for an Ancestry visa, you must satisfy the following requirements:

  • You are 17 years or older
  • You are a Commonwealth citizen
  • You have a grandparent who was born in the UK
  • You are applying from outside the UK (i.e. currently not in the UK on another UK visa)
  • You intend on working in the UK
  • You can financially support yourself and any dependants you bring with you to the UK

How do I apply for a UK Ancestry visa?

You must apply for your visa online and from outside the UK. You’ll also need to make an appointment at your nearest visa application centre to have your fingerprints and photograph taken (biometric information).

When you apply for your visa, you must have a valid passport with at least one blank page for your visa and bank statements that prove that you can support yourself.

Additional documents

Your application must also include the following documents:

  • Your birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate or civil partnership registration document if your partner is joining you
  • The birth certificate of the parent and grandparent your ancestry claim is based on
  • Your parents’ and grandparents’ marriage certificate
  • Your legal adoption papers if you were adopted
  • Proof that you plan on working in the UK (a job offer or business plan if you’re self-employed)

See also: Applying for a UK visa from Australia and New Zealand – what you need to know to avoid being refused

How long is a UK Ancestry visa valid for?

An Ancestry visa is valid for five years. When your Ancestry visa comes to an end, you may apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or permanent residency. To be eligible for ILR you must spend five continuous years in the UK and pass the English language test and “Life in the UK Test”.

Thereafter, you only need to have ILR for 12 months before you can naturalise as a UK citizen and obtain citizenship.

Are there any UK Ancestry travel limitations?

There are no travel limitations on an Ancestry visa. You’ll be able to leave and re-enter the UK as often as you like. However, if you want to eventually settle in the UK and become a citizen, you’ll need to ensure that you’re not out of the country for too long.

This means not spending more than 180 days outside of the UK in any 12-month period in the last five years on your visa prior to applying for ILR.

What does a UK Ancestry visa entitle me to?

No work restrictions

An Ancestral visa allows you to work in any job and change employers without needing approval from the Home Office.

Leave and re-enter the UK freely

If you have a job that requires frequent travel, you don’t have to worry. Your Ancestry visa allows you to exit and re-enter the UK multiple times. With Europe right on the UK’s doorstep, visiting your favourite EU city is just as easy.

Bring your partner and family with you

Your dependants will be able to live and work in the UK over the same five-year period. A dependant can either be your married or unmarried partner and any children (adopted or biological) under the age of 18. Plus, they too will be eligible for ILR when you are. 

Direct route to permanent residency

You only need to apply for your Ancestry visa once to be eligible for permanent residency in the UK (should you meet all the requirements of IRL). A main requirement of ILR is that you spend five continuous years in the UK.

Thereafter, you only need to hold your permanent residency status for 12 months, before you can apply for British citizenship. 

How much does a UK Ancestry visa cost?

The fee for an Ancestry visa is £516. You’ll also need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) when you apply for your visa. The IHS gives you access to the UK’s National Health Service and allows you to see a GP or go to the hospital at no cost.

What is the UK Ancestry visa processing time?

It should take three weeks to process your visa. If you want a faster decision, you can use the priority service at an additional cost of £220 per applicant. 

UK Ancestry visa renewal: Can I extend my UK Ancestry visa? 

Yes, you can extend your Ancestry visa for another five years. This is a great option if you want to become a permanent UK resident and citizen, but you don’t meet all the requirements of ILR when your initial Ancestry visa expires. 

You must apply for your extension from within the UK before your current Ancestry visa expires.

See also: The UK reveals its new skills-based immigration system for EU and non-EU national

What if I don’t have my grandparent’s original birth certificate?

If you don’t have your grandparent’s birth certificate or your parents’ marriage certificate, you can get help with obtaining these documents.

I don’t have the required funds to show I can support myself in the UK

To qualify for an Ancestry visa, you must have £1,200 to £1,600 in your bank account 90 days before you apply for your visa.

If you don’t have access to this amount of funds, you can always get a family member or friend to sponsor you. They will need to submit a letter of sponsorship stating that you have enough money to support yourself.

What if I don’t have a job offer in the UK?

While having a job offer from a UK employer will help strengthen your claim that you intend to work once you arrive in the UK, it’s not required. You can also demonstrate you intend to work by showing that you are searching for a job. The following evidence is acceptable:

Can I apply for an Ancestry visa if I want to study and not work in the UK?

Yes, an Ancestry visa allows you to study in the UK too. However, your main intention when travelling to the UK on the Ancestry visa should be to work. If you want to get ILR, you’ll need to show that you’ve been employed during the five years on your visa. It’s not necessary to work full-time, and you can work part-time as well.

This can include jobs such as a teaching or research assistant at your place of study or working behind a bar - all forms of part-time jobs are acceptable.


Think you might be eligible for an Ancestry visa? Get in touch with our immigration experts at ausoffice@sableinternational.com or give us a call on +61 (0) 38651 4500.

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