UK Ancestry Visa

The UK has a long history of colonisation and subsequent migration across the world, so the UK Ancestry visa was created to allow descendents of British citizens to travel to the UK to live and work. 


We’ll cover all the important information relating to the UK Ancestry visa in this guide, as well as how applicants can get support with the visa process from specialised UK visa agencies such as Synergy Immigration Solutions.

About the UK Ancestry Visa

The UK Ancestry Visa was created in 2003 to allow certain descendants of British citizens to come to the UK to live and work for a period of up to 5 years. There are strict rules regarding who is eligible, including where they were born and which family members were born in the UK (including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands), however, if eligible, applicants may pay an application fee and move to the UK for 5 years, after which they may be eligible to settle in the UK permanently.

What’s the UK Ancestry Visa for?

There are a variety of different visas for those who wish to visit, live, work or study on a long-term or short-term basis in the UK. While not strictly speaking a work visa, the UK Ancestry visa is predominantly intended for foreign nationals with an ancestral link to the UK to work, as they will need to show in their application how they will support themselves and any family members who apply to join them throughout their time in the UK.

Unlike other work visas which apply to specific types of work, those with a UK Ancestry visa can undertake a variety of different jobs in the UK, including employed and self-employed work. However, they cannot work in those jobs reserved for UK citizens such as standing as a member of parliament. 

UK Ancestry visa holders may also study and take part in unpaid voluntary activities, however, they must be able to support themselves and any family during their time in the UK as they will not have any access to public funds.

UK Ancestry Visa

Who’s the UK Ancestry Visa for?

The UK Ancestry visa is for people over the age of 17 who have at least one grandparent who was born in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland), the Channel Islands (Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and smaller islets including Herm, Jethou, and Brecqhou) or the Isle of Man. 

Applicants for the UK Ancestry visa must also be either:

  • a Commonwealth citizen
  • a British overseas citizen
  • a British overseas territories citizen
  • a British national (overseas)
  • a citizen of Zimbabwe

This includes a total of 70 countries and territories whose citizens are potentially eligible for the UK Ancestry visa. 

Commonwealth Countries

The Commonwealth was established in 1931 with the adoption of the Statute of Westminster, which granted legislative autonomy to the dominions within the British Empire. Over time, it has evolved into an organisation that emphasises shared values, such as democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

The Commonwealth is now a voluntary association of 56 independent and sovereign states, most of which are former territories of the British Empire, although other nations without British ties have joined, including Mozambique and Rwanda. It spans every continent and encompasses a diverse range of cultures, economies, and political systems.

Commonwealth countries include:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Botswana
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Cyprus
  • Dominica
  • Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)
  • Fiji Islands
  • Gabon (currently with partially suspended membership)
  • The Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nauru
  • New Zealand
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Rwanda
  • Samoa
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore
  • Solomon Islands
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Togo
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tuvalu
  • Uganda
  • United Kingdom
  • United Republic of Tanzania
  • Vanuatu
  • Zambia

British Overseas Territories

British Overseas Territories are territories under the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the United Kingdom but are not part of the UK itself. They are remnants of the British Empire and are self-governing to varying degrees. The British government is responsible for the defence and foreign affairs of these territories.

British Overseas Territories are:

  • Anguilla
  • Bermuda
  • British Antarctic Territory
  • British Indian Ocean Territory
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Falkland Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Montserrat
  • Pitcairn Islands
  • Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
  • Turks and Caicos Islands

UK Ancestry Visa Requirements

If you’re from one of the eligible countries listed above and have a grandparent who was born in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man, are 17 years old or older, and have enough money to support yourself in the UK, you are eligible to apply for the UK Ancestry visa. 

You cannot access public funds while in the UK with this visa, so you must be able to show you can support yourself and that you intend to work while staying in the UK. 

If your grandparent was not born in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man, you can still claim ancestry if you can prove that you have one grandparent who was born:

  • In Ireland before 31 March 1922, or
  • On a ship or aircraft registered or belonging to the UK government

You can claim ancestry if you or your parents were adopted, but you cannot claim ancestry through step-parents, i.e. the married or long-term partner of your biological or adopted parent.

Applying for the UK Ancestry Visa

You must apply for the UK Ancestry visa online from outside of the UK. You cannot enter the UK on a different visa and switch to the UK Ancestry visa, however, you can extend your UK Ancestry visa from within the UK. 

Each applicant must complete their own application and pay the relevant fees; if your dependants are joining you in the UK, they must complete their own applications and pay the fees. 

When applying online, you’ll need to submit a number of supporting documents with your application, so you’ll need to ensure you have high-quality scans or electronic versions of your documents to upload with your application. 

You will also need to prove your identity when applying for your visa, so you’ll need to book an appointment at a visa application centre, where you will be asked to provide your passport and any other necessary identity documents. The visa application centre will take your biometric information during your appointment in order to issue your biometric residence permit. Your biometric information includes your fingerprints and a clear passport-style photograph so that you can be easily identified. 

Not every country has its own visa application centre for the UK, so find your nearest visa application centre before beginning your application as you may have to make travel arrangements. For example, citizens of St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines need to travel to Barbados for their UK visa applications. The application centre may also keep your passport and other documents while processing your application, so you need to take this into account when planning your travel. 

When you start your online application for the UK Ancestry visa, you will be told what you need to do and when.

UK Ancestry Visa Supporting Documents

When completing your online application for the UK Ancestry visa, you’ll need to provide several supporting documents to prove your identity, your eligibility and your ability to support yourself in the UK. 

Documents you’ll need to provide include:

  • Your current passport (with a blank page for your visa ot be printed)
  • Your full birth certificate
  • The full birth certificate of your parent who is the child of a person born in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man
  • The full birth certificate of your grandparent who was born in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man
  • Proof that you intend to work while in the UK (such as job offers or your business plan if you will be self-employed)
  • Proof that you can support yourself while in the UK (such as bank statements dated within 31 days of your application)

You may also need to provide:

  • Proof of any name changes of your parents or grandparents (such as marriage certificates or deed polls)
  • Adoption papers if you or your parents were adopted
  • Negative tuberculosis test results if you’re from one of the listed countries
  • Proof of your relationship with your dependants if they will also be applying (such as marriage certificates, utility bills or birth certificates)
  • Certified translations of any documents not in English or Welsh

All documents should be from reputable sources e.g. official governmental documents, or from banks, utility companies or adoption agencies.

Proving Sufficient Funds

There is no explicit minimum financial sum from the Home Office to show you have sufficient funds to support yourself in the UK when applying for the UK Ancestry visa. However, for student visas, you must be able to prove you have at least £1,270 - £1,334 for each month that you will spend in the UK with your visa, and work visa holders must be able to prove they have at least £1,270 to cover the costs of their first month in the UK as they may not get paid for at least one month. There is an additional sum for each dependant in the UK with you. 

As the UK Ancestry visa is considered a non-points based working visa, you should ensure you have at least £1,270 in your bank account when applying for your UK Ancestry visa to show you can support yourself for at least your first month in the UK while you are looking for work or starting your employment or self-employment. However, the more you have, the better your chances are of getting the visa as you can prove that you won’t require any support from public funds, which will not be available to you on this visa. 

Enlisting the support of a specialised visa agency can significantly help in this regard if you are unsure of how much money you require for the visa, or do not have a job offer, as they can help calculate your expected living expenses in the UK including your rent, bills and other daily expenses such as food and travel, and assess the minimum amount of money you will require to have your visa application accepted.

Paying the Application Fee

When completing your UK Ancestry visa application online, you will be asked to pay the application fee of £637 and the immigration health surcharge. 

The immigration health surcharge is £1,035 per year of your visa, so you will be required to pay £5,175 upfront as your visa will be granted for 5 years. Therefore, as well as demonstrating you have enough money to support yourself (and your dependants, if necessary) you will need to pay £6,352 in total visa application fees.

How Long it Takes to Get a Decision?

There are occasional delays with visa processing at the Home Office, however, you should receive a response on your visa within 3 weeks of submitting your UK Ancestry visa application. You can only begin your application up to 3 months before you intend to travel to the UK, so it’s recommended to start the process as early as possible (3 months in advance) to ensure you have plenty of time to complete your online application and attend your appointment at the visa application centre, as well as take any delays into account. 

In some cases, you can pay for a faster decision with the priority service. This costs an additional £500 and takes 5 working days to receive a decision on your application starting from the day of your appointment at the visa application centre.

If Your Visa Application is Rejected

If you meet all of the eligibility requirements for the UK Ancestry visa, you should have your visa application accepted, however, there is no guarantee. However, if your visa application is rejected by the Home Office, they will inform you of the reason why. There is no right of appeal of their decision for the UK Ancestry visa. 

The Home Office can reject your application for a number of reasons if you do not meet each eligibility requirement, including if you cannot prove your relationship to your grandparent, or if you cannot sufficiently prove you will be able to find work while staying in the UK. 

If you believe your documentary evidence may be insufficient to receive the visa, it’s beneficial to employ the services of a UK visa agency for support, such as Synergy Immigration Solutions. They can review your documents and circumstances to assess your eligibility and help you with your application to increase your chances of securing the visa.

Bringing Family with the UK Ancestry Visa

You can bring certain family members to the UK with you when you apply for a UK Ancestry visa, however, they can only be your dependants. Dependants refer to your partner or spouse and your dependant children i.e. under 18 years old and not married, working or living independently. If you’re extending your visa and your child was previously under 18 years old, they can apply to extend their visa and continue living with you as your dependant in the UK. 

When you submit your applications for the UK Ancestry visa, you’ll each need to provide evidence of your relationship, and attend an appointment at a visa application centre to have biometric information taken.

Bringing Your Partner

To prove your relationship with your partner, you must show either:

  • You’re married or in a civil partnership (that’s recognised in the UK)
  • You’ve been in a relationship lasting at least 2 years

A marriage or civil partnership certificate is suitable evidence of your relationship.

If you’re not married to your partner, you must prove that you’ve been living together in your relationship for at least 2 years, unless you can reasonably prove that you’re unable to live together. Evidence that you live together can include joint bank statements, housing contracts with both individual’s names on or utility bills addressed to both individuals.

Evidence that you’re unable to live together can include employment contracts or educational courses in different locations, or proof that it’s not accepted in your culture for an unmarried couple to live together. 

Couples who are not living together must be able to prove that they are in a committed relationship, including:

  • They communicate regularly with one another
  • They support each other financially
  • They spend time together when possible such as on holidays
  • They jointly care for any children they have together

Bringing Your Child

When you first apply for the UK Ancestry visa, you child must:

  • Be under 18 years old
  • Live with you (unless living at an educational institution such as boarding school or college)
  • Be dependent i.e. not be married, in a civil partnership or have children
  • Not be reliant on public funds

You will need to prove your relationship with your child with a birth certificate and adoption certificate if applicable.

Extending Your UK Ancestry Visa

If you would like to continue living and working in the UK towards the end of your current visa, you can apply to extend your visa for another 5 years. It’s important to note that you must apply to extend your visa before your current visa expires, otherwise you will be asked to leave the country. 

Your partner and children can extend their UK Ancestry visas as well, although they will have to apply separately and each pay the application fee and the immigration health surcharge. 

The application fee to extend your UK Ancestry visa is £1,048, while the immigration health surcharge remains the same, at £1,035 per year i.e. £5,175 for the visa as it is issued for 5 years. Each application must be submitted online, and each applicant will be required to attend an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) centre to have their biometric information taken again. 

You will need to provide your supporting documents again, with the exception of sufficient finances, which can be scanned at your UKVCAS appointment, or uploaded electronically when you complete your application online. 

The UK Ancestry visa can be extended as many times as you like, however, you must meet the eligibility requirements each time you apply. After 5 years in the UK on the UK Ancestry visa, you may also be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain, also known as permanent residency

Leaving the UK with a UK Ancestry Visa

When staying in the UK with a UK Ancestry visa, you may leave and re-enter the UK as many times as you wish. If your visa expires while you’re outside of the country, you can apply for a new UK Ancestry visa in order to return to the UK. 

If you intend to settle in the UK, however, you must bear in mind that you won’t be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain if you have spent long periods of time outside the UK during your 5 year visa.

Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain

Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is also known as settlement or permanent residency. It allows you to live, work and study in the UK without further restrictions. You can apply for ILR up to 28 days before you have spent 5 years in the UK with the UK Ancestry visa. 

If your visa expires before you receive ILR, you may have to leave the UK. You cannot apply for ILR from outside of the UK, so you must reapply for the UK Ancestry visa to return to the UK to restart your application for ILR. It can take up to 6 months to receive ILR or a letter explaining the reason for your application’s refusal, so it may be beneficial to pay £1,000 for the super priority service to receive a decision by the end of the next working day after your biometric information is taken. 

To be eligible for ILR, you must also:

  • Not have spent more than 180 days outside of the UK in each 12 month-period of your visa
  • Prove you have sufficient finances to support yourself (and any dependants)
  • Plan to work (or continue working) while living in the UK
  • Prove you are still a Commonwealth citizen
  • Prove you have passed the Life in the UK Test (about British culture, history and values)

Applicants aged 18 to 64 must also prove they meet the English language requirements for settlement in the UK. If you’re from an English-speaking country, you do not need to meet the English language requirements, however, if not, you must prove you have at least B1 level English according to the CEFR, or have completed studies that were taught in English. 

An application for ILR costs £2,885 per applicant. Each applicant must also have their biometric information retaken at a UKVCAS.

Your Rights in the UK with Indefinite Leave to Remain

If your application for indefinite leave to remain is successful, you can:

  • Be employed
  • Be self-employed
  • Study
  • Leave and return to the UK as often as you want
  • Apply for public funds (known as state benefits)
  • Apply for a pension
  • Apply for British citizenship after 12 months

You can lose your indefinite leave to remain in the UK if you stay outside of the UK for more than 2 years at once. 

Applying for British Citizenship

After spending 5 years in the UK with a UK Ancestry visa and 12 months in the UK with indefinite leave to remain, you’re eligible to apply for British citizenship if you wish. With British citizenship, you would have the same rights in the UK as any other British national, i.e. you can:

  • Vote in parliamentary elections
  • Stand as a member of parliament
  • Have access to state benefits
  • Apply for a British passport

When you have permanent residency, you can also still have your right to remain in the UK removed and be deported to your home country if you commit any serious crimes that gain a prison sentence of 12 months or more. With British citizenship, you have the same rights as British citizens and are not at risk of facing deportation. 

You are also not awarded a British passport simply by having citizenship, however, you are eligible to apply. UK passports allow visa-free entry into 153 countries and territories around the world, so having a British passport may be advantageous for you. 

When applying for British citizenship, you will be asked to provide a number of documents to support your application, including:

  • Your current passport
  • Proof of your settled status (ILR) in the UK
  • Proof of your previous visa in the UK, such as your biometric residence permit
  • Proof you have spent the required period within the UK during your visa
  • Details of any time away from the UK during the 6 years of your visa and ILR

You can submit your application online and pay the application fee.

Need Help with Your Application?

Applying for UK visas can be difficult; from assessing your eligibility, to gathering the necessary supporting documents and ensuring you have valid proof of your and your family’s eligibility. But specialised UK visa agencies like Synergy Immigrations Solutions can help greatly, as they have the skills and experience to know what a successful visa application looks like. 

If you need help with your UK Ancestry visa application, contact Synergy Immigration Solutions for more information.

About Synergy Immigration Solutions

Synergy Immigration Solutions Ltd is a company registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), specialising in a comprehensive range of UK immigration visa services tailored to both businesses and individual clients navigating visa-related challenges. Our expertise extends to facilitating UK businesses in securing sponsorship licences for recruiting international talent, with a focus on processing Skilled Worker visas and Global Business Mobility visas, however, our remit doesn’t stop there. 

We offer extensive support across all UK immigration categories for individuals and their families attempting to migrate to the UK for work, study or to join family members. Whatever your reason for travelling, our team is equipped to address your immigration needs. Reliable assistance and professional guidance in immigration matters is what you need, so we prioritise understanding your unique requirements to deliver optimal solutions at competitive rates.

For further information, please contact us via email at info@synergy-immigration.com.

UK Ancestry Visa FAQs

We’ve covered  all of the relevant information for those interested in applying for a UK Ancestry visa, however, naturally there are always more frequently asked questions. Below are some of the common questions you’re asking about the UK Ancestry visa. 

How Many Times Can You Extend a UK Ancestry Visa?

You can extend a UK Ancestry visa as many times as you would like. However, given the cost of extending the visa (£1,048) and the cost of the immigration health surcharge (£5,175), it can be much more advantageous to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK instead.

Can You Get Married on a UK Ancestry Visa?

Yes, you can get married while in the UK with a UK Ancestry Visa. You don’t need to apply for a Fiancé(e) visa or any other visa to legally get married in the UK as a foreign citizen. However, if you're planning to get married while on a UK Ancestry Visa, you'll need to ensure that you meet the legal requirements for marriage in the UK, which include giving notice of marriage at a registry office and providing the necessary documentation. This typically includes proof of identity, proof of address, and proof of marital status (e.g., a certificate of no impediment if you're marrying someone from outside the UK).

In England and Wales, for example, couples must give notice of their intention to marry at a registry office at least 29 days before the wedding date. During this notice period, the registry office will publish your intention to marry, allowing for any objections to be raised.

Once the notice period has passed, and there are no objections, you will receive a marriage schedule, which is essentially your marriage licence. You must present this document to your chosen venue's registrar or religious official before the ceremony can take place. 

Which Countries’ Citizens Require TB Test Results?

There are 102 countries (and territories) that require a tuberculosis (TB) test before residents can travel to the UK. If travelling from any of the following countries, you must have your test performed at a clinic that has been approved by the UK Home Office. Some countries do not have approved test centres, so you will have to travel to a neighbouring country to have your TB test. 

Countries that do not have test centres are identified below, and countries whose citizens are eligible to apply for the UK Ancestry visa are highlighted in bold. 

  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bangladesh
  • Belarus
  • Benin (get tested in another country)
  • Bhutan
  • Bolivia
  • Botswana
  • Brunei
  • Burkina Faso (get tested in another country)
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Cape Verde (get tested in another country)
  • Central African Republic (get tested in another country)
  • Chad
  • Cameroon
  • China
  • Congo (Republic of) (get tested in another country)
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Djibouti (get tested in another country)
  • Dominican Republic
  • East Timor (get tested in another country)
  • Ecuador
  • Equatorial Guinea (get tested in another country)
  • Eritrea (get tested in another country)
  • Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) (get tested in another country)
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon (get tested in another country)
  • Gambia
  • Georgia
  • Ghana
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea (get tested in another country)
  • Guinea Bissau (get tested in another country)
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iraq
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati (get tested in another country)
  • Kyrgyzstan (get tested in another country)
  • Laos
  • Lesotho (get tested in another country)
  • Liberia (get tested in another country)
  • Macau (autonomous region in south China) (get tested in another country)
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Mali (get tested in another country)
  • Marshall Islands (get tested in another country)
  • Mauritania (get tested in another country)
  • Micronesia, Federated States of (get tested in another country)
  • Moldova
  • Mongolia
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar (formerly Burma)
  • Namibia
  • Nepal
  • Niger (get tested in another country)
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • Pakistan
  • Palau (get tested in another country)
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Russia
  • Rwanda
  • São Tomé and Principe (get tested in another country)
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Solomon Islands
  • Somalia (get tested in another country)
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • South Sudan (get tested in another country)
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Suriname (get tested in another country)
  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania
  • Togo (get tested in another country)
  • Thailand
  • Turkmenistan
  • Tuvalu (get tested in another country)
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vanuatu
  • Vietnam
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

    Contact the Synergy Team