UK Ancestry Visa Guidance

Thaxted Legal


Thaxted Legal is a UK based specialist immigration firm focused on helping businesses and individuals to achieve their immigration goals. We have particular expertise in sponsor licence applications and sponsorship compliance, work permits, innovator and start up visas, global talent, ancestry visas, family immigration and nationality applications.
Ancestry visa is for Commonwealth citizens who are 17 or over at the date of planned arrival in the UK and who are able to prove that one of their grandparents was born in the UK or Islands.
UK Immigration
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  • Ancestry visa is for Commonwealth citizens who are 17 or over at the date of planned arrival in the UK and who are able to prove that one of their grandparents was born in the UK or Islands.
  • Applicants must intend and be able to work in the UK (job offer is not mandatory for the initial application but some other evidence of intention and ability to work needs to be provided, e.g. job applications, CV, evidence of qualifications).
  • Dependant spouse and children may apply at the same time but they may also apply later. What is more, dependants do not need to have the 5 years residence to apply for ILR at the same time as the Ancestry visa holder.
  • The visa is granted for 5 years and it leads to Settlement (ILR) after 5 years of continuous residence in the UK on the Ancestry visa.
  • Ancestry visa can be obtained more than once. For example, if Applicant decides to leave the UK, he/she can apply for Ancestry visa again in the future.


Application for an initial UK Ancestry visa by the Main Applicant (Ancestry holder) is submitted online BUT it must be submitted when applicant is outside the UK. This means that applicant must apply for an entry clearance visa from their country of nationality or any other country where they have long term residence rights. Therefore, if someone is in the UK on a Tier 2/Skilled Worker or Spouse visa, they must go back to their country of nationality and apply for a UK Ancestry visa from there.

During COVID, if there are genuine reasons when travel is restricted, it may be possible for Ancestry visa application to be submitted from inside the UK. However, such scenarios have to be assessed on case by case basis and not treated as a rule.

The rules are different for the Dependant family members, who can switch from inside the UK from any visa type except the following visa categories:

  • as a Visitor
  • as a Short-term Student
  • as a Parent of a Child Student
  • as a Seasonal Worker
  • as a Domestic Worker in a Private Household
  • outside the Immigration Rules


The initial UK Ancestry visa is granted for 5 years and allows to bring dependants (spouse and children). Ancestry visa holders can work in any profession in the UK and they can also run their own business. There is no need to have a sponsor employer  that holds a sponsorship licence nor to invest any specific funds if you wish to start a business in the UK.

Strictly speaking, Ancestry visa's main purpose is work, but we have had successful applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) for applicants who both studied and worked in the UK.

In addition, it is worth to mention here that definition of 'employment' for UK Ancestry visa is broad, and includes voluntary work. However, when you do not have paid employment you would need to provide alternative evidence of funds to show that you can support yourself and your dependant family members without asking for public funds. We write about this further below.

Finally, if you have a disability this does not necessary prevent you from obtaining UK Ancestry visa. However, you must genuinely intend and be able to do some work in the UK (including a voluntary work), as this remains the requirement.

Ancestry visa is a rare example amongst UK visas when there is no prescribed amount of funds required for investment or maintenance, and which is not restricting the type of work or self-employment the visa holder can do. In addition, as we already point out earlier, dependant family members do not need to spend 5 years in the UK to apply for ILR.

Ancestry visa leads to ILR/settlement in the UK and naturalisation.

Link to the Home Office UK Ancestry visa guidance is here.


Key requirements for the Ancestry visa:

  • be a 'Commonwealth Citizen'
  • be 17 or over (if under 18 to have a parental consent)
  • Have a grandparent born in the UK or Islands
  • have enough money to support and house yourself and any dependants without help from UK public funds
  • be able and plan to work in the UK.


How to find a proof of UK ancestry for Ancestry visa is a common question. The applicant will have to locate one of his grandparent's birth certificate. There are several commercial services which can assist with the search for birth certificate. The first port of call, however, should be the government website and the General Register Office. Presenting birth certificate of on of the grandparents that was born in the UK is prerequisite to applying for Ancestry visa in the UK.


The applicant must be a Commonwealth citizen. To meet this requirement, the applicant must be one of the following:


f the applicant is applying for entry clearance, they must be aged at least 17 on the date they intend to arrive in the UK. There is no upper age limit on the UK Ancestry route but, in all cases, the applicant must show they are able to and intend to seek and take employment

In any Ancestry application where the applicant is aged under 18, decision maker will check they meet the parental consent requirement before they can grant it. To meet this requirement, the applicant must have written consent from:

  • both of their parents
  • one parent, if that parent has sole legal responsibility for the applicant, or
  • their legal guardian
  • The written consent must confirm support for all of the following:
  • the application the applicant's living and care arrangements in the UK
  • if applying for entry clearance, the applicant's travel to, and reception
  • arrangements in the UK.


The applicant must be able to provide proof that one of their grandparents was born in the UK or Islands. The applicant must provide this evidence with their initial application for entry clearance and any subsequent application for entry clearance, permission to stay or settlement on the Ancestry route.

'Grandparent" means either the applicant's blood grandparent, or grandparent by reason of a UK recognised adoption. There is no requirement for the applicant's relevant parent or qualifying grandparent to have been married at the time of birth. An applicant cannot qualify on this route on the basis of having a great-grandparent, or more distant ancestor, born in the UK or Islands.


To meet the requirement to have been born in the UK or Islands, the applicant's qualifying grandparent must have been born in one of the following circumstances:

  • in the UK
  • in the Channel Islands (Bailiwick of Guernsey or Bailiwick of Jersey)
  • in the Isle of Man
  • in Ireland (but only if they were born before 31 March 1922)
  • on a British-owned or registered ship or aircraft if the requirements of either section 50(7)(a) of the British Nationality Act 1981, or section 32(5) of the
    British Nationality Act 1948, as applicable, are met.

Ancestry application will be refused if the relevant grandparent was born anywhere else, including in a British overseas territory, former British colony or military base overseas.


If the applicant or their parent is adopted, the applicant will meet the requirement to have a UK-born grandparent if either or both of the following apply:

  • the applicant was legally adopted by someone who has a parent born in the UK or Islands
  • one of the applicant's parents was legally adopted by someone born in the UK or Islands

The adoption must be through an adoption process recognised as valid for the purposes of UK law. An applicant cannot claim UK Ancestry through step-parents where no legal adoption has taken place.


UK Ancestry visa applicant must submit enough evidence to prove they have a grandparent born in the UK or Islands. Documentary evidence should normally include:

  • the applicant's full birth certificate showing the name of both of their parents
  • the full birth certificate of the parent through whom the applicant is claiming a UK ancestry link
  • the birth certificate of the relevant grandparent, clearly showing that they were born in the UK or Islands
  • legal adoption papers if the applicant, or the applicant's relevant parent, was adopted
  • if the applicant, their parent or grandparent has changed their name since birth, suitable evidence of this - for example, a marriage or civil partnership
    certificate or deed poll


All applicants on the UK Ancestry route must be able to work and intend to seek and take employment in the UK.

The applicant does not have to be working or have a confirmed job at the time they apply. They need only demonstrate they 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 they have made to UK employers
  • evidence of registration with a UK recruitment agency
  • evidence of any steps they have undertaken to improve their chances of finding work - for example, relevant training courses
  • a business plan or expressions of interest from potential clients (if they intend to be self-employed)


The definition of 'employment' includes "paid and unpaid employment". This means that if an applicant is undertaking, or intends to undertake, voluntary work, decision maker may accept that they meet the work requirement for the UK Ancestry route. Since the applicant will not be earning an income, the decision maker will pay particular attention to applicant's ability to meet the financial requirement. This means that applicant will need to provide evidence to show how they will support themselves without paid employment.


Although there is no upper age limit for this route, all applicants must be able and intend to work in the UK. This can include part-time and voluntary work.
The Ancestry application must not be refused solely on the grounds of age or disability, unless it is clear that the applicant does not intend to work or there is no realistic prospect of their being able to work in the future. When decision maker assess this, they will consider whether the applicant:

  • has indicated that they have retired and have no intention of looking for any further work (including voluntary work)
  • has a serious medical condition that would make it unrealistic for them to undertake any kind of employment (including voluntary work)


Applicant must meet the financial requirement, which means that they need to have enough money to support and accommodate themselves and any family members in the UK. There is no specific figure what funds are required and it depends on the individual circumstances of the applicant.


If the applicant is applying for permission to stay, decision maker will check that the applicant either entered the UK with a valid UK Ancestry entry clearance, or have previously been granted permission to stay on the UK Ancestry route.

This includes permission granted under the UK Ancestry rules in force before 1 December 2020. If the applicant does not meet this requirement (for example, if they entered as a visitor and are applying to switch), decision maker must normally reject the application, unless discretion is justified (e.g. during lockdown due to COVID some applicants applied for Ancestry visa from inside the UK and their applications were successful).

The UK Ancestry rules do not require the applicant's most recent grant of permission to have been on the UK Ancestry route. For example, a person who
entered the UK with UK Ancestry entry clearance and switched to another immigration route would meet this validity requirement and be allowed to switch back
to the UK Ancestry route.


The decision maker must be satisfied that applicant is not subject to a refusal on the grounds relating to criminality, terrorism, etc ('good character'). We write more about the General Grounds of refusal - 'Good Character' here.

For extension and Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILRs) the decision maker must also be satisfied that the applicant is not in the UK in breach of immigration laws or on immigration bail.


A person with permission on the UK Ancestry route does not have to be continuously employed while in the UK to qualify for further permission to stay or settlement. How decision maker considers an application will depend on whether the applicant is employed or unemployed when they apply.

If the applicant provides satisfactory evidence that they are employed (or self-employed) on the date of application, decision maker must accept that they meet the work requirement, unless they have good reason to believe that the applicant will not continue in employment.

In all cases where the applicant has had long periods of unemployment, decision maker must give particularly careful consideration to how they have supported themselves without a regular income.

If the applicant is unemployed when they apply for further permission to stay or settlement, decision maker must ask for evidence of their employment record throughout their previous 5 years on this route and of any attempts they have made, and are making, to find work (if they have not provided this information with their application). If the applicant has been unemployed for the entire 5 years, decision maker must ask them to explain the reasons for this, if they have not done so on their application form.

If decision maker is not satisfied that the applicant is able to and intends to work, they must refuse the application


You may be able to apply for British Citizenship by Naturalisation after you hold your ILR for at least 1 year (unless your spouse is British, when you do not need to wait the one year). Key requirements for Naturalisation:

  • Have an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR),
  • Be of good character,
  • Do not exceed the limit on permitted absences from the UK.
  • We provide more information on Naturalisation applications here.
  • What is important to remember before obtaining British citizenship, is that some countries do not allow dual citizenship. For example, if you are a South African national and you wish to keep your South African nationality with the British one, before you become British you would need to first obtain a confirmation from South African authority in order to keep your South African nationality.


We have extensive experience in assisting with Ancestry visas and Ancestry ILR applications. Assistance from best immigration lawyers will ensure that your application is successful first time you apply. Equally, if you applied and your Ancestry or Ancestry ILR application has been refused, and you would like to discuss the options, you can reach out to us.


One of the potential problems for Ancestry visa applicants is providing the birth certificate of their British born grandparent. However, this can be overcome and the birth certificates can be obtained. Information on how to obtain such documents is in the Home Office guide. Alternatively, a commercial provider can be used, but this way you will incur extra cost.

Another perceived problem is lack of employment offer from a UK employer when applying for entry clearance initial Ancestry visa. However, for initial applications it should be sufficient to provide evidence of looking for work, as there is no specific requirement to have a job offer already at the time of application.

If you plan to study and want to apply for an Ancestry visa it may still be a possible visa route for you. You can work part time and study, and then work full time during any time off from the university.

Other potential issue for Ancestry visa applicants are the 'Suitability' - 'Good Character' - 'General Grounds for refusal' requirements. Those are linked to the applicant's criminal history/criminal offencespast immigration history etc. This can be a real problem depending on the applicant's circumstances and the specific issues they have.

Finally, for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) Ancestry visa holders must bear in mind the limit on the time spent outside the UK (i.e. no more than 180 days in any year on rolling basis). This is an important requirement and interpreted strictly with only few exceptions.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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