Coming to the UK on an Ancestry Visa

The UK ancestry category for visa applications is open to Commonwealth citizens* aged over 17 who have a grandparent who was born in the UK, its Islands or on a British aircraft or ship. You must be applying from outside the UK, and able and planning to work in the UK. You must have enough money to support and house yourself and any dependents without seeking public funds (benefits).

This guide provides some key information about making an Ancestry visa application. To speak to Lorraine Toal who can provide advice regarding the Ancestry visa route, call 020 8290 7956 or email:

Proving your ancestry

Commonwealth citizens who are eligible because of their ancestry must be able to prove their grandparent was either:

  • born in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man;
  • born before 31 March 1922 in Ireland (now Republic of Ireland);
  • or born on a ship or aircraft registered in Great Britain in certain circumstances.

While you cannot claim ancestry through step-parents, you can apply for an Ancestry visa if you or the relevant parent was adopted (by a recognised adoption process) in the UK, or born to married or unmarried parents in the UK.

Documentation for an Ancestry Visa

Your individual circumstances will dictate which documents you need to provide to prove your eligibility for an Ancestry visa. However, in all cases, the greater the amount of clear evidence there is available to prove your ancestry and your full eligibility to come to the UK, the better.

It is a good idea to keep hold of all the evidence you supply, particularly if you intend to apply for indefinite leave to remain, as it will be needed again and can sometimes prove difficult to obtain once you move to the UK.

Intention to work

As an Ancestry visa applicant, you don’t have to have a job offer before making your application. However, you must show that you are able to work and intend to work. It may be useful to prepare a Curriculum Vitae (CV) that shows your work history to date and, if you have been applying for jobs, any written evidence of this may also be useful. If you have a job offer, this will be helpful.

If you are intending to be self-employed then creating a plan of what this work will entail is a good idea. ‘Work’ could even be voluntary, but you will need to provide evidence of sufficient funds for maintaining yourself and any dependents as the Ancestry visa route does not allow access to benefits.

Maintenance and funding

Unlike some other forms of visa, the maintenance requirement doesn’t state a set amount of savings or employment income that must be reached by the applicant. The rules state that you (the applicant) “will be able to maintain and accommodate [themselves] and any dependants adequately and without recourse to public funds”.

Third-party support, such as money from a parent, is accepted as a source of maintenance for an Ancestry visa application.

Caseworkers looking at an Ancestry visa application typically need to see evidence in the form of bank or building society statements and payslips covering three months if possible. If you have any other form of income which doesn’t appear on your bank statements such as from a rental property or from third-party support, then it is useful to try to get evidence of this.


Proving where you are going to live may be difficult prior to receiving a decision on your visa application. However, if you intend to stay with a friend or another family member, a letter from that person would be acceptable as long as they have proof of ownership or tenancy (you will need to provide this evidence). If you intend to stay in a hotel or rental property, such as holiday accommodation, then proof of your reservation will be helpful.

When can I apply?

You can apply no earlier than three months before your date of travel. So, if intend to travel on February 1, the earliest you can make your application will be on November 2 in the preceding year. Decisions should be made within three weeks of your application and you can pay an additional application fee for a quicker decision.

If your Ancestry visa is approved

An Ancestry visa lasts for five years and during this time you can live, work and study in the UK. Your spouse, partner (if you have cohabited for at least two years) and your children can apply at the same time as you as long as you can provide evidence of your financial ability to support your family and details of suitable accommodation.

After five years you can apply for indefinite leave to remain.

Ancestry visa application tips

The following are some points to think about:

  • An Ancestry visa application must be submitted from abroad.
  • It is not possible to switch to an Ancestry visa if you have entered the UK via another route.
  • If you have never worked before when making your application, it may be useful to approach it in a similar way to a job application and state what makes you employable.
  • The documentary evidence for this route is key to a successful application, but caseworkers will look at the evidence closely and the importance of original, authentic (i.e not doctored or forged) documents cannot be overstated.
  • Evidence documents must be in English or Welsh. For documents in a foreign language, they should be accompanied by a certified translation.

Few people will have their grandparents’ birth certificates to hand, so obtaining certified copies is a key step to a successful application. For ancestors born in England and Wales, you should contact the General Registry Office. Scotland’s People provides certified copies of birth certificates issued in Scotland, and in Northern Ireland, you will need to contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland. If your grandparent was born before 31 March 1922, when Ireland was still part of the UK, you should contact the Health Service Executive.

Proving your parent was born on a UK-registered ship or aircraft may be more difficult, the Gov.UK website provides details for these purposes.

Specialist immigration services for visa applicants

For more information on our services click through to our main immigration pages.

*    From the following countries (applicants from underlined countries will need to have a TB test): Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Cameroon, Canada, Dominica, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, MozambiqueNamibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Cyprus, Rwanda, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St Christopher and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, The Bahamas, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Vanuatu, Zambia, Zimbabwe