The UK Ancestry visa – the right to employment in the UK and British citizenship

An overview of the UK Ancestry visa

In general terms, a UK Ancestry visa is issued by the United Kingdom to a Commonwealth citizen, a British overseas citizen, a British overseas territories citizen, a British national (overseas) and a citizen of Zimbabwe with a grandparent who is born in either the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland (before 1922).

Additionally, to make a successful application under the UK Ancestry visa category, paragraph 186 (iv) of the Immigration Rules requires that the respective citizen from the list above must show that he/she can work and intends to take or seek employment in the UK. [1]

[1] Richard Chambers: UK Ancestry Visa: the ‘employment’ or ‘seeking employment’ requirement – published on 01 October 2022.

This type of visa is mainly used by young Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans of British descent coming to the UK to work and as a base to explore Europe. [1] Holders can live, work, and study in the UK and bring their dependent family members with them.

[1] Johnston, Philip (21 February 2008). “Britain may abolish ancestry visa”- The Daily Telegraph, London.

Eligibility requirements

Provided that you are one of the following:

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

You must then prove that you:

  • are 17 or over
  • have enough money without help from public funds to support and house yourself and any dependants
  • can and plan to work in the UK, i.e., be looking for work or intending to work in the UK

The ancestry requirement

Furthermore, you must show that you have a grandparent born in one of the following circumstances:

  • in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
  • before 31 March 1992 in what is now Ireland
  • on a ship or aircraft that was registered in the UK or belonged to the UK Government

You can claim ancestry if:

  • you or your parents were adopted
  • your parents or grandparents were not married

Please note that you cannot claim UK ancestry through step-parents.[1]

[1] GOV.UK – Visas and Immigration: UK Ancestry visa.

Permitted and unpermitted activities

With a UK Ancestry visa, you can:

  • work
  • study
  • bring your partner or child

Your work can be:

  • paid or voluntary
  • full-time or part-time
  • in self-employment or in a job where you’re employed by someone else

You cannot:

  • change (‘switch’) into this visa if you came to the UK on a different visa
  • get public funds[1]

[1] GOV.UK – Visas and Immigration: UK Ancestry visa.

Application fees

An application for a UK Ancestry visa is made online and costs £531.00. This application must be submitted before travelling to the UK (the earliest is three months before you travel to the UK). Each of your dependents will need to make a separate application to join you in the UK.

Additionally, you may also be required to pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS) as part of your application. This is currently £624.00 per year for each adult and £470.00 per year for those under 18. You can use the online IHS calculator to work out if you need to pay the IHS and how much you need to pay.


An applicant will also need to obtain a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) which incurs a fee of £19.20.

You’ll also need to have a tuberculosis (TB) test if you’re coming to the UK for more than 6 months and either:

  • you live in one of the listed countries
  • you have lived in one of the listed countries in the past 6 months even if you no longer live there

The list of countries where you need a TB test for your UK visa application can be found online on the GOV.UK website.

The cost for a TB test depends on the country that you are getting tested in however, please note that you must be tested at a clinic that has been approved by the Home Office.[1]

[1] GOV.UK – Visas and Immigration: Tuberculosis tests for visa applicants.

Documents you must provide

As part of the UK Ancestry visa application process, you will be asked to provide several documents and items of evidence to support your case. You will be told which documents to send; these may include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • your current passport or another suitable travel document
  • your full birth certificate
  • the full birth certificates of your parent and grandparent on which your UK Ancestry visa claim is based
  • evidence that you plan to work in the UK – this may take the form of a job offer or a business plan if you will be self-employed
  • evidence to prove you can support yourself and your dependant family members in the UK – this may include a bank statement. This must be dated within 31 days from the date of submission of your application.
  • If your parents or grandparents have changed their name since birth, suitable evidence of this change, such as a marriage certificate or a deed poll
  • legal adoption papers if your parents were adopted
  • TB test certificate (depends on which country you are coming from)
  • your marriage certificate or civil partnership document if your spouse or civil partner will be joining you[1]

[1] Reiss Edwards: UK Ancestry visa.

Terms of the UK Ancestry visa – ILR & British citizenship

The visa is granted for five years in the ‘limited leave to enter’ category. After this, the holder can apply for an extension (limited leave to remain) for a further 5 years or for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (ILR).

For ILR, in line with the required rules, most importantly, the holder must show that he or she has been living continuously in the UK and is currently in continuing employment or has worked throughout the five years.

The Home Office’s guidance makes clear that if the applicant is working at the time of the ILR application, the applicant needs to show only that his or her current employment will continue. If not working at the time of the ILR application, the applicant will need to show that he or she has been continually working or looking for work throughout the five years period.

This visa does not prevent the holder from undertaking study; however, to stay within the terms of the status the holder should also be working.[1]

[1] Home Office – Guidance: UK Ancestry (v 14.0) – published on January 2014, pp. 16-17.

Furthermore, after you have acquired ILR and have held it for one year, you can make an application for UK citizenship, i.e., Naturalisation, given that you meet the normal residence requirements, i.e., in the 12 months immediately before the date of application, the total number of absences from the UK should not exceed 90 days.

The benefits of the UK Ancestry visa

With an Ancestry visa, it is possible to live, work, study, and bring your dependant family members with you for an initial period of five years.

There are considerable benefits to holding a UK Ancestry visa compared to a work or study visa. From a work perspective, you can work for any employer, not just licensed sponsors. This widens the range of potential employers enormously.

You will also not be restricted in terms of the number of employers you have, the type of work you do, or whether you wish to change employers in the future. You can also mix work and study with no limitations.

Additionally, you will not be required to prove you have a job at a certain skill level and there are no minimum salary requirements to meet.[1]

[1] Reiss Edwards: What does a UK Ancestry visa entitle me to? -published on 18 March 2021.

The limitations of the UK Ancestry visa

There are few immigration restrictions for UK Ancestry visa holders. Firstly, until you have permanent residency, you will not be permitted to apply for access to public funds (i.e., Government benefits).

It is also not possible to switch ‘in-country’ to a UK Ancestry visa from another visa type. In practical terms, this simply means it is not possible to apply for the visa from within the UK; rather, you will need to leave the UK in order to submit your application.[1]

[1] Reiss Edwards: What does a UK Ancestry visa entitle me to? -published on 18 March 2021.


While UK Ancestry visa holders are still subject to immigration control and not classed as permanent residents initially, they have considerable freedom in the UK.

Ultimately, concerning the UK Ancestry visa, there are generally no restrictions on the type of work you can do in the UK. You may wish to work in paid employment, set up your own business or do both. You can also study alongside your work and bring family members to the UK.[1]

[1] Richard Chambers: UK Ancestry Visa: the ‘employment’ or ‘seeking employment’ requirement – published on 01 October 2022.

Furthermore, the most notable entitlements of a UK Ancestry visa is that there is no English requirement on entry unlike many other different types of visa applications, you are not required to meet the minimum income requirement or maintenance not just for yourself but also any dependant children or Spouse, your children can qualify for Settlement and British citizenship as well and most significantly, a successful application will grant you with a 5-year visa which will enable you to work anywhere in the UK and in any job sector in the UK.

Should you need guidance pertaining to your Individual, Business or Humanitarian UK immigration matter,


contact us to book a consultation.

To arrange meeting with our lawyers, contact us by telephone at

 +44 2077202156 or by email at

If you have instructed us before, we would be pleased to know your feedback about your experience.