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What You Need to Know When Applying for Your UK Ancestry Visa

If you were born in a Commonwealth country, chances are that you have ancestral ties to the United Kingdom (UK). If it were your grandparent/s that were born in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man you may be eligible for UK Ancestry visa.

The visa allows you to work and live in the UK for an initial 5-year period. Not only does this visa cover you moving to the UK, but this visa can be extended to your family members or dependants (including unmarried and same-sex partners).

Disclaimer: This is based on my experience (I’m not a lawyer or immigration advisor) and you should seek professional legal advice if you are unsure. Go to GOV UK to check if there have been any changes to the visa rule & fees.

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UK Ancestry Visa Criteria

The UK Ancestry visa is quite simple and only has 5 requirements. If you are:

  • Commonwealth citizen.
  • Age 17 or older.
  • Can and intend to work in the UK.
  • Can adequately support and accommodate yourself.

And… As mentioned above, show your UK ancestral ties and provide proof that at least one of your grandparents was born:

  • In the UK (including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man).
  • Before 31 March 1922 in what is now the Republic of Ireland.
  • On a British-registered ship or aircraft.

UK Ancestry doesn’t apply for generations before your grandparents, so if your ancestral heritage was your great grandma that was born in the UK then you would NOT be eligible to apply. If one of your parents was born in the UK to see the article on applying for your ‘Right to Abode’ or alternatively you can apply for a UK passport.

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    Before you start applying

    The earliest you can apply is three months before you plan to leave. Allow at least five to six weeks for the application process.

    As you required to fork out a lot of money to pay for the visa, IHS fee and have savings to support the visa application, I suggest you start the saving process as far in advance as you can.

    I finally put together my UK Ancestry Application and explanation around the questions! Make sure you head over to get the details. 

    Not sure what else you need to organise before you move? Be sure to visit my list of things to organise before moving to the UK.

    UK Ancestry visa financial requirements

    When I applied for my UK Ancestry visa application I was told that I needed to provide 3 months of bank statements showing that I had more than £1,600 in my account.

    The GOV.UK website no longer specifies what the financial requirements are to meet the UK Ancestry visa. This is frustrating when you are trying to plan to save and provide the right evidence to be successful.

    However, you should have savings in your bank account for at least 3 months before applying.

    Visa Cost

    The UK has now added an extra NHS charge to all nationalities applying for UK visa and this is an extra £624 per year. As the UK Ancestry visa is valid for 5 years the total cost will be £3,120 for the NHS fees plus the normal fee of £516.

    Check here for the latest fees.

    Applying Yourself or Using a Company for Your UK Ancestry Visa?

    At the time I applied for my visa the application appeared complicated and I didn’t want to muck it up, so I found a company to help me. I used Visa First, filled out the questionnaire and sent it off with all the relevant documents.

    Since going through the process with a company and learning about the application it turns out it was easy! When my sister decided she was moving over I quickly and successfully helped her with the application.

    My advice is not to let the forms scare you! It is an easy process.

    Still keen on using a company then I would recommend using my friends at Britbound.

    Just to give you an extra bonus to start your adventure, Sarah at Britbound is giving you 10% off visa package! Just use the code KATSGONEGLOBAL.

    Do I Need Original Documents for my UK Ancestry Application?

    I find lots of threads asking whether the documents must be originals or copies can be supplied. Personally, I always provide originals for my application just in case they wish to see the originals and I did provide original documents for this application.

    Only a few application centres require you to post your documentation and generally handed back to you on the day so there is less risk of these being lost in transit.

    I have known people to provide copies of their documents and be successful. Additionally, others that have had a justice of the peace verify the documents are genuine.

    In UK Ancestry document it says that documents must look genuine and that originals must be provided when translated.

    Documentation Required for Ancestry Visa Application

    Recently I got my hands on the latest checklist of evidence you may require for your application. I’m so excited to be able to share this with you!

    All documents provided with an application must be in English which will need a full translation that has been independently verified. 

    Please note this should be tailored to your application and the answers you provide. If you are unsure please check with UKVI or look at a company like Britbound to help you out.

    Passport, Identity and Residency 

    • Valid Passport or travel document.
    • Evidence of your permission to be in the country where you are applying from, if you are not a national of that country i.e. a valid visa or a VEVO printout or letter from DIBP (based on Australian residency).
    • Other identification documents i.e birth certificate or national identity card.

    Evidence of Current Employment or Studies 

    • If you are currently employed, evidence of your employment and the total income stated on the application form like a letter from your employer, payslips, tax returns/ business registration documents and business bank account statements. I included my employment contract to support employment and finances. 
    • If you are studying then evidence to support this like a letter from your university or school and other proofs of studies. 
    • If you were previously studying then evidence of qualifications obtained like a certificate of award, academic reference or transcripts. I didn’t provide any of my qualifications but I know recent applicants that have, for example, documents to support they are an Australian Account. 

    Evidence of Finances

    • Evidence to meet the cost of the trip and monthly income, as stated on the application form, for example, if someone is paying for you then you need bank statements of the person paying for the trip, providing maintenance to the applicant in the UK or if it’s you paying then your own personal accounts to support this (which you should have anyway 🙂 with the below bullet).  
    • A bank statement which meets the requirements as stated in the points-based policy guidance relating to your UK Ancestry application. 

    I provided three months of bank statements. Bank statements should be printed on branch-specific letterhead with the contact info for the branch where it was printed.

    If not, each statement should be stamped and/or signed. If they won’t do that, a letter from a branch manager confirming their authenticity and correctness will suffice.

    Evidence of Property and Assets

    • If you own any property or assets then you will need either mortgage statements, property deeds, tenancy agreements, accountants letters or land registration documents.  

    Evidence of Travel, UK Accommodation or Sponsorship 

    • Evidence of your travel arrangements so flights, accommodation bookings or travel agent documents. 
    • If you have a UK sponsor then you will need a letter of invitation from the sponsor, evidence of the UK immigration status, evidence of the sponsors accommodation and finances. So basically passport/visa’s, bank statement and tenancy agreements or mortgage.   

    Evidence of Intent to Work

    • Resume/ CV (to prove that you can and intend to work in the UK)
    • Other evidence to consider:
      • Printouts of registration emails from UK job sites e.g. Reed, London Jobs, Indeed.
      • Communication with recruitment agencies.
      • Job Applications. 

    Just to note you don’t need to secure a job before applying for the Ancestry Visa. The requirement is that you only need to show the intent to work which is why I used my resume as supporting information. 

    Evidence of UK Ancestry 

    • The birth certificate of your parent (only the parent of the grandparent you’re applying through).
    • The birth certificate of your grandparent.
    • Marriage certificate (to support heritage if unclear).

    If your UK Ancestry is easy to identify via the birth certificate then you will only need to provide the birth certificates, for example:

    • Your current surname matches your parents’ name on their birth certificate
    • On your grandparent, you can track your parents’ connection with their maiden name or surname.

    If you can’t track the ancestry via the birth certificates then you will need to provide marriage certificates or adoption papers to prove the requirement. 

    I remember being a bit bewildered at all the documents required and had originally thought I needed to get my mum’s birth and marriage certificate; my grandparent’s marriage certificate.

    The marriage certificates weren’t needed for my application and added another expense to the process. At least I now have copies if I ever need them.

    Example of WA Birth Certificate for UK Ancestry Application
    Example of WA Birth Certificate for UK Ancestry Application

    What if I Don’t Have my Grandparent’s Original Birth Certificate?

    This is a common problem that people face when trying to apply for UK Ancestry visa. I was faced with this when I was applying for my visa as my granddad died when my mum was 13 years old and she did not have any copies of his birth certificate.

    There’s a different process for British, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland certificates. Here is a list of the departments to get certificates for each of these countries:

    For British and Welsh Grandparents

    It is possible to order a copy of a birth, death or a marriage certificate on the General Register Office (GRO) website. You’ll need to register on the website to order a copy of a birth, adoption, death, marriage or civil partnership certificate for England and Wales. At the time of writing, certificates cost £9.25.

    For Scottish Grandparents

    As my granddad was Scottish I used Scotlands People to buy my granddads birth certificate. They even sent it to Australia! Which was fantastic and I didn’t have to apply in person. Go to Scotlands People and use the search indexes to find your grandparent (which is free). At the time of writing each certificate cost £12.

    For Northern Irish Grandparents

    You will need to go to the NI Direct website. It will allow you to order a copy of your grandparent’s birth, adoption, marriage or civil partnership certificate for Northern Ireland. At the time of writing a certificate costs £15.00.

    Example of an Official Scottish Birth Certificate

    Example of Scottish Birth Certificate for UK Ancestry Application
    My granddad’s birth certificate that I provided during my UK Ancestry application.

    There are quite a few questions on whether you can provide copies or require an original birth certificate for the application. 

    As you can see in the photo it says that it is an extract of an entry from the Register of Births in Scotland. The certificate also has an embossed stamp, a unique number and states that it is an official document from General Office for Scotland. You will need to take an original copy or photocopy of the official birth certificate. 

    The company that I used for my Ancestry visa actually questioned me if this was an official copy. I ended up calling General Office for Scotland who assured me that this is an official government copy and was accepted as evidence in my application, my sister’s application and my mum applying for her UK Passport. 

    Fill Out and Submit Application

    The UK Ancestry visa is moving to the new application process so to apply you need to go to the gov.uk website. Depending on which country you are applying from the gov.uk website will direct you to the right place.

    psst.. I have finally put together a post explaining the questions and answers I put for my UK Ancestry Application. 

    Complete the online application, pay and then you will receive your booking confirmation for your biometric appointment. 

    There is only a set amount of appointments opened so keep trying every day or so. If you struggle to get an appointment they now have walk-in days. For Perth the walk-in days were twice a week and cost an additional $95AUD so check with your visa centre what days they run walk-in appointments. 

    With the new biometric resident permit (BRP) you will no longer get the full visa in your passport. They provide you with a temporary 30-day vignette visa until you collect the visa for a post office in the UK.

    In the application, it will ask you to choose a post office to collect your BRP from. I suggest choosing a central post office in the city or near your accommodation to make the collection easy!

    For more information about applying in Australia and New Zealand, read the articles below:

    Prepare Your Documents 

    Before your appointment ensure that you have the following documents ready to take with you:

    • The printout of your online application form
    • The copy of your biometrics appointment information
    • All supporting documentation (birth certificates, passports, resume, bank statement showing fund and any other evidence).

    Biometric Appointment 

    Next your biometric appointment! Exciting. Take along all the documents, application and booking confirmation.

    The visa application centre will take your “biometric information” which is fingerprints and a photo. At the appointment, they will scan your documentation and hand the documents back to you.

    Once your application is processed they will then post your passport back with your visa. If you have paid the $95 (based on Australian costs) you will get to keep your passport and they will issue the visa on the day. 

    UK Ancestry Visa Processing Time

    On average you will receive a decision on your visa application within 3 weeks of lodging your application but this may vary depending on your country of residence.

    You can check the guide processing times to find out how long your visa will take to process in your country. 

    Other Useful Information

    What is a 30 Day Vignette Sticker?

    Instead of getting a vignette with the full granted leave, the Immigration Department now issue what’s called a 30-day vignette sticker. It’s based on your planned arrival date, for example, I’ve put that I am arriving in the country on the 8th of August then I have 30-days from this date to collect my visa. 

    It is very important to make sure you choose your intended travel date carefully and it is what is represented on the application form when applying for the visa. 

    You will not be able to travel to the UK before this date. The permit will only be valid as of the intended date of travel if you cannot travel on between these dates then you will need to apply for an extension.

    Can I Apply for a Vignette Extension?

    Yes, it is possible to get a vignette transfer (extension). There would be an additional cost to your application and country dependent.

    There is another online application form to be completed similar to that of your initial visa application.

    The British High Commission will then provide you with a new 30-day permit to accommodate your new proposed travels.

    Even though you will be issued a new entry date this will not change your visa start date. If you plan on applying for permanent residency at some point you will need to factor this into your decision as if it’s longer than 180 days in a rolling year your will need to apply for UK Ancestry extension.

    Here are the details provided by the Visa and Immigration Department on transferring of a visa and you can find the latest fees here.

    Steps to Transfer Vignette

    1. To apply go to https://www.gov.uk/transfer-visa
    2. Then you will need to select “transfer your visa to a new passport online if you’re outside the UK”. It’s a little confusing the terminology they use but it is the correct choice for replacing the vignette.
    3. Complete the application form – it’s basically applying for a new visa the information they request 🙁
    4. Pay the fee
    5. Arrange your Biometrics appointment – unfortunately, with every visa change you need to go for another biometric appointment. I’ve had mine done 3 times now!
    6. Upload the relevant documentation (Proof of Maintenance, same criteria as before for UK Ancestry Visa)
    7. Attend your Biometrics
    8. Post your passport – You can keep it if you wish to pay additional fees.
    9. Wait for the return of your passport with your new entry vignette.

    What’s a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) Card?

    Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) is your actual visa and basically looks like a drivers licence. It holds all your immigration status and entitlements while you are in the UK.

    Being a part of Facebook groups I occasionally see people lose their BRP on things like a night-out or silly travel incident, please, please, keep your BRP safe. It doesn’t cost too much to replace, it’s just a pain… A new BRP costs £56 if you apply by post, however, the processing time is 8 weeks and in person will cost more. 

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    Jeffery Winkler

    Monday 16th of November 2020

    I want to apply for an ancestry visa. I requested a copy of my father's mother's birth certificate. Fortunately, we had done our genealogy, so I had thee required information, or so I thought. I entered the information in our genealogy, and they wrote back, saying they could not find it. Perhaps the information in the genealogy was incorrect. What do I do now?

    Below is a copy of the email that I received.

    Dear Sir Or Madam,

    Thank you for your order as detailed below.

    We have been unable to process your application, please refer to the paragraph below.

    We have searched the indexes for events registered in England and Wales during the years specified (1926-1928). We have been unable to find any entry with the details you provided.

    For more information please read the frequently asked questions on our website under the heading, “Frequently Asked Questions”.

    A refund of £31.50 has been credited to your account via Worldpay.

    This is the fee you paid less any administrative costs incurred by the General Register Office in processing this application. Details of fees can be found at: Registration Services - Ordering Service

    https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/faq.asp

    Any personal information you provide to us will be handled in accordance with data protection legislation. Further information on how we process your personal information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hmpo-privacy-information-notice

    Yours sincerely

    Certificate Production Civil Registration Directorate

    Her Majesty's Passport Office welcomes calls via Text Relay services; To use this service dial 18001 followed by 0300 123 1837

    Jeffery

    Kat

    Saturday 28th of November 2020

    When I did mine I searched for my grandparent on Scottish People and just ordered that way. The English system is a little different so it might be easier to give them a call and see what to do next.

    Mayuri Fernando

    Sunday 13th of September 2020

    Hi Kat,

    We are in the process of applying for ancestral visa to UK , we don't have the birth certificate of my husbands Farther , he had died in 1991 and the birth certificate is destroyed and can not get a copy. We have ll the other documents including the grandfathers which we got from Scotland people site. Surname is same , we have the parents marriage certificate stating the grandfathers name. Will this be sufficient to apply ?

    Helen

    Monday 17th of August 2020

    Hi Kat, sorry if it has been answered but roughly what is the typical time between submitting online applications through GovUK and getting an appointment with VFS to take in originals and do the biometrics etc? In these quarantine/self isolation days we just have to make sure about timing! We are returning from getting an address in the UK and, taking your advice elsewhere, will apply once all this travel is done so its reflected on forms. But with a 2 week quarantine when back we want to time the application. If that would almost never be an issue then we will apply straight away and not be stressed to hear about an appointment within that period. Thanks!

    Kat

    Thursday 20th of August 2020

    I am assuming you are here on a Youth Mobility visa. Depending on the timing then I would look at this: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents

    Currently, if your leave expires after 1 September 2020 You can submit an application form from within the UK where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country. You’ll need to show your application is urgent, for example if you need to start a new job or course of study. You’ll need to pay the fees and meet all requirements of your visa as normal, except the need to submit the application in your home country. This is being kept under review.

    Re timelines currently, I would ask on one of the expat groups for experience in the city you are planning to apply from.

    Meghan

    Friday 24th of July 2020

    Hi Kat

    Thanks for the great info!! My husband wants to apply for his ancestral visa Does the full NHS fee have to be paid on approval of the visa? Also if I go as a dependent on his ancestral visa will that be another NHS fee? Do I travel with him on his visa or do I need to get my own visa? Sorry for all the questions 😀

    Kat

    Wednesday 29th of July 2020

    Yes the IHS fee needs to be paid before you can have your biometrics appointment. Yes, as a dependent you will also have to pay for the IHS fee. You will get your own visa based on his visa - i.e. the end date will be the same.

    Robert Kelly

    Tuesday 30th of June 2020

    Hi Kat! I'm glad I found your blog. It's interesting and informative. I hope my questions haven't been answered above. (There are so many comments!) My wife qualifies, I believe, as both of her paternal grandparents were born in England. In applying, how does one provide a UK address since we probably won't find a semi-permanent residence until our application is approved? Also, can one apply for the ancestry visa based on English born grandparents but choose to reside in Northern Ireland? (We would prefer to live in the Republic of Ireland but that may be more difficult. Whether we apply for either depends on the result of November's presidential election.) Lastly, we are both retired. Does that have any impact on our application? Thank you so much for any assistance you may be able to provide.

    Kat

    Sunday 5th of July 2020

    I just added temporary accommodation as my address and I never actually ended up staying there as I ended up cancelling it. As long as Northern Ireland stays as a part of the UK then you can live in Northern Ireland. They are mainly after evidence you can support yourselves and I assume being retired you will have savings/pension to cover your costs.

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