How to get your hands on a UK Ancestry visa

According to a report published in 2013, citizens of the UK hold the most valuable passport in the world in terms of ease of travel, with the British passport allowing visa-free access to 173 countries. Although the British passport is considered by many to be the holy grail, there is another route to the UK, one which citizens of the old Commonwealth are no doubt familiar with: the UK Ancestry visa.

Map of the UKAlmost all countries require a visa of some sort to allow visitors and tourists enter their territory; some passports, however, rule out the need for a visa altogether. A study released last year ranked countries according to the travel freedom that their citizens enjoy. The research looked at the visa regulations of every country in the world and created an index which ranks nations according to the number of countries they can visit without a visa.

According to the index, the UK, Finland and Sweden are tied at first place, with their citizens enjoying visa-free travel to 173 countries, followed shortly by Denmark and Canada. At the very bottom are Vietnam (visa-free travel to 47 countries) and Afghanistan (visa-free travel to 28 countries), whose residents have the least freedom of travel in comparison to their global counterparts.

More than anything, the results indicate that belonging to the European Union is a key factor in determining ease of global travel, with the British passport historically being best-placed to deliver this. Getting a British passport may seem like a pipe-dream for many though, but there is an alternative route to residency to consider – one which is traditionally sought after by citizens of the British Commonwealth, many of whom are descended from British passport holders.

The UK Ancestry visa

The UK Ancestry visa allows Commonwealth citizens with a grandparent born in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man to live and work in the UK without restriction for an initial five-year period. This visa is mainly used by South Africans, Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians, who have historically possessed close ancestral ties to the UK.

If you’re a Commonwealth citizen and can show that one of your grandparents was born in the UK (including Southern Ireland prior to 31 March 1922), you might be eligible for an Ancestry visa. In addition, you must show that:

  • You are at least 17 years old
  • You are able to work and intend to work in the UK for the duration of your visa
  • You can support yourself and any dependants without access to public funding

If you are granted an Ancestry visa, you can work without restriction and may freely exit and re-enter the UK. You can also bring your spouse, partner and dependant children (under the age of 18) with you. Typically, you are able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK after five years, and a year later, you may apply for UK citizenship.

If you believe you have an ancestral link to the UK, visit 1st Contact Visas to find out whether you qualify for a UK Ancestry visa. Get the ball rolling by taking our free visa assessment to see if you’re eligible.

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  • Muhammad shakeel

    Hi . My Grandfather was born in British Territory which was at the time called India . He then moved to Uk and become british and all his kids were moved to Britain and got the British nationality but my father was not moved to Britain does he qualified for British Citizenship . Secondly does me or my brothers qualified for Ancestory visa . Please kindly reply would be really appreciated .

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Muhammad,

      Under the UK Immigration Policy for Ancestry Visas, Commonwealth Citizens who can show that their grandparent was born in the UK may apply for a visa that will allow them to stay in Britain for a period of five years. Unfortunately, having a grandparent with a British passport or having a grandparent born in a former British Colony unfortunately does not allow the same. Connections with former territories could however still be helpful for claims to British nationality. To assess the likelihood of your chances of having a claim to British nationality, please complete our FREE online immigration and nationality assessment and order our British Passport Review service. The assessment can be found at

  • Kate Clarke

    Does a UK work visa allow one to work in British Overseas Territories?

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Kate, this would depend on the specific employer and where they are based.

  • Anne-Louise Preston

    How do I begin the process of getting an ancestry visa? What if I don’t have my grandparents birth certificate? My email is

  • Pola

    If an ancestry visa expires, can I apply for a new one later (not an extension, but a new visa e.g. a year after the previous one expires)?

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Pola, yes you are able to apply for the ancestry visa once again.