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.
Almost 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.