The discussions surrounding Brexit have often focused on the matter of passports and citizenship. It is well-known that if you have Irish grandparents then you qualify for an Irish passport. The number of applications for Irish passports/citizenship via the ancestry route have rocketed over the past couple of years.

What is not so well known is the “ancestry” criteria for a visa that allows an individual to live and work in the UK. Citizens from Commonwealth countries who are able to show that one of their grandparents were born in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, can apply for a visa, allowing them to work in the UK unrestricted.

The Ancestry Visa basically provides the applicant with a five-year visa that allows them to take up employment or study in the UK, without any restrictions. The applicant can also change employers, without having to fill in a new immigration application.

The requirements for an application under the Ancestry route are both clear and at times open to interpretation. Note that step-parents and their lineage are excluded from the criteria. The main points of the criteria that need to be met, with some of our own comments and queries, are:

  • the applicant needs to be a Commonwealth citizen.
  • applying from outside the UK.
  • must be able to prove that one of their grandparents were born in the UK.
  • the individual is planning on living and working in the UK. (why would they apply otherwise?)
  • are aged 17 or over.
  • have sufficient funds to support themselves and any accompany dependants during their time in the UK.

Sufficient funds is one of those terms that is heavily open to interpretation and provides fertile grounds for the immigration focused legal profession, even though the Government does provide its own criteria over what is regarded as sufficient! Please also note that the applicant cannot access public funds on this type of visa.

The criteria for what are accepted as evidence of a grandparent being born in the UK is covered by three areas. The grandparent must have been born:

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

We are curious as to how many grandparents would have been born on an aircraft given i) the lack of access to flights at the time and ii) just the chances of being born on an aircraft full stop and iii) what if the aircraft was stopping over at a foreign country at the time?

Interestingly there is no provision to switch to this visa if the individual is already in the UK under the rules governing another type of visa. Presumably the lack of provision to switch it partially down to the earlier criteria that the applicant must be outside the UK when making an initial application.

With regard to dependent family members, they are allowed to accompany the successful applicant and they can also apply for settlement after living and working in the UK for the five years stipulated by the Ancestry Visa. They will need to satisfy the requirements of settlement. Even if they are not able to meet the settlement requirements, there is an option to extend the Ancestry Visa for a further five-year period.

If you need further assistance with your Ancestry Visa, get in touch with Bison Solicitors in Aldershot. We also have offices in Cambridgeshire, Isle of Wight, London, Oldham and Taunton.

Call us on +44 (0) 1252 268 068 or complete our contact form.