ILR Ancestry Visa
If you are a commonwealth citizen and one of your grandparents was born in the UK, you may be eligible for a UK Ancestry visa. If you already hold an Ancestry visa and have done so for five or more years, you may now be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), meaning that you will no longer be under the control of the immigration system, and can remain in the UK for the remainder of your life. In this article, we will outline the purpose of the Ancestry visa, the eligibility requirements, and how it is possible to secure ILR after five years.
What is the UK Ancestry Visa?
The Ancestry visa scheme is designed specifically for commonwealth citizens who can show that at least one of their grandparents was born in the UK, and hence have the right to live here based on their familial links to the country. There are 54 Commonwealth countries spanning Africa (including Nigeria, Zambia, and Botswana), Asia (including India and Pakistan), the Caribbean and Americas (including Canada, Dominica, and the Bahamas), Europe (including Malta and Cyprus), and the Pacific (including New Zealand, Australia, and many pacific islands such as Fiji and Tonga).
Holders of a UK Ancestry visa can work, study, and bring dependant family members to the UK with them. They cannot, however, apply for public funds such as benefits. In addition, it is not possible to switch into this visa if you are in the UK on another visa type.
What are the eligibility criteria for an Ancestry Visa?
In order to secure an Ancestry visa to live and work in the UK, applicants need to provide evidence that they that have a grandparent born:
- in the UK (including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man)
- before 31 March 1922 in Ireland
- on a British-registered ship or aircraft
The immigration rules also state that it is possible to claim ancestry if the applicant or the relevant parent were adopted or born within or outside marriage in the UK. It is not possible, however, to claim UK ancestry through step-parents.
Applicants must also:
- be a Commonwealth citizen
- be over 17 years
- apply from outside the UK
- be able and planning to work in the UK
- have sufficient money without help from public funds to support and house themselves and any dependants
How Can a UK Ancestry Visa Holder Apply for ILR?
The initial Ancestry visa is typically granted for a period of five years. At this point, the visa holder will then be eligible to apply for ILR, but only if they have been in the UK continuously (i.e. you cannot have been outside of the UK for more than 180 days in any consecutive year). It should be noted that ILR is not automatically granted, rather you will need to submit a full application.
The application for ILR is completed online and it is advisable not to apply more than 28 days before your current visa expires. You will also need to arrange an appointment with your local UKVCAS office to have your photo taken, and signature and fingerprints scanned (also referred to as your biometric information).
When submitting your application for ILR, you will need to provide evidence that while on an Ancestry visa for the past five years, you have been actively working or genuinely seeking work during the five years of your visa.
Section 192 of the immigration rules lays out the eligibility criteria for ILR based on UK Ancestry, as follows:
“Indefinite leave to remain may be granted, on the application, to a Commonwealth citizen with a United Kingdom born grandparent provided the applicant:
(i) meets the requirements of paragraph 186 (i)-(v); and
(ii) has spent a continuous period of 5 years lawfully in the United Kingdom in this capacity; and
(iv) does not fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal; and
(v) is not in the UK in breach of immigration laws except that, where paragraph 39E of these Rules applies, any current period of overstaying will be disregarded.”
Unfortunately, although you will have provided much of the evidence required for ILR when you first applied for an Ancestry visa, you will need to repeat the process as part of the ILR application. This includes:
- your passport/s (include your old passport if this contains your visa)
- ancestry documents including:
- your full birth certificates
- your marriage certificate or civil partnership registration document if your husband, wife or civil partner wants to join you
- the full birth certificates of the parent and grandparent your ancestry claim is based on
- marriage certificates for your parents and grandparents if they were married
- legal adoption papers if you or your parents are adopted
- evidence of income to show you can support yourself and any dependants (i.e. bank statements)
- evidence of ongoing employment – i.e. payslips, employment contract, HMRC P60’s, or evidence you have been seeking employment for the past five years. You may also wish to include a letter from your employer stating that you are still employed with them, and a letter from HMRC showing your employment history for the past five years (this is available on request by calling HMRC on 0300 200 3300).
- a Life in the UK test pass notification letter, and;
- a full list of absences from the UK
The process of applying for ILR on the basis of UK Ancestry is relatively straightforward. As long as all of the required information is provided, and you have calculated your continuous residence correctly, you should be confident of a positive decision. Given that it can take six months to receive the decision, during which you might be somewhat ‘biting your nails’, you may want to consider applying for the Super Priority service for an extra £800, which will provide a decision within one working day. The peace of mind of having a positive decision is invaluable. For further expert assistance, you can get in touch with our experienced immigration solicitors.
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