ancestry visa refusal

Ancestry visa refusal

A UK ancestry visa can be a fantastic tool for a Commonwealth citizen to secure long term entry to the UK. So it is important to avoid an ancestry visa refusal. We set out some of the pitfalls to be avoided.


The ancestry visa allows a Commonwealth citizen, with ancestral links to the United Kingdom (UK), to live and work in the UK for 5 years. The visa may be extended for a further 5 years, to a total of 10 years and provides a route to citizenship.

Crucially, family members may travel to the UK also, and unlike a Tier 2 highly skilled work visa for instance, the ancestry visa offers flexible employment. As such, the holder is not attached to a particular sponsoring company or to a particular role.

To understand how to avoid an ancestry visa refusal, let’s first look at the requirements to be met by an applicant, what they each mean, and note the pitfalls to be avoided.


To secure an ancestry visa under paragraphs 186 -193 of the Immigration Rules, the applicant must demonstrate that they are:

  • A Commonwealth citizen
  • Aged 17 or over
  • In possession of proof that one of their grandparents was born in the UK and islands (Guernsey, Jersey or Isle of Man), Republic of Ireland before 31 March 1922, or on a British-registered ship or aircraft
  • Able to work and intends to take or seek employment in the UK
  • Able to maintain and accommodate themselves and any family members while in the UK without the need to claim or seek public funds

If you would like assistance , or if you have any questions, contact us now at or on +44 (0) 203 488 1061.

Ancestry visa refusal

There is an added need to prepare a strong application at the outset, not only to save time and costs, but also because UK ancestry visa applications no longer carry a right of appeal. Instead an applicant must ask for the Home Office to review their decision to refuse the application, if the applicant believes that the initial decision was incorrect.

To avoid an ancestry visa refusal, it may help to look at each of the visa requirements in detail.

A Commonwealth citizen

The applicant must be a Commonwealth citizen at the date of the application. Therefore, if the applicant held another nationality at the time of their birth and later acquired Commonwealth citizenship, this will not lead to an ancestry visa refusal.

Aged 17 or over

This is self-explanatory. The applicant may apply for an ancestry visa when they reach the age of 17 years.

Proof of ancestral links

The applicant must evidence that they have a grandparent born in one of the following circumstances:

  • 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

Our last client to secure an ancestry visa was a New Zealand national, whose paternal grandfather was a British citizen born in the UK. To evidence his grandfather’s circumstances, the client was advised to submit his grandfather’s original birth certificate, his father’s and his own original birth certificates.

Prior to submitting the application, we carefully cross-referenced the documents to ensure that the documents evidenced a clear link between the client, his parent and his paternal grandfather. Failure to make sure that the documents clearly shows an ancestral link will likely lead to an ancestry visa refusal.

It is not strictly necessary for the applicant to submit their parents’ or grandparents’ marriage certificates as the requirement applies whether the applicant or applicant’s parents, were born within or outside of marriage in the UK.

That said, a marriage certificate will prove beneficial where a grandparent or parent had changed their name through marriage, or for another reason, to clearly evidence the familial links.

The document does not need to be in pristine condition, but they must be originals, legible and in English or translated into English.


Where the applicant or their parent is adopted, the applicant will need to adequately prove:

  • They have been adopted by someone who has a parent born in the UK; or
  • That one of their parents was adopted by someone born in the UK; or
  • Their grandparents by birth (blood grandparents) were born in the UK

As part of the application, the applicant must provide their legal adoption paper to demonstrate that the adoption process was properly completed and valid.


Conversely, we had a client who wished to apply for a UK ancestry visa because their grandfather, on his step-father’s side, was born in the UK. In that case, we advised the client that he would likely receive an ancestry visa refusal.

Unfortunately, UK ancestry cannot be claimed through step-parents. Instead, we advised the client about alternative visa options.

Able to work and intends to take or seek employment

Under paragraph 186(iv) of the Immigration Rules, the applicant says an applicant must be able to work and intend to take up or seek employment in the UK. This seems to cause some confusion amongst clients, which is justified given that a number of applications are refused for failure to meet this requirement.

For an applicant to meet this requirement, they must evidence that:

  • They have a job in the UK; or
  • They genuinely intend to look for a job and are realistically able to do this; or
  • They genuinely intend to become self-employed and are realistically able to do this.

Therefore, in order to secure an ancestry, visa the applicant only needs to demonstrate that they are able to work and genuinely intend to seek employment. If the applicant has an offer of employment from a UK company this will likely strengthen the application.

The application will also be strengthened by a well-produced and genuine business plan, where the person intends to become self-employed in the UK.

If there are any medical conditions preventing the applicant from working, or there are other factors likely to prevent them from working, then the application will fail. That said, a person cannot be refused an ancestry visa due to their disability alone.

Maintain and accommodate themselves and family members

Under paragraph 186(v) of the Immigration Rules, the applicant must evidence that they can adequately maintain and accommodate themselves, and any dependant family members, in the UK without the need to seek State funds.

The applicant will be expected to submit bank statements and proof of accommodation in the UK. No specified minimum funds have been listed in the guidance.

Each application is looked at on a case-by-cases basis. Funds must be sufficient, certainly until the applicant generates an income, and if there are dependant family members, there must be enough funds to look after the family unit.

What next?

Once the applicant has properly completed the online ancestry visa application form and gathered the requisite documentation, the application may be submitted and any Immigration Health Surcharges paid. The applicant is then ready to book their biometric appointment at the overseas visa application centre.

There are different processes depending on the visa application centre location and the third party in charge of that centre, but in essence, the applicant will need to provide their biometric data and documents at the centre.

The applicant’s documents will be forwarded to the Home Office’s Decision Making Unit for processing and a decision will normally be communicated within approximately 3 weeks.

The Home Office will decide each case on its own merits so it is critical for an applicant to evidence how they meet the requirements as it applies to their circumstances.


UK ancestry visas hold many benefits for Commonwealth citizens with UK ancestral links. However, those links must be properly evidenced and the wider immigration requirements must be met. By understanding the requirements, and possible pitfalls, an applicant can avoid receiving an ancestry visa refusal.


Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals, families and organisations.

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17 responses to “Ancestry visa refusal”

  1. Rhona avatar

    Hi Thomas Chase team,

    Thank you for the excellent, informative article.

    I have provided details below, but in short my question is: Is having a UK born blood grandmother, whose child (i.e. your parent) was adopted sufficient for an Ancestry Visa (in addition to the other eligibility criteria)?

    My New Zealand born partner is looking to relocate to the UK with me. We will have difficulty getting a Family route Partnership visa due to the requirement to have a job offer in the UK at the time of application and the current 6 month processing time for out of country applications.

    My partner’s mother is adopted. Her birth mother (i.e. my partner’s blood grandmother) was born in England. The family have recently reconnected with the blood grandmother. The blood grandmother is not detailed on my partner’s mother’s Entry in the Register Book of Births, which only shows her adoptive parents (rather than blood mother).

    However, we understand that the New Zealand government can issue a Birth Certificate to my partner’s mother with her birth mother listed as the ‘mother’ and the fact of adoption noted, if the birth mother goes through a process of lifting a “veto” on this information.

    Before we go down this route of applying for the “veto” to be lifted to receive a Birth Certificate with my partner’s mother’s birth mother’s details, I wanted to ask if you had any information or experience as to whether having a UK born blood grandmother whose child was adopted is sufficient for an Ancestry Visa?

    I have looked at the relevant parts of the Immigration Rules and Caseworker Guidance and all I can find is:
    1. You are eligible if you have a grandparent born in the UK; and
    2. For adoption cases, you are eligible if the adoptive parent or grandparent was born in the UK.

    I can’t find anything that specifically addresses the situation where the birth grandparent whose child was adopted is the person born in the UK. I would really appreciate any insight you can share.

    Many thanks,

  2. Andrea Eby avatar
    Andrea Eby

    Do you need to be intending to live full-time in the UK in order to secure an Ancestry Visa? I would like to work and live in Canada and the UK, spending about half a year in each. I am aware that I would need to reapply after 5 years because I would have spent too much time outside of the UK during that time to have it renewed.

  3. Samuel avatar

    Hi there, my wife and I and our 2 kids all applied at the same time, with my wife as the main applicant for ancestry visa, and the rest of us as dependents. She got her visa within the 3 weeks, but we received the dreaded email to say our applications weren’t straightforward. So we are feeling depressed. We thought dependents easily qualify? What should we do? Does it mean a refusal for us?

  4. Brendon barnard avatar

    Ancestry Visa through adoption – not through step parents?
    Women(TL) was adopted by her step father(BL) at the age of 2(1984) in south Africa , he(BL) has a father born in the UK. Her mother(GL) has since divorced him 2006 and she(the mother GL) has remarried a British citizen and immigrated to the UK 2018. Now the women (TL) wants to come join her mother and apply for the ancestry visa.
    Because the person who adopted her (TL) is her step father(BL) – parent , she(TL) thinks that she can sneak it past the British embassy because her mother(GL) is married to another man and is now (GO) , she(TL) thinks they wont realise that (BL) is her step parent ??
    What s the case here ?

    1. Thomas Chase avatar
      Thomas Chase

      Hello Brendon,

      An applicant may apply for an ancestry visa if their parent was adopted. The applicant will meet the requirement to have a UK-born grandparent if either or both of the following apply:

      _ The applicant was legally adopted by someone who has a parent born in the UK.
      – One of the applicant’s parents was legally adopted by someone born in the UK.

      This includes the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

      The applicant cannot claim UK ancestry through step-parents where no legal adoption had taken place.

      We hope this helps as we cannot answer specific questions in this forum. However, we would be happy to discuss the individual circumstances over a telephone consultation.

  5. Emma Threlfall avatar
    Emma Threlfall

    Am trying to fill in the ancestry visa application and just got to the social/ cultural/family ties question- am I just supposed to name immediate family, not extended? As 500 characters is not enough when you have a big family! Just looking for a general answer, should I just be naming parents/ siblings?

  6. Alexandra avatar

    Hi there,
    I have all documentation ready to go to apply for my ancestry visa, should have my biometrics appointment before the end of the month and plan on arriving in December 2019. However, my passport expires in March 2020. I’ll be able to renew it while overseas but is this grounds for visa refusal?
    I cannot seem to find any answers anywhere!
    Your help would be much appreciated.

    1. Thomas Chase avatar
      Thomas Chase

      Hello Alexandra,

      UKVI requires those travelling to the UK to have at least 6 months left to run on their passport.

      If the passport does not meet the rules, UKVI will expect the person to apply for a new passport.

  7. Rachel footman avatar

    My paternal grand father was born in 1910 in British occupied India, am i eligible to apply for the ancestry visa. We have his Birth and Marraige records certified from the British Library in the UK.

  8. Lauren avatar

    I have secured a job in Guernsey. Will employment in Guernsey satisfy the requirement “Able to work and intends to take or seek employment in the UK”. In other words, does Guernsey fall within the ambit of UK for the purpose of ancestral visas?

  9. Kate avatar

    Hi there
    Have you had any experience with applying without a grandfathers birth certificate. Closest record is 3 weeks old christening in th parish records


    1. Thomas Chase avatar
      Thomas Chase

      Hi Kate,

      UKVI states that the applicant must provide the full original birth certificates of the parent and grandparent through whom the applicant is making the ancestry application. If the applicant fails to provide the required evidence, the application will be refused.

      Nevertheless, it is not uncommon for a client to experience difficulty in locating their grandfather’s or grandmother’s original birth certificate. In such cases, we have advised our client to secure a new certified copy of the birth certificate, rather than rely on another form of documentation.

      The General Register Office for England and Wales has an online ordering service for historical birth certificates that may be of use. See link:

      All the best!

  10. John avatar


    I am New Zealand citizen currently working in UK on Tier 5 Visa. Wondering if there are any options after the visa expires other than a Tier 2 which I don’t think worth the hassle as you are tied to one specific company.

    My paternal grandfather born to British Nationals in South Africa 1907 (British armed forces & overseas births) subsequently he trained in RAF in Bristol UK serving from 1922-1930. After that moved to New Zealand where my father was born in 1948. Is there any possibility of an ancestry visa or passport?

    Kind Regards,

    1. Thomas Chase avatar
      Thomas Chase

      Hello John,

      Unfortunately, we cannot provide specific advice in this forum.

      Information about ancestry visa requirements can be found here:

      If you would like to arrange a 30-minute telephone consultation to discuss, this can be done via out Contact Page at or via email.

      All consultations are followed by a written note of the call for future reference.

    2. carolyn avatar

      Hi John
      As far As I can see your paternal grandfather was born when South Africa was still under British Rule…am I not right? Which automatically makes him British at birth?
      Im no expert but Im pretty sure his birth certificate should state his nationality as british.

      1. Kyle Van Dyk avatar
        Kyle Van Dyk

        Hi there, I would like to apply for an ancestral visa. My grandparents were born in Scotland from my fathers side.

        However my father was not registered on my birth certificate as a baby, so I have no way of linking me to him.

        Will a DNA test be suffice?

        1. Thomas Chase avatar
          Thomas Chase

          Hello. DNA evidence may assist. However, you must provide evidence of the link between you, your father and paternal grandparents. You must also evidence how the full immigration requirements are met.

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