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

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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