Contractors’ Questions: Who’s eligible for an Ancestry Visa?

Contractor’s Question: Sorry to come across as pernickety but this article on ContractorUK mentions Ancestry Visas but says next to nothing on what exactly they are and who can get one! Can you oblige please?

Expert’s Answer: An Ancestry Visa allows you to come to work in the UK.

How you may work is not specified, and so it is open to a holder of this visa to work in any capacity.

The main stipulation is that you do need to be able to show that you can support yourself without recourse to public funds which means that, if you are a contractor with a contract, you can fulfil this condition.

The structures open to you as a contractor are, broadly:

Restrictions and entitlements

There is no restriction on the type of work that you can carry out on an Ancestry Visa so you can contract freely.

If you are entitled to an Ancestry Visa (see the full criteria below), then you may bring your ‘dependents’ with you. i.e. a partner, a child under age 18 years or a child over 18 if they are currently in the UK as a dependent. Of course, this applies if they are not EU/EEA or Swiss nationals who are entitled to live and work in the UK.

The most common Commonwealth nationals who have a British grandparent are likely to be Australians, New Zealanders or South Africans. We have had many AV holders who choose to return home. On the other hand, we have seen many cases where, after five years, they thought about applying for naturalisation as British subjects.

You can apply if...

So criteria and eligibility. You can apply for a UK Ancestry visa if you meet any one of the five conditions: Specifically, that you:

  • are a Commonwealth citizen
  • are applying from outside the UK
  • are able to prove that one of your grandparents was born in the UK
  • are able and planning to work in the UK
  • meet the other eligibility requirements

Given the current climate of coronavirus travel restrictions starting to lift, or at least getting directions around when they might be lifted or relaxed,  it may interest you to know that you can apply for a UK Ancestry Visa up to  three months before you travel.

Figures to know

You can apply from July 16th, for example, if you plan to travel on November 15th.

You should get a decision on your visa within three weeks when you apply from outside the UK.

Your UK Ancestry visa will cost £516. But you may also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application. 

Fast-track it

If you were applying to extend a stay in the UK, you can pay an extra £800 for the super-priority service. You’ll get a decision:

  • by the end of the next working day after providing your biometric information if your appointment is on a weekday.
  • two working days after submitting your biometric information if your appointment is at the weekend.

Once you’ve got your decision letter, your biometric residence permit will take up to 10 working days to arrive. Working days are Monday to Friday, not including bank holidays.

How long you can stay

You can stay in the UK for five years on an Ancestry Visa.

You can apply to extend your visa and you can also apply to settle in the UK permanently.

As to what you can and cannot do, you’ll be pleased to know that Ancestry Visas are relatively flexible.

You can:

  • work
  • study
  • bring family members to the UK

But keep mind, you cannot change (‘switch’) into this Ancestry Visa if you’re already in the UK on another visa, and as a holder of an AV, you cannot get access to public funds.

Final thoughts (includes covid)

Generally-speaking, there are no particular pitfalls to applying for and using an Ancestry Visa. It is apparent to us that this is the least restrictive type of work visa that is available, which is also not complicated to apply for; is inexpensive and which most applicants can manage unaided.

Finally, no special conditions are applying to AV holders in this time of COVID-19 that do not apply to other visas. But applicants should be mindful of the advice given both by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office as well as the immigration authorities back home when they are thinking about travelling between the two countries.

The expert was Kevin Austin, managing director of overseas contracting advisory Access Financial.

Monday 29th Jun 2020
Profile picture for user Kevin Austin

Written by Kevin Austin

Kevin is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, a Fellow of the Association of International Accountants and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.

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