This page serves to create awareness of the basics of the UK Ancestry visa operates and its process. More specifically, how long the UK Ancestry visa is issued for and how long it takes to get a British passport (through the Ancestry visa).

At this point in our content, we have taken the liberty to introduce the UK Ancestry visa (main applicant), clarify that it permits dependents to join the main applicant and we have summarized how UK birth rights work.


This is a long term view of the Ancestry visa. Most South Africans embark on this transaction like to know how long will it take to get a British passport (usually seen as primary goal in this relocation process).

Entry Clearance (Applied for in South Africa)

First part is formally known as “Limited Leave to Remain”. The applicant applies for permission to enter the UK with permission to live, work, study and ultimately settle in the UK. In these Ancestry cases, permission for initial entry is granted for a set 5 year period.

Extension of the Ancestry visa (Applied for in the UK)

Formally known as “Further Leave to Remain”. This only applies to cases where applicants are not able to qualify for permanent residence. Applicants will not qualify for permanent residence if they have spent too much time outside the UK during their initial 5 year visa.

From a visa perspective, the visa extension applies to cases where the applicant is not able to meet the immigration definition of “continual UK residence* for the full 5 year period.

At this stage, it is important to note that the applicant is entitled to apply for an unlimited amount of visa extensions in the UK. This means that there is no restriction in terms of the applicants ability to continuously apply to remain in the UK.

Permanent Residence (Applied for in the UK)

Formally known as “Indefinite Leave to Remain”. This stage of the immigration process caters for applicants that are able to meet the immigration definition of “continued UK residence* for the full 5 continuous years.

Here the applicant is granted permission to remain in the UK as a resident of the UK (not a British national though). Permanent residence grants the applicant a visa that is issued for the duration of their South African passport. Therefore, if they recently renew their SA passport, they can get a visa issued for the same duration of their passport (ie full 10 years).

British Nationalization (Applied for in the UK)

After 6 continuous years of UK residence, the applicant can apply and claim British citizenship (earn through UK residence). Once awarded, the applicant can request a British passport.

The above process applies to both the main applicant and each of their dependents. This means that the dependents of an Ancestry visa can also earn British nationality through UK residence.

* Continual UK Residence is defined as spending more than 185 days in the UK (seen as majority of the year). From a tax compliance perspective, when applicants spend majority of a year in the UK, they are liable to pay UK tax – which is the UK governments primary motivation. This however also means that applicants are permitted 180 days “outside the UK” travel allowance – perfect for those looking to chase summer in each hemisphere.

cost breakdown

To further help, a cost breakdown of the UK Ancestry visa looks like this:

The next step

The next step from here is to verify your eligibilty. This part of the application is often the largest time hurdle in these cases. More specifically birth certificates.

When we speak to fellow South Africans and ask “what birth certificates do you have?”, almost all prospective clients answer: “I’ve got all my documents”.

Only to find out that they have the incorrect versions and need to request the right ones.

To help address this hurdle, we have put together a free birth certificate assessment. You can upload what documents you have on hand and free of charge we can confirm if you have the right versions.

Free Birth Certificate Assessment

Alternatively, you can get in touch with our friendly consultants and get a formal breakdown of costs and processing times:

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