UK Ancestry Visa and the Mountains of Paperwork



Many years ago, The Boy and I discussed leaving South Africa (he had just been stabbed multiple times on the way home from watching the F1 at our local; I was home with a 3-month-old baby and four-year-old spawnlet). We looked at Australia and Canada, but it was a feeble and half-hearted sort of looking, and after a while the idea was placed on the back burner and we got on with our lives. We moved back to Cape Town, started over from scratch, moved around until we settled (very happily) in my lovely Muizenberg.

The idea came up again after The Boy discovered that several of his cousins had emigrated on the UK ancestry visa. We had known that his granny was UK-born, but it had never really registered as an option. So we thought – stay in Muizenberg forever, or try go overseas and see what happens?

Well, I hate the word forever, so we went for see what happens.

We checked out the info on and realised this was an actual real possibility. Though it did pain us to discover if we’d started this a few years back we would have missed that damn International Health Surcharge (at £200 per year of your visa, per person, it is a phenomenal amount of extra cash to add to your costs,especially with a family. Be warned.)

We began the lengthy process of organising all our paperwork. The Boy’s granny’s birth certificate was super-easy – we looked up her details online, applied, paid the ten quid, and had it in our hands within a matter of weeks.

The South African paperwork was not to be as simple or easy. Some stuff was relatively quick (and in fact, in the case of the Spawn’s passports, joyous – the passport staff at Cape Town Home Affairs were wonderful – efficient, friendly, helpful, and we had the passports in under a week.)

Applying for birth and marriage certificates was a whole other experience. Because of the discrepancy in information (some websites said unabridged certificates, others insisted unabridged were no good and they had to be vault copies) we decided to get both the unabridged and vault copies of all the relevant birth certificates to be on the safe side:

The Boy’s Mother’s, his own, and The Spawn’s.

We also needed the marriage certificates of his grandmother, and mother, and our own.

Thanks to what I believe was a Home Affairs system crash around 2002ish, some of those documents took close on a year to get, with us having to fill in multiple requests. In the case of Elder Spawn, we had to fill in paperwork for Late Registration of Birth twice, despite the fact that she had both her abridged birth certificate and her passport. So, fair warning if you have paperwork from that time period, as there could be major delays.

The Achieving of The Works of Paper took so long that I do believe most people thought we were joking about emigrating, but once we had everything in hand, we could finally take the next step.

TB certificates. Yes, the country that sent us all their consumptive wretches wants us to prove we’re not bringing the disease back to them… 😉

There is only one place in Cape Town you can get your required TB certification, and it’s in Parow shopping centre. The address is on the UK gov site, you can make the booking, and you’ll need about R1600, a passport photo, your passport, and proof of a UK address. We had booked The Boy into a hostel in Glasgow for a week, and paid a 10% deposit, and that proved fine.

The Boy would be going over first to scout and settle (we had already decided on Scotland for Reasons (Hogwarts)) and, armed with reams of paperwork, sufficient proof of funds (this varies, make sure you can support a single person for around 3 months on UK terms, this was pretty distressing for us as the rand was tanking and we were watching our possible pounds rapidly diminishing), six months of bank statements, proof that he had been applying for work (printouts from job application sites, and a letter from one recruitment agency stating that they had a client who was very interested in The Boy), his TB certificate, and a huge chunk of money to pay for the International Health Surcharge and UK Ancestry Visa fees (£1000 and £405 at time of writing), he filled in the online application form, paid all the fees, and made a booking with the Biometrics/Visa place in Green Point.

A week of anxious waiting and finally The Boy went in to hand over all his (triple checked) supporting paperwork, passport, and printed application, and have his fingerprinting etc done. The application was sent to Pretoria, and we had to deal with a whole lot more anxious fretting, but in 12 days he had an email telling him that a decision had been made.

They don’t tell you via email or phone if it’s a yes or no, but as soon as The Boy was able to pick up his papers, there it was – a lovely stamped entry visa. The entry visa is not the actual visa, but a 30 day time frame in which you can enter the UK, you can still be turned back at immigration. The actual visa is now a separate card you can carry in your wallet, called a biometric residence permit, and you pick it up when in the UK.

Naturally much joy was joyed, and hallulujahs rung.

Next, we had to get him over.


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