Would you like to live in the UK for five years or longer with full work rights? How would you like to obtain permanent residency? UK citizenship?
If you’re willing to work in the UK – consider applying for a UK Ancestry Visa. Unlike a 6-month working visa that you can only get once, and only if you’re under 30 – the UK Ancestry Visa offers so much more.
Foreign Currency Exchange (FOREX)
Foreign currency conversions are challenging at the best of times. Financial amounts in this article are in Australian Dollars (AUD) and British Pounds/Pounds Sterling (GBP).
All figures are approximate and rounded to make explanations a bit simpler – using an average monthly exchange rate of about £1.68 GBP = $1.00 AUD or $1.00 AUD = £0.66 GBP. These rates were what we were working with in March 2016 when we were preparing to apply for the visa.
WE ARE NOW AUSSIE EXPATS LIVING IN THE UK
We successfully applied for our UK Ancestry Visas and we moved to Scotland in September 2016. Most of this article was written in the lead up to our visa application and relocation and it is also updated from time to time.
How to apply for a UK Ancestry Visa
You must have a grandparent who was born in the UK (or South Ireland) before 1922. Great-grandparents don’t count.
- You’ll need to have original or official documents. Your grandparent’s birth certificate. Your mother’s or father’s birth certificate. Your birth certificate. And a marriage certificate if married.
- Your dependent spouse and any dependent children will need their original birth certificates.
- All applicants need a valid passport. Try and get it renewed so you don’t have to get it renewed before your visa expires. This will save you money and hassle.
The visa application process
- Visit the Gov.uk website and follow the instructions.
- Check your eligibility.
- Understand what documents you need and get them.
- Apply online three months before you intend to leave. It takes about 3 weeks for a decision – either a decision to grant or refuse your visa.
- Pay the Visa Application fee.
- Attend a Visa Service Centre. This is to give them your documents and get your biometrics done. They will take your photo and fingerprints (all electronic).
How much for a family of four to get a UK Ancestry Visa?
** I’ll be using £ and $AUD amounts. **
A UK Ancestry Visa costs about £405 for the primary visa holder. Each dependent will cost another £405 (e.g. spouse and each dependent child).
Four applicants: £405 x 4 = £1,625 or about $3,200 AUD (based on March 2016 GBP/AUD exchange rates).
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…
You also have to pay a separate Visa application centre fee depending on where in Australia you apply. If you apply in Brisbane, it’s about £55 each. So for a family of four that’s £220 (or about $440 AUD) extra on top of the £1,625.
So a total fee of £1,845 – or about $3,700 AUD for the visa.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S STILL MORE!
Australians pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This is £200 pounds for each year of the visa. Given the UK Ancestry Visa is for 5 years – that’s a whopping £1,000 pounds per person at the time of application.
Four applicants: £4,000 or about $8,000 AUD on top of the $3,700 AUD you’re already paying for the visas.
A family of four has to shell out about $12,000 AUD to get to the UK by way of a UK Ancestry Visa. That’s one of the biggest cons.
Timing of savings
You have to show you had ‘sufficient’ funds in a bank account at least 90 days before you apply. This shows you can support yourself in the UK without relying on public funds. You won’t be eligible for any UK government benefits. If you run out of money, you’re on your way back to Australia.
‘Sufficient’ funds is about £3,000 per person.
I’ve read in various forums that you’ll need between $15,000-$24,000 AUD for a family of four.
The assumption behind the UK Ancestry Visa is that you and your spouse will work to support yourself. By doing so, you will contribute to the UK economy for the entire 5 years of your visa. And for another 5 years if you extend it!
Once you have lived in the UK for 5 years, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). This will allow you to stay in the UK indefinitely on your own terms.
Applying for an ILR is a less expensive and easier process, compared to a UK Ancestry Visa. But you’ll want to start saving for that as soon as you arrive if that’s your plan. You’ll need close to $15,000 AUD for a family of 4.
If you stay in the UK for another 12 months you can apply for UK Citizenship. But you’ll need to make sure you don’t leave the country for more than 90 days in those 12 months. Another costly and complicated process that will cost an extra $15,000 AUD.
You will then have the ultimate golden ticket…dual Australian-UK Citizenship. With dual-citizenship, you can travel and live in the UK or Australia, without having to work. Depending on your circumstances you may also be eligible for public funds (i.e. government benefits) in either the UK or Australia. Sweet.
$ RECAP … for a family of four
SAVE! For a family of four, save at least $15,000 AUD and leave it in a bank account for 90 days before applying. Do not make any withdrawals from that account. Make sure you have this money in a transaction account with a Visa debit card at least. You will need to be able to access this money overseas. You can’t rely on internet banking as you may not have a UK bank account for many months after arriving.
THEN SAVE another $9,000 AUD plus so you have about $24,000AUD in the bank when you apply for the visa. This will ensure you can afford to be without work for the first two months.
SAVE SOME MORE. You will need to pay the visa application fee, the IHS fee and the visa application service centre fee. This will be about another $12,000 AUD for a family of four.
THAT’S A TOTAL OF $36,000 to show that you are financially viable and eligible for a UK Ancestry Visa.
BE READY TO LEAVE AUSTRALIA and ENTER THE UK within 90 days after the issue of the visas (don’t leave it too late).
If you don’t enter the UK by the agreed date, you have pay the visa application fee again. Another $3,700AUD. This will be on top of the $36,000 AUD you’ve already saved.
SHOW YOU’RE EMPLOYABLE – OR ARRANGE EMPLOYMENT BEFORE YOU ARRIVE
You’ll have to show you will be able to get a job as soon as possible after you arrive.
You will need to support yourself by working for at least 5 years. 6 years or longer if you plan to get permanent residency or citizenship.
Your visa will be unsuccessful if:
- you don’t prove you intend to work
- you don’t show you have sufficient funds to support yourself.
If your application is not successful, you donate your $3,700 visa application fee. There are no refunds.
- The UK government will only refund your IHS fee of $8,000 AUD.
Register with UK employment agencies. Apply for jobs. Try and secure a job before you arrive. Maybe you can get a transfer.
- Forget about UK Government jobs that need a security clearance if you’re not a UK National. Moving from the Australian Public Service into the UK Civil Service is not easy. You usually have to have at least 3 years permanent residency. You might even have to wait until after you get your UK citizenship.
You need to provide your CV with the documentation you submit with the visa application.
- Be aware that the UK job market, CV format and hiring practices are different to those in Australia.
RISKS & CHALLENGES
Will you be successful?
- You are taking a chance that your UK Ancestry Visa will be successful. If it isn’t you’re down lots of money.
Are any of your children approaching 18 years of age?
- All dependent children must enter the UK on the UK Ancestry Visa before they turn 18 years old.
- Make sure you apply for your visa and enter the UK before any of your children turn 18 years old.
- If you have a child approaching the age of 18, apply at least 3-4 months before they turn 18 in case you enter the UK later. That means you’ll need to have your savings ready at least 6 months before your child’s 18th birthday.
How are you going to tidy up your affairs in Australia? And transition to a different culture, lifestyle and regulatory system?
- Time your exit from employment, education, rental/mortgage arrangements, etc.
- The UK tax year is from mid-April to mid-April – versus Australia’s July to June.
- The UK school year usually starts mid-August, early-September. It depends where you decide to live (e.g. England or Scotland).
- Save money. Work harder. Spend less. And sell most of your possessions.
What if you sell everything, quit your job and don’t get the visa? You’ll only know if your visa application is successful 30 to 60 days before you have to leave. You’re risking a lot! This exercise is not for the weak-hearted.
Be ready to unwind your plans in case you have to stay in Australia.
- Will you get your old job/business back and humming again?
- How will you break it to your kids – that you got all excited only to say that you’re no longer leaving? That you’re staying put. And that they’ve lost their chance for dual-citizenship and all that it offers.
- When you get past your emotional and mental hurdles – you have to return to your old life. You know the one you decided to leave behind – with the anticipation of a brand new life on the other side of the world.
$$ RECAP …EXTRA COSTS…
Airfares and travel insurance
- You’re only allowed to have a one-way airfare to enter the UK on a UK Ancestry Visa. This is more than half the cost of a standard return airfare.
- This is always going to be cheaper if purchased in advance. So it’s tempting to spend more money on a cheaper flight in advance. Last minute airfares can come with a 20-50% premium.
- You’ll need an extra $5,000 AUD for a family of four flying Economy class. This should also cover at least two weeks travel insurance…if purchased in advance. You’ll need more for airfares if buy after you know your visa application is successful, because you won’t qualify for any early bird discounts.
- You might want to time your travel so you arrive in low-season (not during UK school holidays). This will save some money on your airfares and your initial rental agreement. There’ll be less competition from other prospective short-term and long-term tenants.
- If you want to buy your airline tickets for a good price, look out for Australian travel expos. Ask your travel agent when it is. Flight Centre usually has their UK/Europe Travel Expo in January/February.
- Allow about 1-2 weeks and a lot of money. At least $1,000 AUD a week.
- Travel agents will charge a pretty penny, even for B&B style accommodation voucher programs.
- Air BNB is often a better option but read up on the risks there as well. If you are booking on Air BNB in advance to get a good price, the credit card hold will go on your credit card immediately!
- We found using Trip Advisor the cheapest and most reliable with honest reviews.
Rental costs galore
If you don’t have a job/employment to step into as soon as you arrive – it is standard practice to pay the following:
6 months rent in advance
- At least $12,000 AUD if you live somewhere affordable! Like Scotland! The great thing is that you then won’t have to pay rent for 6 months.
- Tenants also pay council levies for rates, water and sewerage. Payments are usually on a quarterly basis.
- If you live closer to London you can expect your rent to be 25-50% more! Scotland sounds great!
- England commuting times and costs can be astronomical in comparison. Scotland sounds f*king great!
4-6 weeks rent for bond
- About $2,000 AUD (in Scotland). More in many parts of England.
1 month’s rent for a letting agent fee
- About $1,600 AUD. Much more in many parts of England.
- This is to help you find the property and negotiate a lease agreement. Maybe more if you have to pay for your own police and referee checks.
- You can rent through a private landlord but beware the pitfalls. The UK property market is unregulated – unlike Australia.
- We moved to Glasgow, Scotland because there’s no such fee allowed.
TOTAL APPROXIMATE INITIAL OUTLAY TO SECURE A RENTAL PROPERTY:
- $15,000 AUD+
- See how important that initial $15,000 AUD the UK Government wants you to have is?
OTHER COSTS TO CONSIDER
Cost of commuting
First, decide where you want to live. England, Wales or Scotland? Scotland if you are counting your pennies from day one. Only you can start searching for rentals, schools and employment.
- Will you commute to work/school?
- Will you commute a little or a lot?
- Will you be buying a car or will you be walking to the bus stop and/or train station?
Commuting costs can add up to $4,000 to $6,000 AUD plus per year for each adult commuting to work. So for a husband and wife you could be up for another $8,000 to $12,000 AUD a year to get to the job you don’t have yet!
Much lower wages/salary
The average annual income in Australia ranges from $55,000-$75,000 AUD. In the UK, you’ll be lucky to find a £20,000 job when you first arrive. Most entry level jobs are £16,000. Brits on a £30,000 income consider themselves bloody lucky.
- Prepare yourself for a lower income and higher living costs, depending where you live. Remember there is no back-up of government benefits for 5 years. Or for 6 years if you’re aiming for UK citizenship.
- My initial research shows some cost of living components are cheaper than in Australia. Food, internet/mobile phones, petrol (in Scotland), electricity/gas and pubic transport (in Scotland) is cheaper. Even rental prices in some areas are more forgiving than what you pay in Australia.
- It depends on where you decide to live when you get there. Do your research. Then do some more research.
The education system is so different
You have to jump hurdles to enrol your children in school. And only after you establish a permanent address.
You might also need to enter into a 12-month lease; just to prove you aren’t playing the school catchment game. But most leases in Scotland are only 6-months and then you go month to month.
You can negotiate a 6-month break lease clause. But you’ll also be gambling that the landlord won’t kick you out after 6 months. The clause works both ways.
So, if you need to enrol your children into school ASAP, you need to find a rental property ASAP. The cost of temporary accommodation alone is a great incentive to get into your own place ASAP.
Recommended order of settlement activities:
- Legal tasks related to activating your visa.
- Find a permanent address.
- Establish UK bank accounts.
- Enrol children in school.
- Arrange National Insurance Numbers (like Tax File Numbers).
- Find a job.
- Commute. Work. Rest.
Prepare yourself for one hell of an adventure…and a shit load of challenges.
If you’re not sure – don’t do it! Spend the money on a mortgage. A well-planned overseas holiday. Or some other mid-life crisis.
If you’re excited like we are – just do it! Join our crazy magic carpet ride across to the other side of the world.
ALL IN ALL, it’s going to cost a lot of money.
You’ll need $36,000 AUD to apply for your visas.
You’ll need to spend most of your savings when you get there to establish a permanent address.
You’ll both need to earn £16,000 to £20,000 each ASAP (i.e. a dual-income couple). So that’s a combined household income of about $80,000 AUD. At least you won’t have to worry about the rent for 6 months! (Because you needed to pay a 6-month rental deposit as an unknown quantity.)
JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT COULDN’T GET MUCH MORE PAINFUL
- If buy your one-way airfares in advance to save money. Before you lodge your visa application and know if you will get a visa. And your visa application is refused. You become the proud owner of four one-way tickets to the UK. On a particular date. F*ing fantastic!
- Travel insurance doesn’t cover visa refusals. So you’ll either be up for change or cancellation fees to the airline AND to your travel agent.
- Combined airline and travel agents fees for change/cancellation can be around $1,000 AUD.
- If your visa application is not successful, would you holiday in the UK instead of relocating?
WHY WE ENGAGED A PROFESSIONAL MIGRATION AGENT
1. To reduce the risk of failure.
We’re pretty smart cookies but the forms are not written in any English we were familiar with. Stories abound of people cocking up their forms and having to re-apply.
2. To avoid the enormous financial loss if our visas were not granted on some technicality. The migration agent we used had a 100% success rate and guaranteed their services. They knew how to steer through/around the UK Ancestry Visa obstacle course.
3. To avoid the enormous financial cost of re-establishing ourselves after we sold everything.
- We would have had to replace most of our furniture, car and former possessions. Possessions that we sold to raise money for the application and relocation exercise. That doesn’t come cheap.
- We’d have to become regular shoppers at the Salvos and have to start from scratch. Something we haven’t had to do since the 1980’s (and we were much younger).
Sure, we paid an extra $900 ($225 each) for the services of a migration agent but that was a small price to pay. Only 2.5% of the $36,000 AUD we spent to get our UK Ancestry Visas in the first place.
We engaged Paul at Secure Visa UK (based in Byron Bay, New South Wales) to secure our UK Ancestry Visas.
HOW WE DID IT…
- Sold most of our possessions. Our car, furniture and electronics – through several garage sales, Gumtree, etc.
- We only took what we could fit into: 4 x 23kg suitcases; 4 x 7kg carry-on bags; and 4 x smallish backpacks. Most of our carry-on luggage was full of electronic gadgets and our most precious papers. That’s the largest baggage allowance we could get from Brisbane to Edinburgh, Scotland.
- Spent next to nothing.
- Saved like crazy.
- Worked long hours until the last minute.
- Additionally, wages in the UK are usually paid monthly. So we needed to be able to cover the first 1-2 months without income.
- What we achieved during our first 3 months in the UK.
SO, ALL UP, A FAMILY OF FOUR NEEDS TO RAISE ABOUT $40,000 AUD to re-locate to the UK from Australia on a UK Ancestry Visa.
AFTER WE ARRIVE (The original plan)
We will both bus tables if that’s what it takes to earn an income. But we will both be busting our guts to get £20,000 – £30,000+ salaries ASAP.
And then we’ll have some breathing room… Before we start saving for our ILR (about $15,000 AUD)…. And then our UK Citizenship (another $15,000 AUD).
THEN – at the end of this 6-year journey – we’ll have well and truly earned our dual Australian-UK citizenship. Don’t you think? I have a new empathy for voluntary immigrants. If the paperwork doesn’t kill you…
The added challenges of dependent adult children
When you apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR):
- All dependent children over the age of 18 must be emotionally and financially dependent.
That means that neither of them, once they reach the age of 18, can:
- Earn a substantial income (or help to contribute to living costs); or
- Live with a person in a de-facto/married relationship. This would show that they are ‘independent’ rather than ‘dependent’.
If they aren’t dependent they risk their visa status and may need to apply for a different visa class. Not all visa classes offer a pathway to citizenship. If they don’t qualify for a different visa class, they may be forced to return to Australia.
So as well as paying for our cost of living, we’ll be supporting our two sons until they are around 20 and 23 years old. Until we all apply for our ILR’s. They’ll both study and/or volunteer until then. It’s all good.
- Don’t wait to apply for a UK Ancestry Visa if your children are almost 18 years old.
- Apply for a UK Ancestry Visa when you first get the irresistible urge (i.e. like 15 years ago).
Have you been through it already? Any questions?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below…