As an Aussie – and member of the Commonwealth – you may be eligible for a UK Ancestry visa. Cooper is, and he’s just received his UK Ancestry visa for a third time. This allows us to move back to the UK to pursue a work opportunity in 2023. As his partner, I can apply to go too.
In this post, we’ll share exactly how we applied and successfully secured working visas to return to the UK. We leave in Feb, and will take our dog with us!
About ten years ago, Cooper discovered that he was eligible for a UK Ancestry visa. This is because his Grand-ma was Scottish. She travelled to live in Australia during the period that now gives him the “birth right” to live and work in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The visa is flexible, allowing five years at a time with the option to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. There’s no age limit for applying, and no limit to how many times you can apply for it.
Unfortunately, the numbers of people in Commonwealth countries that this visa applies to will begin to dwindle now. This is more of a benefit for a generation of people whose grandparents travelled during the earlier part of the 1900s. British great-grandparents or parents do not allow access to this exact visa.
Background to our application: why we are applying for visas again
Travel Live Learn was born out of Cooper’s and my experience living and working in the UK.
We have actually lived in London twice before. The first time was between 2010-2012 when Cooper was first living and working there on an Ancestral Visa. I was under 30 then, and allowed to work under the Youth Mobility Visa scheme.
We returned in 2014, this time paying an immigration lawyer to help us secure Cooper’s second UK Ancestry visa and aligning me as his long-term (un-married) partner.
Cooper and I had completely settled in the UK by 2019. We fully intended to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in 2020, having almost completed the five years settled status requirement. We were preparing to study for the Life in the UK test when COVID struck.
With just three months to go before we would be granted the right to come and go more freely, a difficult change was forced upon us. Not only did COVID remove our option to live, work and travel as we had previously done, but at the same time, my Dad came to the end of a battle with Prostate Cancer. It was a dreadful period of my life, where “goodbye” took on many meanings. I’m glad to be moving past it.
Applying for UK work visas post-COVID restrictions
Now that restrictions have eased in most parts of the world, we can move about relatively freely again. An opportunity presented itself that’s meant we have decided to go back to England to live and work for a little while. We’re even taking our COVID puppy, London, with us! (if you’re looking for advice and experience around travelling internationally with a pet, we will share it all on YouTube.com/travellivelearn).
Taking London dog means a serious chunk of our moving budget is gone straight away. So, we decided to take the plunge and apply for the previous visa combination we had (Ancestral + partner visa) ourselves.
“Ourselves” = “me” when it comes to gathering all the admin and paperwork for this fairly stressful task!
Discover our full experience here:
Steps you’ll take
Apply for the Ancestry visa by following the links through the application forms on the UK Government website.
You will pay for the application and your NHS surcharge. Download and keep a copy of ALL of your answers, confirmation numbers and payment details.
Apply for the partner or dependent visa following the links on the website. Ensure your answers align with that of your partner’s Ancestry visa application. Pay for your visa and NHS surcharge.
Book in for your biometrics, where you’ll have your fingerprints and photograph recorded, as well as your supporting paperwork and application scanned through to UK Immigration. Your passport(s) will be taken from here and sent off to UK Immigration.
You will receive notification that your passports are available. Check inside for your temporary entry clearance (which means your visa was granted – yay!).
Upon entering the UK, you have ten days to collect your official biometric card – like a plastic ID card. You will have nominated a location for collection during your visa application. We chose a spot in London that we knew how to get to. It’s usually a post office.
Top tips and advice following our DIY visa application in 2023
For the Ancestry visa, you need to enter the UK within three months of being approved for your visa. If you do know when you need to be there, e.g. for work, give yourself plenty of time – apply at the beginning of the three months.
I received an email saying I had underpaid the NHS surcharge. This seriously freaked me out, because I had been undercharged during the application process. I will never know if this was my fault or a problem with the user journey on the application pages. There was no need to panic though. I paid and it all went through fine.
Stay calm. There’s no real way to track the progress of your visas so you just have to wait and expect the best. If you supply plenty of evidence to show who you are, that you intend to work and that you can support yourself, you will be fine.
For peace of mind, if you can get to a visa processing centre that offers an expediated service, we would take that option. In Australia, VFS Global – the company that processes your paperwork and biometrics (fingerprints and photograph) – offers a priority service at their Sydney, Melbourne and Perth centres.
Applying for UK work visas from Australia: resources and links
Partner visa – follow the links to apply. I selected:Join or accompany a family member, who either is already in or will be travelling to the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man (and you cannot apply on any other form);Followed by: Working in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
This blog by Kat’s Gone Global is helpful too, talking about what you need to know when applying for a UK Ancestry visa.
With the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth in September 2022, I’ve been thinking back to the Royal Garden Parties she hosted. In 2019, Cooper and I were exceptionally lucky to be invited to attend a Royal Garden Party.
As it happens, this was one of the very last of these events the Queen actually hosted. The following two years saw this special event cancelled due to COVID. When the Queen’s Garden Party returned in 2022, she was already beginning to get quite frail and did not attend.
Royal Garden Parties: What does the future hold?
During the past week as the Queen’s funeral unfolded, I have been contacted a few times on LinkedIn with enquiries about our time at the garden party. Our Royal Garden Party experience was truly exceptional and we felt so honoured to be invited.
There’s a lot of interest around how to get an invitation to the Royal Garden Parties in England and Scotland. I was even approached by Business Insider to share my story about this!
Image courtesy royal.com
The question remains though, will King Charles continue the tradition of hosting such events? At the time of publishing, there’s not a lot of detail around how this will look in 2023.
What I can tell you, is to keep an eye on the Royal website for updates on events in 2023. As these are summer events, I would suggest that the schedule would be set around February.
You could also do a little research to see if your country’s High Commission or the like, extends offers to apply or be nominated to attend. The Mirror in the UK published a little advice on the topic in 2022 too, read here for more details.
You could also keep an eye on active ‘royal watcher’ blogs like this one that shares updates and goss as it becomes available. If you can find your way into a royal event, it’s well worth it. The Brits really know how to make an event fabulous!
While we will miss the Queen, I hope King Charles continues the tradition. I hope that you have the chance to attend too :) In the meantime, if you’d like a little more insight into what expat life is like in London, travel on over to our YouTube channel and look for the living in England playlists.
Important update: 2023 dates announced
This post was originally published in 2022. The dates for the 2023 Royal Garden Parties are Wednesday 3 May and Tuesday 9 May. This coincides with all the wonderful events that will surround King Charles’ coronation happening then too.
Many local councils and organisations across the UK have already nominated people to attend the garden parties this year, but you could do a little research in the area where you live to see if there are still opportunities available. Let us know how you get on!
“You know I love a London boy, I enjoy nights in Brixton, Shoreditch in the afternoon…”
It’s no secret Cooper and I are Swifties (the collective term for ‘fans of Taylor Swift’). He might not like me mentioning it too much in public, but trust me, he is. Cooper’s up there dancing with the best of them at her shows 😁
You’re likely to know by now that she’s released a new album – the 7th studio album. Taylor Swift London Boy – we love this track on Lover! Don’t get your hopes up about running into her in the UK capital though. The song tells a story about where she spends time with her ‘London Boy’ Joe Alwyn. And they’re known for not advertising where they are.
But you can still take a wander around places that are obviously close to her heart. If you’re a super fan, you might have heard about this odd theory that her lyrics actually map out a heart around London.
Must say, I’ve read some rather cynical accounts of Swifty’s London Boy guide to the city. But, as someone who is also rather in love with London, I kinda like her guide.
Taylor Swift London Boy city guide
We’ve compiled some travel info for any of you other Swifty fans. It’s a great way to take in the experiences and areas she’s mentioned.
In Taylor Swift’s London Boy she mentions “Camden Market in the afternoon”. So Camden is pretty cool and you’ll find a lot of things at the market. If you get tired of big crowds, don’t go in the afternoon.
We’d suggest going later at night, or early in the morning. Camden Market is well worth a look, but time it so you don’t get trampled!
FEST is also a nice spot that decorates according to the season. Nice to go for a drink away from the crowds.
Highgate and Hampstead Heath
Taylor’s spent a bit of time in the suburbs of North London. It’s known to be a bit affluent, posh even. Granted, we like it. We house sat in Crouch End recently. We also enjoyed a house sit near beautiful Hampstead Heath. It boasts miles of parkland walks, lakes and stunning views across London.
There’s a number of number of tubes/Overground will take you right up to one of the entrances to Hampstead Heath.
Leafy Highgate is best known for its cemetery. It’s an old one, and also the final resting place for many well-known figures including another music fave, George Michael.
Like Camden, it gets very very crowded. But there’s some cool experiences to be had here. Most of ours include food 😆
Sketch, pictured above, is pretty special (don’t miss going to the bathrooms – just trust us). For a bit of craziness in Soho, you’ll find us digging for an afternoon drink deal at Bar Soho. (Swifty mentions ‘drinking in the afternoon’… sure, it’s a thing on a sunny day 🌞). There’s plenty of food joints, bars and pubs in the vicinity of Bar Soho, if you can get yourself down that way.
And when you need a snack (yup, you know what I’m talking about), go here:
Hackney, Shoreditch and the east end
Aww, our ‘London home’ side of the city. For a large part of the last century the east end struggled. Much of it was badly hit during WWII, and the poorest Londoners resided here.
A lot has happened in recent years. Shoreditch and neighbouring Dalston are arguably ‘trendy’. No doubt there’s a cool energy, lots of boutique stores, arty experiences and a surprising side of London to see.
Taylor Swift in London Boy mentions Hackney as a place to explore, over “Louis V on Bond Street”. Agreed.
Broadway Market is our absolute favourite experience in the east. Head over there early on Saturday for one of the best, loveliest local markets in the city. Around the corner is a fabulous bar/restaurant/pop-up store space called Mare Street Market. Highly recommended. Then, take your foodie treats, sit in London Fields (park) and people watch.
You can view east London in all its glory from this excellent rooftop venue:
High tea in London Boy
I read a news item saying that ‘purists’ will be upset with Taylor Swift for calling ‘afternoon tea’ ‘high tea’. Weird – that’s how I know it. And that’s how it’s marketed. All tastes the same 😋
Top London travel tip: before coming to London, sign up for a discount site like LivingSocial or Groupon. There’s plenty of awesome deals on high tea or afternoon tea! Buy one ahead of your trip and indulge.
Brixton and south London
Down to south London now. Brixton is famous for music, cool markets and lots of new fun things opening all the time.
Jump on the Victoria line and head on over to this side of the city. Culture Trip‘s published a helpful guide on things to do in Brixton.
“Stick with me, I’m your Queen…”
Ok so you’re coming to the capital. You’ve seen The Crown, Victoria… Get amongst some Royal action while you’re in town. Why not.
In London Boy, Taylor Swift mentions ‘Louis V’ (the store), but implies exploring the rest of London outside of the glitz is just as fun (true).
You do need to explore central London though. Why? Because it is lovely!
From the historical buildings in Bloomsbury to stunning St Paul’s and Thames walks – find out why people, including us and Swifty, fall in love with this place.
Bonus: get yourself to a good old fashioned English pub
A quintessential London experience: the pub. They’re different in England than pubs in other places. Cosy, chilled, good times.
Careful in London that you don’t get dragged into a touristy pub – nothing wrong with them, but they’re often more expensive and lack the authentic charm that your local neighbourhood pubs have.
One of our favourites is in Angel, east London. Take a look.
So you see, Taylor Swift views the city like many of us do. For those who don’t like it, tough. The visitor numbers can’t be denied, nor our fabulous city’s millions of fans all over the world. I’ll take my rose-tinted view whenever I can 🌈
Please do add your tips or questions in the comments below. See you in London!
Taylor Swift London Boy, image: Dimitrios Kambouris/VMN19
Following a surprise Royal garden party invitation to an event we attended this past week, here’s what it’s like at a Buckingham Palace garden party…
If you’re invited, you’ll need to know:
Buckingham Palace garden party need to know
When to arrive at the Queen’s garden party
What to bring to a Buckingham Palace garden party
What to wear to the Royal garden party
What to eat for afternoon tea
How to greet the Queen, the royals and make friends
We were so fortunate to get to attend the Queen’s Buckingham Palace garden party in May 2019. Thanks for all your kind messages on the blog and on Twitter. It’s a special privilege to be invited. We certainly had a lovely afternoon.
We were blessed with probably the best day of the year – sunshine and warm. No jacket or umbrellas required! But there’s preparatory work we’d recommend if you find yourself with a ticket to a Royal garden party.
When to arrive at the Queen’s garden party
We turned up at the time the ticket said the gates opened. That’s fine and we were inside the Buckingham Palace garden party within an hour, in time to see the Queen arrive.
However, getting there a bit early to be at the front of the entry line would have meant more time inside Buckingham Palace without the crowds.
The benefit of going in earlier might also mean getting in first for the food. Additionally, you may have a better chance to stand at the front of the line to see the Royal family when they emerge. I can’t guarantee you’ll meet them – that seems to be ‘pre-arranged’ – but a front row seat is always worth a shot.
So, if I had the chance at a Buckingham Palace garden party again, I’d be at the gate well before entry time.
What to bring to a Buckingham Palace garden party
There’s strict information on the ticket about what you can and can’t bring. It’s indicated that you can’t bring big cameras. I took this to mean DSLRs.
Phones are perfectly acceptable. Some people had smaller DSLR cameras though, including ones with zoom. Helpful if you want a close-up of the Royals or celebs (in a non-stalkery way, of course).
We have a camera that would have passed muster, but our phones were fine for photos.
In the event of rain at a Royal garden party, I’d advise taking as little as possible. I’m not sure there’s much cover except in the food tents which would get very crowded if the weather was bad. Apparently you can take umbrellas if you get unlucky with the English weather.
You’re on your feet for a good few hours, so avoid unnecessary jackets and extra items to carry around. It’s just easier that way.
What to wear to the Royal garden party (and ladies, tips on shoes)
Everyone is dressed up. A Buckingham Palace garden party is one occasion to plan for and go all out. We did, and I’m pleased we put some thought into it.
Plan for different types of weather – light jacket if it’s likely to be cold.
Hats and fascinators are the way to go. I had the chance to borrow a fabulous fascinator which had actually been to a Buckingham Palace garden party previously!
Shoes need special consideration, ladies. You need style and comfort. The grass can be squishy or wet. You’re on your feet for a long time too, both standing in the main garden party area and wandering around Buckingham Palace’s grounds. I wore mid block heels which were fine for a few hours, but started to cut near the end. I hadn’t taken flats for my commute home – definitely would if I had my time over.
View: behind the scenes – click ‘read more’ or the arrow top right to look at our photo story:
What to eat for afternoon tea
There’s plenty of food – sandwiches, sweets, tea, iced coffee.
The lines at the beginning can be long so wait a while until it calms down. You won’t miss out. Our invitation read a little like the food starts to run out after about an hour. It certainly didn’t appear that way to us.
You can go back for seconds too (just ask Cooper). Don’t feel like you need to pile your plate so high you risk spillage. That would be embarrassing 😁
How to greet the Queen, the royals and make friends
Get lucky enough to shake hands with the Queen? Start with ‘Your Majesty’, and subsequently ‘Ma’am’. Royal.uk offers a helpful guide on how to greet other members of the Royal family. Read more here
If you happen to speak to any of the royal family, stay away from personal questions.
We would have had a chat about how the Corgis must have loved playing around the palace grounds! 🐕
Of course, there’s thousands of others at the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with another interesting character who has received an invite. Start by asking if you can take a photo for someone, or accept their offer, and go from there. Don’t be shy – everyone’s in a happy frame of mind so you’re likely to make a new friend in the process.
Do you have other tips to share, or questions? Perhaps you have been to a Royal garden party at Buckingham Palace also? Drop us a line in the comments…
Back at home in Australia sometimes you’ll find us engaged in banter at the pub with our neighbours from New Zealand. We’ll give each other a little good-humoured grief about our accents and get into heated debates about who boasts the best cities.
We can make fun of each other at home, you know? But overseas when we run into an Antipodean on our travels we more often than not stick together.
It’s a little like how in your family you can make fun (within reason, obviously) of siblings or cousins, but if someone else tries to, we’ll automatically defend the other.
A lot of this mateship goes back to war times, and on 25 April each year our nations commemorate Anzac Day to observe when our troupes landed at Gallipoli in 1915.
Today Anzac Day still stands as one of our nations’ most important occasions and is marked by a public holiday each year, as well as moving dawn services and daytime military marches.
Incidentally, it’s also my birthday.
Indeed, many of us make the pilgrimage to Gallipoli in Turkey for special dawn ceremonies.
And, there are always services in London including a dawn service at the Australian War Memorial, Hyde Park Corner which is – you might be surprised to know – usually overflowing with attendees.
If you have spent any time travelling or living abroad, you’ll appreciate that the sense of patriotism is often stronger when you’re away from home.
Add that to an emotional national day and you’ll usually find a hive of expats huddling together flying their flag.
On Anzac Day, Aussies and Kiwis unite, and being this far away – just as our men were 102 years ago – it’s a poignant moment to be part of.
It’s for this reason that I jumped on an opportunity that a colleague at work – a lovely lady from New Zealand – told me about.
Each year our High Commission offers passes to special ceremonies, and those with an Australian or New Zealand passport can apply.
You can try this link from the beginning of each year (or if it’s not working, Google ‘Anzac Day London High Commission’).
You must apply for passes to attend this special service, held at the Cenotaph war memorial in Whitehall, and followed by a church service at Westminster Abbey up the road.
Here’s a sample of what we experienced:
The day was moving and memorable. Highly recommended – add the task to your diary from February next year. We’ll definitely do this again.
Earlier this week an awful event took place in central London which has had me fielding queries and concerns about travel and terrorism and indeed about how safe our lovely London actually is.
You would have caught the news about a man who drove a car onto Westminster bridge and into a crowd of 50 people before stabbing others outside Parliament. He killed four people, including a police officer, and seriously injured numerous others.
As someone living and working in the city, I can attest to the fact that no matter where you are in the vicinity, it is unnerving to know what’s unfolding.
My work’s security team shared advice with staff and let us know that we were welcome to stay inside if fearful of travelling at the end of the work day.
During the afternoon we didn’t know if anything further would occur, and the insensitive, irresponsible Twitter users sharing photos of the dead from the scene in central London were not helping!
A number of my colleagues were also visibly shaken because memories of the 7/7 bombings of 2005 are still all too close-to-home – one of the bombs exploded on the no. 30 bus directly outside our building and with catastophic results.
Over the 24 hours to follow the events in Wesminster, Cooper and I received numerous calls, texts and messages on social media from apprehensive family and friends who were unsure of what to make of it all.
Now none of this is to diminish what has happened (and continues to) in places not too far from us in the UK, including France, Belgium, Tunisia, Syria… unforunately the list goes on.
But when things like this happen on your doorstep, there’s no escaping the truth about the nature of conflict and hate in today’s world.
That said, the next day, life continued.
We were all on the buses, tube and trains in order to show up at work on time. My friend Jackie and I even ran into this young hero from the day before in the lift in our workplace.
‘Keep calm and carry on’ was a slogan developed by the British government back in 1939 as World War II loomed.
The famous phrase was intended to raise morale in those dark days, and has found meaning and international fame in our contemporary landscape too.
Back in 2005 after the transport system – the beating heart of this metropolis – was attacked, people came back outside and stepped onto public transport in record numbers. They went on determined, just as they did after the many devastating air raids during the war.
Londoners will not be held to ransom by crazy people. None of us should be. I’m inspired by this tenacity.
The topic of travel and terrorism is raised in our circles quite a bit. People worry about us being in a city where terrorism a real threat.
But actually, terrible things happen every day, even in sublime and seemingly unsuspecting locations like Queensland, Australia, from where we hail.
It does upset me that the media makes a real meal out of influencing people towards a fear mindset.
Even before any details were available on the Westminster attack this week, the news had labelled it a ‘terrorist act’.
Can you tell me they are not trying to sell papers and seek ratings by inciting fear across the globe?
I’m seeing the same on this very day about a cyclone striking the eastern coast of Queensland and am trying not to worry too much myself, but it’s hard not to when the images, language and stories being shared are drumming up worst-case scenarios.
As for travelling here to Europe?
London is one of the safest places we’ve travelled to. We feel entirely safe living here, walking around and getting about.
Sure, there’s the risk of terrorism but that’s everywhere these days, especially with misguided individuals taking it upon themselves to wreak havoc on behalf of organisations they’ve often only seen represented online or in the news.
My point is, don’t let a disillusioned few stop you from being curious and getting out there to travel and explore.
Be mindful, sensible and don’t take unnecesssary risks, certainly. But whatever you do, do not choose to stay at home if adventure beckons. That’s letting the bastards win.
Responding and contributing to fear energy only magnifies it around the world.
I’ve read helpful advice on this that encourages us to acknowledge what’s gone on, reflect or meditate on it in our own way and send kind thoughts to those who have been affected.
You can do something positive to counteract the fear by showing up to your own life with determination and light, and inspiring your family, friends, kids and colleagues with that spirit.
Let’s not feed the beast.
And if you’re finding news or social media reports too much or too upsetting – turn them off! There’s never any urgent new updates you need; the reports are merely the same dire tales told in different ways.
Caring makes you human. Focusing on traumatic media stories though, only breeds fear and certainly does not help anyone.
Keep calm, carry on… and travel, I say.
If more of us appreciate first-hand the world and its many different perspectives we might eventually conquer the small-mindedness that leads to ignorant and evil deeds.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
Welcome to Travel Live Learn! We are Sarah + Cooper, Aussie expats living in the UK with our Westie dog, London, along for the ride. Our most popular content here is about pet friendly travel, house + pet sitting, and designing a life as expats or digital nomads wherever in the world you want to be.