Getting UK Visas and Documents When You’re Overseas – How To Make It Easy

Applying for UK visas and passports from overseas can be a lengthy and confusing process. Sourcing original documents from the UK can sometimes be historical in nature, can be frustrating. That's before you've even started your application process! Read our guide as we walk you through all you'll need to know.

What kinds of documents you may need

If you’re living overseas, either as a British or non-British national, but need to apply for UK visas or passports from the British Government, you will need official paperwork to be provided to support your application.

The most common documents you will require are UK birth certificates (yours or your ancestors) or UK marriage certificates. These must always be official Government-issued copies in order to be accepted, and in the case of birth certificates, the long-form version.

This is an important point to note when getting your documents together for anything official. In the UK, birth certificates can take two forms: long-form (also known as “full”, “unabridged” and “A4”) certificates and short-form (also known as “abridged”).

What’s the difference? You can see the differences between these two types of certificates in our dedicated post here.

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Why you might need documents sourcing from the UK when you’re overseas

There are many reasons why you may need to source official copies of documents for UK visas whilst you’re based overseas. Here we look at some of the most common reasons we have these certificates requested.

UK Passports

If you were born in the UK, but are now residing somewhere else in the world, you are still entitled to a British passport. There are other situations which could mean you qualify for a passport, including:

  • Any person who was born outside of the UK to a father who was born in the UK (provided they were married to their mother)
  • Any individual born to a British mother after 1983
  • People holding a valid British Citizen registration
  • People holding a certificate of Naturalisation as a British Subject and their Children
Member States of the Commonwealth

UK Ancestry Visas

What is a UK Ancestry visa? This is a common route of immigration to the UK which allows the holder to reside, work and eventually settle within the UK if they choose to. In order to qualify, you will need to have been born in one of the 54 British Commonwealth States and have a Grandparent who was born in the UK. There are other stipulations you must meet before you can successfully be issued with this visa type, however.

  • Africa

    • Botswana
    • Cameroon
    • Gambia, The
    • Ghana
    • Kenya
    • Kingdom of eSwatini
    • Lesotho
    • Malawi
    • Mauritius
    • Mozambique
    • Namibia
    • Nigeria
    • Rwanda
    • Seychelles
    • Sierra Leone
    • South Africa
    • Uganda
    • United Republic of Tanzania
    • Zambia
    • Zimbabwe (not a member state but still accepts applications)


    • Bangladesh
    • Brunei Darussalam
    • India
    • Malaysia
    • Maldives
    • Pakistan
    • Singapore
    • Sri Lanka

    Caribbean and Americas

    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Bahamas, The
    • Barbados
    • Belize
    • Canada
    • Dominica
    • Grenada
    • Guyana
    • Jamaica
    • Saint Lucia
    • St Kitts and Nevis
    • St Vincent and The Grenadines
    • Trinidad and Tobago


    • Cyprus
    • Malta
    • United Kingdom


    • Australia
    • Fiji
    • Kiribati
    • Nauru
    • New Zealand
    • Papua New Guinea
    • Samoa
    • Solomon Islands
    • Tonga
    • Tuvalu
    • Vanuatu

Firstly, you must be over 17 years of age, though there is no upper age limit to apply for this visa. If it is granted successfully, it will be valid for a period of 5 years, after which the holder can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK.

There are no restrictions on your ability to work on this visa type, though you must show your intention to work in order to be successful in your application.

UK Spousal Settlement Visas

In order to obtain a UK Spousal Settlement visa, also known as a Marriage Visa, you must be over 18 and married to, in a civil partnership with someone who is a British Citizen, UK Settled person or a UK refugee.

You will be required to provide that you are in a genuine relationship and that you can meet certain financial criteria in order to be granted the Spousal Visa. You are also eligible to work whilst in the UK, though some access to benefits is restricted.

If you are successful in your application, you will be able to stay in the UK for 30 months initially and can then apply for a further extension. Eventually, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, and finally British citizenship.

UK Citizenship though a British parent

If either of your parents were a British Citizen when you were born, you may be eligible to apply for UK citizenship. Whether you’ll qualify depends on when and where you were born, as well as your parent’s situation at the time.

In some instances, you will automatically qualify as a British Citizen, in other situations you will need to be registered as one.

There are three different sets of criteria for this type of application, based on when you were born. These are organised into the following timeframes:

  • You were born on or after 1st July 2006
  • You were born between 1983 and June 2006
  • You were born before 1983

To read the criteria for each of these instances, you can read the guide on the official UK Government website here.

What difficulties you could face applying for these documents

If you’re overseas and you need documentation from the UK, having access to the information you need can be difficult. Even if the days of online research and ordering, knowing where to start looking for what you need isn’t always easy.

This is especially true when it comes to personal documentation. Some archives are available for online research, but only a small percentage. Other information is available through costly online subscriptions, but knowing how to navigate these databases is a skill in itself. The information itself isn’t even always reliable, and it takes a good degree of understanding in order to find what you need, most of the time.

Once you source your documents and are ready to apply for your passport or UK visa, there are many forms to complete. These can be complex at the best of times, and getting assistance to complete the paperwork isn’t always easy. You could even be asked to supply additional evidence when applying for UK visas, which can prolong the process.

How you can get help with UK visas when you’re overseas

If you’re outside of the UK and need help with either documentation, the application process or both, you may find it much faster and less stressful to get help from a specialist. For example, if you’re based in South Africa and would like to apply for a UK Passport or Citizenship, you could go through an agent such as BunnyHop.

Bunny Hop Logo 1

We spoke to the Secretary of BunnyHop, Tristan, about the difficulties of applying for official British documentation whilst overseas. She told us that many of her clients need support when making applications in South Africa due to the complexities of the requirements.

There are many terms which can be unfamiliar, such as “long-form” and “unabridged” certificates; some of which can differ from country to country. Knowing how to get all of the correct paperwork together is time-consuming and problematic.

Specialists like Tristan are familiar with all of the requirements and can complete your applications for you, dealing with the UK authorities on your behalf. Knowing all of the procedures can really speed things up and give you a much better chance of having your application be successful first time.

If you aren’t making any applications for visas or passports and have simply lost your birth, adoption, marriage or death certificate, Vital Certificates can help. Wherever you are. Request an official replacement personal document here.

key takeaways

Key Takeaways

Although processes for UK documentation such as visas and passports can seem complicated when it comes to supplying the necessary paperwork, there is plenty of help at hand. First, you need to identify the requirements for the type of document you require. Then ensure you’re supplying the correct versions of any certificates or other evidence that’s requested. If you’d rather have the application handled for you, as well as sourcing the correct documents, there are plenty of options for support. Just get in touch with our friendly specialists for advice!

Declan Ramsden
Declan Ramsden

Declan is a Content Creator at Vital Consular. He studied English Literature for 4 years before joining the company. Outside of work, he enjoys listening to retro music and reading classic novels – particularly Charles Dickens!

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