Employing migrant workers in Northern Ireland

Recruiting migrant workers


A new immigration system applies to people arriving in the UK from 1 January 2021. EU citizens moving to the UK to work will need to get a visa in advance. Employers need a sponsor licence to hire most workers from outside the UK.

Please note: this requirement excludes Irish citizens and those who already have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

See right to work check: employing EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens.

Under the Race Relations (NI) Order 1997, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate on the grounds of race against a job applicant:

  • in the arrangements made for deciding who should be offered employment;
  • in the terms in which employment is offered; or
  • by refusing to offer employment

Preventing illegal migrant working

All employers have a responsibility to prevent illegal migrant working. You must check the entitlement of everyone you plan to employ to work in the UK.

See checking a job applicant's right to work.

Job descriptions

When putting together a job description - ensure that it is a fair reflection of the role and that all criteria are essential to the job.

You should also communicate the overseas qualifications that would be considered for the role and determine any level of English required.

Job advertising

When advertising for a role, you should ensure it is advertised as widely as possible.

Jobs and Benefits Offices throughout Northern Ireland offer a range of free services to help employers find suitable staff and will assist with placing job advertisements both locally and in other countries.

Find your local Jobs and Benefits Office.

You should also ensure advertisements are written in plain English and that the wording, criteria, and images cannot be considered discriminatory.

In addition, you could also run recruitment information sessions to assist potential employees with completing applications and providing monitoring information.

You could also make sure your website is user-friendly for migrant workers by translating the job vacancy section.

You could consider alternative recruitment methods such as roadshows, open days, or even virtual job fairs to actively recruit in other countries.

Recruitment and selection

When carrying out interviews or selection testing:

  • consider language issues eg abbreviations that are only understood locally
  • make sure your recruitment process schedule allows time to make appropriate travel arrangements

When assessing qualifications and references, you should develop a procedure for qualification equivalency checking. See get your EU professional qualification recognised in the UK.

You could use an organisation such as the European Qualifications Framework or UK ENIC, the designated UK national agency for the recognition and comparison of international qualifications and skills, to assist with evaluating the comparative value of qualifications gained overseas.