Immigrating to Northern Ireland
The new immigration system
The UK’s points-based system treats EU and non-EU citizens equally and aims to attract people who can contribute to the UK’s economy. Irish and British citizens can continue to freely enter, live and work in the UK.
Free movement with the European Union (EU) ended on 31 December 2020 and there are new arrangements for EU citizens. If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and you were resident in the UK on or before 31 December 2020, you should not apply for a visa under the points-based immigration system. You and your family should instead apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. Applications are free and the deadline for applying is 30 June 2021.
New immigration routes have opened for applications to work, live and study in the UK. The points-based system includes a route for skilled workers who have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor. This route will apply to individuals who do not hold a British or Irish passport but wish to live and work in Northern Ireland.
This section covers typical questions for individuals born in Northern Ireland who may hold a British or Irish passport (or both). This section also covers situations in which an applicant holds British or Irish citizenship but was not born in Northern Ireland. The focus on the FAQ’s will be to cover private immigration matters such as spousal visas for EU or non-EU national partners.
Q. I hold a British and Irish passport and was born in Northern Ireland. Under the new immigration system, what are the current rules and regulations on returning home to Northern Ireland?
A. If you hold either a British or Irish passport you will have full entitlement to return home to Northern Ireland through your British or Irish passport. You will also have the same rights to travel and work in the Republic of Ireland.
Q. I was not born in Northern Ireland but hold a British (or Irish) passport. Can I live and work in Northern Ireland?
A. Yes the same entitlement rights apply as per above.
Q. I wish to return home to Northern Ireland with my partner who is not British or Irish. I was born in Northern Ireland and hold a British and Irish passport. What are the legal requirements for my partner to accompany me to Northern Ireland in the future?
A. Due to recent changes to the Immigration Rules anyone who was born in Northern Ireland and holds either a British or Irish passport (or both) can apply to have their partner admitted to the EU Settlement Scheme. This applies to either married or unmarried partners so long as the requirements are met under the EU Settlement Scheme. One of the major advantages is that an application for admission to the EU Settlement Scheme is free. Although there is a cut-off date to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme being 30 June 2021.
By being born in Northern Ireland and holding the relevant British or Irish passport this provides an added benefit for people wishing to repatriate back to Northern Ireland. Supplying documentation in relation to your relationship will be important for applications of this nature.
Q. I was not born in Northern Ireland but I hold either British or Irish citizenship. Are the requirements different for bringing my partner to Northern Ireland who is not a British or Irish national?
A. Yes the requirements will be different by virtue of not being born in Northern Ireland. It is highly likely an application under British law will be required rather than under the EU Settlement Scheme. In this instance, there are additional immigration fees and more stringent requirements which need to be met for the application.
Q. Are there any restrictions for dependant family members who proceed to join a British or Irish national to Northern Ireland?
A. If admission is made to either the EU Settlement Scheme or subsequently under UK law any partner will be given full employment rights in Northern Ireland. The partner would be eligible to make use of NHS services and take up employment with any employer in Northern Ireland.
Q. What about children coming to Northern Ireland who may not be British or Irish citizens?
A. Children under the age of 18 can apply for dependant visas of either the father or mother. Once the visa is obtained the children can enrol in any school-based in Northern Ireland.
This section applies to individuals who do not hold a British or Irish passport. If you hold nationality which is either from within the EU or outside the EU, the following requirements will apply.
Q. I do not hold a British or Irish passport can I live and work in Northern Ireland?
A. It is likely you will need to obtain a Skilled Worker visa to live and work in Northern Ireland.
Q. What are the requirements for a Skilled Worker visa?
A. There are four main requirements for a Skilled Worker visa:
- The applicant must have a job offer from a licensed sponsor
- The job must be at a certain skill level
- The salary must be at a certain level
- The applicant must satisfy an English language requirement
Q. What sorts of jobs are eligible for a Skilled Worker visa?
A. There are hundreds of roles eligible for a Skilled Worker visa. The applicant is not required to hold a degree-level qualification. The new immigration system has become more liberal allowing for many medium-skilled roles to meet the requirements. For example, anything from an IT professional to electricians and plumbers for instance.
Q. How long does it take to secure a Skilled Worker visa?
A. There are many factors which contribute to the length of time for securing a Skilled Worker visa such as the country an application is being made or the passport(s) held by the applicant. Reasonable to expect anywhere between 1-3 months for the successful approval of the visa.
Q. Can my partner and children accompany me to Northern Ireland if I secure a Skilled Worker visa?
A. Yes a partner and children are eligible to apply for a dependant Skilled Worker visa. Once granted the partner will have full employment rights and the children can enrol in any school here in Northern Ireland.
Q. Can I reside long term and settled in Northern Ireland through the Skilled Worker visa category?
A. After holding Skilled Worker status for a period of 5 years you can proceed to make an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) i.e. permanent residency
Q. Are any other visas available beyond the Skilled Worker visa category?
A. Yes there are a number of other visa categories available to live in Northern Ireland. If you have an entrepreneurial background having run businesses in another country with a solid idea to incorporate something in Northern Ireland the Tier 1 visa category could be applicable. If your intention is to study in Northern Ireland at the likes of Queen’s or Ulster University a student visa would be most relevant.
N.B This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor.