Northern Ireland Strategic Migration Partnership

Setting up home and integrating into a new culture can be confusing. This page gives an overview of public services in Northern Ireland and entitlements and support available to workers. Links are provided to organisations which can provide more detailed information, advice and support.

For general information on life in Northern Ireland the following websites and publications may be useful:

  • NI Direct brings together lots of information from government departments and agencies, written in language that is easy to understand. Selected information is available in a range of languages.

  • New to Belfast: A Guide of Support Services 2015 lists the public authorities, community organisations and charities which can advise and support those newly arrived in the city. Many of these services are available across Northern Ireland.

  • The Refugee Transition Guide, gives vital information to anyone who has recently gained refugee status in Northern Ireland.

  • Living in Belfast is a guide to accessing services and working in Belfast. It also includes some information on the history of ‘The Troubles’. Much of this information is relevant to those living across Northern Ireland. Please note, however, that some details on access to services may be out of date as this guide was published in 2012.

For a list of organisations in Northern Ireland that can give advice and support on a range of issues look at our Support Organisations page 


Public Services Entitlements in Northern Ireland

Health and Social Care

NI Direct provides information on how to access health and social care services in Northern Ireland. The information is given in easy to understand language and includes advice and information on registering with a GP/dentist; illnesses and conditions; mental health; pregnancy; immunisations; support for victims of sexual violence; protecting children and vulnerable adults.

Let your healthcare provider know if you require an interpreter. The Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Interpreting Service is free of charge to the patient, professional and confidential.

Health care is only free for those who are ‘ordinarily resident’ in Northern Ireland. Ordinary residence was redefined in the Immigration Act 2014 and includes only those who have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Some categories of visitors (i.e. those without indefinite leave to remain) are also exempt from charges. This includes refugees and asylum seekers, victims of trafficking and full time students. For more detailed information on eligibility to health care, see New Rules on Access to Healthcare for Migrants in Northern Ireland published by the Law Centre.

The following services are free of charge to everyone:

      • Emergency treatment at an Accident and Emergency Department

      • Treatment of diseases on the Notifiable Disease list

      • Family planning services

      • Treatment of sexually transmitted infections and HIV testing

      • Compulsory psychiatric treatment


NI Direct provides information on a range of issues relating to property and housing, including buying and renting a home, social housing, rates and where to find advice if you are homeless.


The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) offers a range of services to people in relation to housing, including:

      • Application and assessment for social housing

      • Payment of housing benefit for those who are unemployed or on a low income

      • Support for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless

NIHE will provide an interpreter if required. This service is free of charge, professional and confidential.

Housing Rights NI (also known as Housing Advice) provides independent housing advice in Northern Ireland. They outline housing rights and entitlements for migrant workers and provide information in a range of languages.


NI Direct provides information on education, learning and skills. The information is given in easy to understand language and includes advice and information on choosing a school for your child; options available for young people age 14 to 19; adult learning; children’s welfare at school.


The Inclusion and Diversity Service provides advice and assistance to schools regarding provision for pupils who require additional English language support. It also arranges phone or face to face interpreting when required.


Working in Northern Ireland

Right to Work

NI Direct provides information on the right to work and permissions which may be required to work in Northern Ireland.

Employment Rights

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions Migrant Workers Support Unit  aims to eliminate racism, discrimination, exploitation and barriers in accessing services for migrant workers. It publishes an overview of the rights of workers and a list of places which can advise and support if you have problems accessing your rights at work.

Benefit Entitlements

Citizens Advice Bureau can provide advice on claiming means-tested benefits for EEA nationals and for non EEA nationals

The Law Centre has up-to-date information on entitlements to social welfare benefits, tax credits and allowances.



Northern Ireland Strategic Migration Partnership