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Recruitment of refugees and asylum seekers and workers from outside the UK

Recruitment into social service roles is an ongoing challenge for many employers across Scotland but there are now increasing opportunities to recruit staff who are not UK nationals.

Here you will find guidance to help you recruit into early years, social care and social work and information to help you offer training and employment opportunities to non-UK nationals who now live in the UK with either refugee status or as an asylum seeker.

The UK’s points-based immigration system provides routes for people who want to live and work in Scotland.

The UK government added most adult care roles to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) in February 2022. Although initially only for a 12-month period the UK government’s request for a general review of the SOL has meant an extension of that 12-month period and the possibility of having care roles added to the next iteration.

There are two significant and positive impacts of care roles being included onto the SOL. The first is that it allows overseas workers to apply for a Health and Care Worker Visa. The second is that it creates opportunities for asylum seekers, with permission to work, to apply for care roles.

The Migration Advisory Committee report

The MAC report on adult social care details the impact of ending freedom of movement has had on the sector since January 2021.

Read the Review of adult social care 2022

Ukrainian nationals: a guide for social service employers

Read our guide here

Pre-Employment and Induction Guide for Employers of Overseas Workers, Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Read our guide here


How do I recruit workers from outside the UK?

Recruiting workers from outside of the UK has additional requirements. The rules have changed recently to reflect changing global factors, but don’t be put off looking to this rich source of talent to fill the gaps in your workforce.

Once you have decided to recruit from outside of the UK one of the first things you will need to do is apply for a Sponsor Licence. You can find guidance for employers at Recruiting people from outside the UK.

If you are recruiting into adult social care the Health & Care Worker visa is the most relevant. The eligible care roles are:

  • care assistant
  • care worker
  • carer
  • home care assistant
  • home carer
  • support worker (nursing home)
  • senior care assistant
  • senior carer
  • senior support worker (local government: welfare services)
  • team leader (nursing home).

The minimum salary you must offer is £20,480 and this cannot be pro-rated for part-time staff. You must also ensure that any applicants can read, write and understand English to at least B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.

There are many other routes and visas if you are recruiting into other parts of the workforce. You can see more information on these at the UK.Gov webpage Work in the UK.

You should ask successful applicants for a Criminal Record Certificate from their resident country, but there are options if they are unable to provide one. You can find more information at Criminal Record Checks for Overseas Applicants.

They will though be required to apply to join the PVG Scheme once they are in the UK, even though it is unlikely to disclose anything if this is their first time in Scotland. You can find more information at Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme webpage.

Apart from Social Work, it is not a requirement for applicants to have achieved a specific qualification before taking up employment as a social services worker in Scotland. The fee for an assessment of a social work qualification is currently £320. However, to encourage recruitment the SSSC has recently agreed to waive all charges for the assessment process, including an aptitude test if required, for anyone holding refugee or asylum seeker status or who has arrived under one of the resettlement schemes, for example from Ukraine or Afghanistan.


How does the recruitment of refugees and asylum seekers differ from recruiting any other non-UK worker?

The terms refugee and asylum seeker are often used interchangeably but it is important to distinguish between them as there is a legal difference.

A refugee is a person who has fled their own country because they are at risk of serious human rights violations there, an asylum-seeker will also have fled their country but hasn’t yet been legally recognized as a refugee and is waiting for a decision on their application.

Individuals with refugee status have permission to work in the UK in any profession or skill level. Asylum-seekers do not have permission to work until they are granted refugee status, or their application takes more than a year. At that point they can apply for permission to work, but only in roles on the Shortage Occupations List.

Refugees and asylum seekers who are already in the UK are not required to apply for a visa. Therefore, an employer who is recruiting from this displaced talent pool would not need to have a sponsor licence.

If professional references are not available, you should obtain a minimum of one character reference from the Refugee Council or another suitable UK contact.

Refugees and asylum seekers are required to apply to join the PVG scheme, usually once they are in the UK. It is unlikely to disclose anything if this is their first time in Scotland, but it will ensure they, like all workers, will be subject to continuous monitoring. You can find more information at Criminal Record Checks for Overseas Applicants.

Read Monica’s Story for a real life example of a refugee, originally from Eritrea, who is now working as a care worker in Scotland.



What help and advice is available to me to recruit overseas workers, refugees and asylum seekers?

Many charities and other organisations offer advice, guidance and, in some cases, practical support to help you in employing overseas workers, refugees and asylum seekers.

The Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) is an independent charity dedicated to supporting people in need of refugee protection. They have a framework to guide and support partner employers in recruiting candidates from a refugee background, allowing you to find the staff you need and helping refugee candidates to effectively show the skills they have to offer.

Talent Beyond Boundaries was the first organisation in the world to pioneer talent mobility for displaced people. Now partnering with the Scottish Government, they have offices across the world and can help employers identify suitable candidates seeking employment in Scotland. They help the employer and the candidate in getting through the process, including with visa applications, then help employers to welcome their new recruit and help new recruits to settle into a new life.


How do I recruit into a children and young people service?

Recruiting non-UK workers is not just for adult care services. There are some important differences if you are recruiting into children and young people (CYP) roles.

If you are recruiting into a CYP service you should look at the Skilled Worker Visa. There are a number of eligible roles, including in early years, and these will have a Minimum Salary Requirement.

Most roles in CYP services are not included in the Shortage Occupation List and will therefore not benefit from lower salary thresholds for the Skilled Worker visa. CYP roles are not eligible for the Health and Care visa.

Even though asylum seekers may have permission to work, they cannot apply for most CYP roles as they are not on the Shortage Occupation List. Anyone with refugee status can apply for a role in CYP care.

You can find more details of other types of visa at Finding the right visa.


Advice and guidance from the Scottish Government and the Home Office

The recruitment of overseas workers can seem like a complicated and frustrating process, but there is lots more guidance and advice available to help guide you through it.

The Scottish Government has issued a Code of Practice (Revised August 2022) for the recruitment of health and social care staff from overseas. The update to the Scottish Code of Practice will help to ensure that all international recruitment undertaken in Scotland is ethical.

The website has a wealth of information about living and working in Scotland that would be useful to employers promoting Scotland as a place for career opportunities.

On 24 December 2021 the Home Office released a statement confirming the inclusion of more social care roles on the Shortage Occupation List. This meant care workers, care assistants and home care workers would become eligible for Health and Care Visa.

A Health and Care Worker Visa allows health and care professionals to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care. The requirements and restrictions are generally more favourable than other visas, which makes it an attractive option for non-UK workers looking for employment in Scotland.

The UK government has published 'The UK’s Points-Based Immigration System - An introduction for employers' which is a useful guide of the main points.

Skills for Care also has a range of valuable resources and links to help guide you through the process of recruiting staff from overseas.



If you have a role, responsibility or interest in workforce issues in Scotland’s social care sector you may be interested in joining the Scottish Social Care Workforce Planning Network community of interest.

National Induction Framework

This resource will compliment your organisation's induction programme, policies and procedures.


Start your life changing career in social services by exploring our careers website.