In this research, we have analysed the role played by the scope of justice and belief in a just world (BJW) in discrimination against immigrants. In Study 1 (n = 185), we found that the relationship between prejudice and discrimination is mediated by a restricted view of the scope of justice. In addition, the results also showed that this mediation is moderated by BJW insofar as the mediation occurred in participants with a high level of BJW but not in participants with a low level of BJW. Studies 2 and 3 experimentally tested our prediction that the legitimising role played by the scope of justice is guided by a justice motive such as BJW. In both studies, the results showed a greater degree of discrimination against immigrants when a restricted scope of justice was considered but only when the BJW was made salient. In sum, these results introduced an innovation into the literature on the legitimation of social inequalities by demonstrating the relevant role played by the justice perceptions in discrimination against immigrants. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.