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Working during your studies

Students working in a cafe

This page focuses on work regulations and restrictions related to your Student visa. 

If you want more information about finding work during your studies, see Careers and Placements webpage on Looking for work during studies.

If you are on a course of 6 months or longer, you are entitled to work (paid and unpaid) during your studies, as long as the wording on your visa (visa vignette and/or BRP) does not prohibit it. Contact an Immigration Adviser if this does not appear on your visa - contact details are on Immigration advice.

If your visa allows you to work, you must abide by the hour limit written on your visa. 

Not all types of work are permitted, including self employment and freelance work, as well as working as a professional sportsperson or professional entertainer.

It is important that you abide by the hour restrictions and other work restrictions of your visa. Not abiding by the work restrictions of your visa can lead to a cancellation of your visa and potential future refusal from entering the UK. 

If prospective employers have questions about what work you can or cannot do on your visa, you can refer them to the UKCISA information on working in the UK or Careers and Placeent’s International Talent webpage

If you are not allowed to work, your visa will be endorsed 'No work' or 'Employment prohibited'.

Work regulations

How many hours can I work?

Whether or not you can work and how many hours of work you can perform will be written on your visa vignette and/or BRP. 

Students studying below degree level, for example at Foundation, Pre-Masters or pre-sessional English level, are allowed to work (paid and unpaid) a maximum of 10 hours a week during term time and full-time during vacation periods.

Students studying full time at degree level are allowed to work  (paid and unpaid) a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time and full time during vacation periods. 

Undergraduates, Masters Taught, and Masters in Research students can also work full time after their course completion until their visa expiry date. 

Postgraduate Research (PhD) Students can work full-time during official annual leave and in the period between submitting the draft thesis and waiting for the viva. PhD students are “in term time” and thus restricted to 20 hours of work per week from their viva until their degree is awarded. 

They can work full time after their degree has been awarded until their visa expiry date. You may be asked to show proof to your employer that you have been awarded your degree, such as a Certificate of completion or Award letter.

PhD students are allowed 30 days of annual leave per year (during which they can work full time) and must submit an annual leave form before taking vacation.

What work can't I do ?

There are restrictions on working for Tier 4/Student Visa holders.

Under the Tier 4/Student Visa rules you may not:

  • be self-employed (this includes freelance contracts);
  • fill a full-time, permanent vacancy (except on a recognised foundation programme or as a students’ union sabbatical officer);
  • be employed as a professional sportsperson (including a sports coach);
  • be employed as an entertainer;
  • be a doctor in training (except on a recognised foundation programme); or
  • engage in business activity.  You will be considered to be engaging in business activity where you are working for a business (in the UK or abroad) in a capacity other than an employee in which you have a financial or other significant beneficial interest. This would include the following:
    • setting up a business;
    • being employed by a company in which you hold shares of 10% or more (including where the shares are held in a trust for you);
    • working for a company where you also hold a statutory role, such as a director.

For more details about what work you can and cannot do, please see UKISA’s webpages and UKISA's Blog, “A working definition”

These rules are not straightforward, particularly those relating to business activity, which could include prohibiting Tier 4/Student Visa holders from working for their own business in the UK even if the business is based outside the UK.  If you are at all uncertain, contact an Immigration Adviser - see Immigration advice for contact details.

EU/EEA/Swiss Students- With (or eligible for) Pre-settled/Settled status

You may work in the UK with no restrictions. 

Employers should not ask for proof of your status under the EU Settlement Scheme until 30 June 2021, at which point they may ask to see your status. Until then, you can continue using your passport or EUID to prove your right to work.

International (including EEA/EU/Swiss) Students on course of 6 months or less

You cannot carry out paid or unpaid work, work experience or work placements.

What is the difference between volunteering, voluntary work, work placements, casual work, internships, and work experience?

As an international student it is important that you understand the difference between unpaid work (which counts as part of your permitted 20 hours) and genuine volunteering (which doesn't).

  • Volunteering is done on your own terms, usually for a good cause. If you are a volunteer you should have flexibility to come and go and will not have set responsibilities in the way that someone who is "employed" does. No one will be relying on you to do the work, and if you do not show up to do the work, no one will need to replace you. Volunteering is the only type of work that does not count towards your 20hrs/week limit.

  • Voluntary work is done for a charity, a voluntary organisation, fundraising body, statutory body.  A voluntary worker has specific duties and an obligation to perform work. If you do not show up to do the work, you will need to be replaced by someone else so that the work gets done. You are not paid anything more than appropriate expenses. Voluntary work does count towards your 20hrs/week limit.

All of the below types of work also count towards your 20hrs/week limit:

  • A work placement is a specific period of work, often as part of an academic course, related to what you are learning on your course and what you may want to do in the future. You may undertake a work placement full time so long as it forms part of your degree course.
  • Casual work is work that is usually done part time (but sometimes full time) for up to 12 weeks at a time. Many University departments hire students for casual work, so you can speak to your department about what casual work opportunities may be available. You can also visit Career’s webpages on Work while you study for information on how to find a part-time job.
  • An internship is a short period of work, to help you gain relevant skills and experience in the career area you are interested in. You are likely to have specific responsibilities and be doing real work.
  • Work shadowing is a short period of time spent mainly observing the work of someone in a career area of interest to you, to help you get an insight into what is involved.
  • Work experience is a broad term which can be used in relation to all of the above activities!

If you are unsure about anything regarding your work restrictions, contact an Immigration Adviser - see Immigration advice for details.

Important points about your right to work

  • Exceeding the permitted working hours may result in deportation.
  • Although you will probably have the right to work, you must not be depending on this income to support yourself during your studies. 
  • If you are seeking work, ensure that you read about your employment rights and responsibilities, such as applying for a National Insurance number. 
  • You may undertake a full time work placement, as long as it forms part of your degree course.