Whilst you are in the UK holding a Tier 4 student visa, studying must be your main priority. However, most students are permitted to work alongside studies.
It is your responsibility to check your work condition as written on your visa vignette (the sticker in your passport), or, your BRP (Biometric Residence Permit), to ascertain your work permission. We would also encourage you to discuss your plans with your personal tutor/ supervisor before taking any work.
You might have heard about the UK government's plan for a 'Graduate route' to enable international students to work in the UK for 2 years after graduation which is due to be introduced in the summer of 2021. You can find more information on our News item which will be updated as and when we receive more information.
Prospective students, student visitors and all other visitor visa holders are not usually permitted to work.
For immigration purposes, 'work' means any work that you do when you are physically in the UK. For example, if you are physically in the UK studying for a postgraduate degree and you work for a company that operates outside of the UK, you cannot exceed 20 hours of work per week.
Frequently asked questions
Please click on the relevant section below to expand the guidance.
The conditions of a General Student or Tier 4 (General) visa dictate that you must not:
- Fill a full-time permanent vacancy
- Be self-employed or engaged in a business activity *
- Be employed as a doctor or dentist in training (unless on a recognised Foundation Programme)
- Be employed as a professional sportsperson or entertainer **
* “Engagement in a business activity” is defined in the Tier 4 Policy Guidance (paragraphs 316, 317, 318 and 319) as ‘working for a business in which you have a financial or other significant beneficial interest in a capacity other than as an employee’. Below are several example of what the Home Office considers as engaging in a business activity - Please note this is not an exhaustive list:
- Setting up a business as a sole trader or under a partnership arrangement and that business is either trading or establishing a trading presence
- Being employed by a company in which you hold shares of 10% or more, including where the shares are held in trust for you
- Working for a company where you also hold a statutory role, such as a “director.”
- For a bit of more clarification, we have created guidance on a non exhaustive list of different types of self employment.
** You are considered to be a professional sportsperson whether you are paid or not and where you:
- are currently providing services as a sportsperson, playing or coaching in any capacity, at a professional or semi-professional level of sport;
- are currently receiving payment, including payment in kind, for playing or coaching that is covering all, or the majority of, your costs for travelling to, and living in the UK, or you have done so within the previous four years;
- are currently registered to a professional or semi-professional sports team, who have been so registered within the previous four years. This includes all academy and development team age groups;
- have represented your nation or national team within the previous two years, including all youth and development age groups from under 17’s upwards;
- have represented your state or regional team within the previous two years, including all youth and development age groups from under 17’s upwards;
- have an established international reputation in your chosen field of sport;
- engage an agent or representative, with the aim of finding opportunities as a sportsperson, and/or developing a current or future career as a sportsperson, or have engaged such an agent in the last 12 months;
- are providing services as a sportsperson or coach at any level of sport, unless they are doing so as an “Amateur” in a charity event.
Where you are following a course of degree level study or above, excluding a foundation degree, the following work is usually allowed - Always check your Visa Vignette or BRP card first in case there is an error on it:
- Part-time during term-time, that is, no more than 20 hours per week, which is defined by the Home Office as Monday to Sunday
- Full-time during vacations - This does not apply to Postgraduate students - see below
- Full time on a work placement provided that it is an assessed part of the course and is not more than 50% of the total length of the course
Where you are following a course of study below degree level, including a foundation degree, the following work is usually allowed - Always check your Visa Vignette or BRP card first in case there is an error on it:
- Part-time during term time, that is, no more than 10 hours per week which is defined by the Home Office as Monday to Sunday
- Full-time during vacations
- Full time on a work placement as an assessed part of a course
New regulations introduced by the Home Office on 16 May 2014 now mean that Entry Clearance Vignettes, that is, visas that were granted overseas, must be presented in a current passport to enable the holder to work.
If your Tier 4 visa vignette is in an expired passport, in accordance with new regulation, you will not be permitted to work.
If you hold a valid Tier 4 visa inside an expired passport you can apply to have the conditions of this visa transferred to a new passport and be issued with a BRP, which will enable you to work.
To do this you will need to use the Transfer of Conditions (TOC) Form - As at 06 April 2018 the cost of making a postal TOC application in the UK is £161.
The average processing time for a TOC postal application is 6-8 weeks during which time you will not have access to your passport.
A premium application route is available for an additional cost of £610 which would normally take 7-10 days to be processed.
You are entitled to work while the TOC application is in progress subject to your employer conducting relevant checks with the Home Office which confirm an application is underway.
The Immigration Service can assist with TOC applications.
If you would like our assistance, please book an appointment to meet with an adviser.
Working illegally is classed as a criminal offence.
The Tier 4 student visa holder may be sent to prison for up to 6 months, fined up to £5,000, liable to be deported and banned from returning to the UK for up to 10 years.
Employers who knowingly allow the Tier 4 student to work over their total restricted hours permitted also attract criminal sanctions for the employer and place themselves at risk of heavy fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker, as well as putting their Sponsor Licence, if held, at risk - sponsor licences can be downgraded or even removed, depending on the severity of the breach.
Most Tier 4 students can work up to 20 hours a week during term time, although some are restricted to 10 hours, and some have a work prohibition.
Tier 4 students are advised to check their visa vignette or biometric residence permit for their work conditions, as well as to read the University’s advice to its Tier 4 students regarding working. The UK authorities take work conditions on Tier 4 visas very seriously and could take very severe action against those who breach them. For example, if a student exceeds their permitted number of work hours in a working week (Monday to Sunday), or undertakes a type of employment which is not permitted, they may be given a prison sentence, or be removed from the UK, or both.
If a student is removed from the UK, they may face a ban on re-entry for a certain period of time, which could prevent them from successfully completing their studies. Likewise, employers face equally severe financial and criminal penalties for employing Tier 4 students illegally. Employers like the University of Warwick, who are themselves Tier 4 sponsor license holders, are obliged to report any breaches of Tier 4 conditions occurring at the University to the Home Office, including any involving their own Tier 4 students.
These, or any other breaches discovered by the Home Office, could cause the loss of the University’s Tiers 2, 4 and 5 licenses resulting in them no longer being able to sponsor non UK/EEA national students and employees. Therefore, the University must take a zero tolerance approach to illegal working on campus for the protection of its entire staff and student body. The University is determined to prevent work breaches from happening on campus and for this reason, we have put in place some new measures to mitigate the risk of these occurring.
How will these changes affect tier 4 students employed by the university?
From 22nd June 2018, before a Tier 4 student can be engaged by the University, Tier 4 students will need to declare whether or not they have ever been engaged previously by the University or Unitemps. If the answer to this question is ‘no’, and this information is verified by the University against its own records, the student will have a right to work check as a new starter and allocated the maximum number of permitted hours for a Tier 4 student, normally 20 hours per week. This means that the student will be able to receive payment for up to 20 hours worked during each week, Monday to Sunday, but never in excess of this.
If the answer to the original question is ‘yes’, the University will need some additional time to process this request, as it will need to gather information from the two different payroll systems across the University and to cap the number of hours to be worked, and paid, via each of these, during a working week.
To give you an example, if you will be undertaking some teaching hours in your academic department as well as working for Unitemps, the University will fix the number of teaching hours you will be permitted to undertake in order for you to be able to work for up to the remaining number of hours permitted by the legal limit for Unitemps, which will also be fixed at this point. This ensures that it is impossible for you to work in excess of the permitted number of hours.
If you wish to start a new work assignment, and you are aware that you have previously worked at the University, you are advised to start this administrative process at least one week in advance of the assignment start date, which will be approximately the time it will take for your request to be processed. It is also important that enough time is allowed for this process to be completed before the start of the working week during which you will be engaged. Subsequent changes to the number of hours allocated to individual Tier 4 students across systems will take up to 28 days to be effected.
To find out more about work placement, visit our work placement section.
If you are an Undergraduate (Bachelor's) student and have secured a summer internship which starts before the end of the summer term, then you will need a letter from us confirming that your have completed and submitted all the work and exams for the current academic year. This letter can then be used as an evidence to your employer that you can start your internship before the end of summer term.
Please be aware that the earliest your can start your internship will be 3 weeks before the end of summer term. If you make a request for a letter to start an internship earlier than 3 weeks before the end of the summer term, these requests will automatically be deleted. (example: Summer Term ends Saturday 27 June 2020, you can start your Internship on either 06 June 2020 or whenever you have completed all requirements of the academic year - whichever is the later).
To request a letter from us:
- You will need a confirmation from your employer about the dates of your internship (you will have to provide us the internship offer letter)
- A Letter/Email from your department confirming the date by which you will have finished all the requirements (sat all exams, presented all work) of the academic year.
Once you have the above confirmations, you will need to attach them in the request for a letter via filling in the form available at: UG intern letter.
For Master's degree students, regardless of the length of the Master's course i.e. 1, 2, 3 years, the University term dates are irrelevant.
A Master's degree student is only entitled to work full time, that is more than 20 hours per week, after the course end date has passed till the visa expiry date (subject to the exception below).
For work purposes, a Tier 4 student's course end date is the one which is:
- Stated on the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) which was used to obtain the current Tier 4 visa, or
- The revised course end date in the case of academic extension by the recommendation of the Board of Examiners.
After the official course end date, a student can work full-time provided that it is on a temporary or rolling contract and not a permanent position.
The official course end date which was stated on the CAS cannot be brought forward, however, for work purposes (new provision effective from 27 Nov 2019), once all exams have been sat and all work submitted, students will be able to request a letter confirming that:
- The student has sat all exams and submitted all the work towards the degree, and
- The student is considered as 'out of term time' and thus permitted to work full time from the official dissertation/project submission deadline (even if they submitted the final piece of work earlier).
This letter can only be requested by the student (an email from the academic department confirming the dissertation/project submission deadline and that you have completed all the work towards your degree must be attached) by clicking here .This letter can then be used to show your employer that you are permitted to work more than 20 hours per week.
Employers who have stricter rules about when you can start working full time
We are aware that some employers, including Unitemps and the University of Warwick, will prefer to wait until a student's degree has been conferred before they lift the restriction on the number of hours. This is because until the degree is conferred, there is always a possibility that students may be required to re-submit their thesis/retake exams and therefore, revert back to being a full time student with a period of 'academic extension'. If this were to happen when you are working full-time, there is the risk of working illegally which carries heavy penalties for both the employer and employee.
Students who undertake full time employment after the official course end date but before the date of the Board of Examiners do so at their own risk and on the understanding that, if it is recommended that the award not be conferred and further study is required to complete the course, they will return to restricted work rights, that is a maximum of 20 hours per week, during this period of extension. Furthermore, if the Exam Board recommends that the student be permanently or temporarily withdrawn, the student should notify their employer of this change in circumstance and follow our advice here.
For most undergraduate students but sometimes also available for Master's degree students: If you hold a Tier 4 visa, it may be possible to undertake a period of 'work placement', during which time you can work full time, if your academic department considers this to be an 'integral and assessed' part of your course. You should approach your academic department for further guidance in the first instance.
As is the case for Master's students, for Postgraduate Research students University term dates are also irrelevant. A PGR student is only entitled to work part-time, that is up to 20 hours per week, until their course end date has passed. This will be from the official degree conferral date by Senate and not from the thesis submission date or viva date. The only exception is that you can request "authorised absence" for vacation and work purposes; once accepted by the department, you will be able to work a maximum of 28 days per academic year.
After the official course end date, a student can work full-time, provided that it is on a temporary or rolling contract and not a permanent position. If you hold a Tier 4 visa, it may be possible to undertake a period of 'work placement', during which time you can work full-time, if you are enrolled on a credit-bearing module which forms part of your research course, and your academic department considers this to be an 'integral and assessed' part of your research course. You should approach your academic department for further guidance in the first instance.
If you hold a Tier 4 (General) Student visa and are enrolled on a course of study that is taught outside of the regular University term dates, for example the 6 or 10-week pre-sessional English course, you should refer to the course start and end dates on your CAS and not work more than the number of hours permitted by the conditions of your leave during this period. This advice also applies to visiting students with Tier 4 leave who are enrolled outside of the normal University term dates. You may work full time during the period of leave granted before and after the official course start dates included in your CAS.
PEPS students and Visiting/Exchange Students who are enrolled with Student Visitor Visas are prohibited from undertaking any kind of work during their stay in the UK.
If you hold a Tier 4 visa, it may be possible to undertake a period of 'work placement', during which time you can work full time, if your academic department considers this to be an 'integral and assessed' part of your course - this is limited to no more than 50% of the total duration of your study in the UK. You should approach your academic department for further guidance in the first instance.
It is not possible for a Tier 4 visa holder to take part in Warwick's Voluntary Year Out Scheme. You must have gained approval from your department and from Student Records before taking a year out under this scheme. If your department grants the permission, your Tier 4 sponsorship will end. This will be reported to the UKVI and they will curtail your visa. You will need to apply for a new Tier 4 visa, when you need to come back to the UK to resume your studies.
The difference between volunteering and voluntary work:
Tier 4 students can volunteer while they are studying but must be careful as voluntary work is distinct from volunteering. Hours undertaking voluntary work, that is, not volunteering, must be counted in your weekly permitted working hours allowance, according to your Tier 4 conditions.
Factors to take into account when considering if a particular activity constitutes voluntary work or volunteering are:
- Voluntary workers will usually have contractual obligations to perform the work, for example, to attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks, with the employer being contractually required to provide the work - the contract does not have to be written
- A voluntary worker is usually renumerated in kind, for example, getting free or highly discounted accommodation while working
- Volunteers do not have a contract
- They must not be a substitute for an employee and must not be doing unpaid work - for example, receiving payments in kind - although they can sometimes be reimbursed for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses
- Volunteers usually help a charity or voluntary or public sector organisation
There are various ways of finding out about job vacancies.
You could use the University's temping agency, Unitemps or use a JobCentre Plus in Coventry or Leamington Spa, or look for local ads in newspapers or shop/restaurant windows.
See the Students' Union website for job opportunities within Students' Union Website.
For more details, visit our website listed below. You may also use Student Careers and Skills.
You will need an ‘NI’ number if you are undertaking any kind of work in the UK. To apply you should telephone 0800 141 2075. Your personal details will be taken and the application forms will be posted to you.
Income tax and NI contributions are automatically deducted from your pay once you reach a minimum level of earnings in the UK.
The 2018/19 tax free allowance for somebody born after 5 April 1948 is £11,850. If you earn below this level then you do not need to pay income tax or National Insurance. If you only work during university vacations and do not expect to earn more than the annual tax free allowance then you can complete a form so that your employer will not deduct income tax.
Click HERE for more information.
Nationals of EEA countries (including Switzerland) and their dependants, have no restriction on the hours and type of work they can undertake whilst studying in the UK.
For students who are here on a Tier 4 visa, you need to ensure that you continue to adhere to the conditions attached to your visa around how many hours you are permitted to work per week. If you are an undergraduate or postgraduate taught student you should only be working up to a maximum of 20 hours per week until the end date that appeared on your CAS. Undergraduates are permitted to work full-time during University vacations only.
For postgraduate students, there are no official University vacations.
Once the end date on your CAS has passed, you are allowed to work full-time but cannot fill a permanent vacancy. If you are a PhD student should only work up to 20 hours per week until your degree has been conferred. Once your degree has been conferred you can work full-time.
Students who leave their course early need to be aware that once they are no longer studying a course they are not entitled to work, regardless of when their permission to be in the UK ends.
Since March 2018, we have been assured by the Home Office UKVI Policy Team that the Border Force officers have been briefed that returning to the UK after the 'course end date' on your CAS to attend your Graduation Ceremony, pursue further studies, undertake an internship or look for an internship or switch to a Tier 2 visa etc., should not be considered as a 'change of circumstance'. Therefore, if you have completed your course successfully, hold a valid Tier 4 visa and wish to return to the UK for one of the reasons as stated above, you should be permitted to re-enter the UK.
However, please note that the Border Force officials retain the right to establish that you are genuinely coming back to the UK to do what you said you would, and so it is important that you have sufficient evidence in your hand luggage in case you are asked (for example, an email sent from the Awards & Ceremonies (Graduation) Team confirming your registration; a letter confirming your internship; evidence that you are looking for an internship; a print-out of a CoS for a Tier 2 visa; an email from professional services or your academic department confirming you have passed your degree; a return ticket to your home country before your Tier 4 visa expiry date etc).
As with any changes, some of the UK Border Force officials may not remember this and so the safest option is always not to leave the UK during this period (especially if the stakes are high, for example, if you already have a CoS for a Tier 2 visa and failure to re-enter the UK may mean that you lose the opportunity for a Tier 2 job). However, if you have shown sufficient evidence to the UK Border Force official but are still experiencing difficulties re-entering the UK, please give us a call immediately.
A lot of job applications ask the question 'Do you have permission to work in the UK?' As a student in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, it is clear that you will need to switch to a different visa category in order to take a permanent full-time position and so you cannot simply answer yes to this question. We would therefore advise that you make direct contact with the employer to inform them you would like to make an application and to explain your immigration status in the UK. You can inform them that you would be eligible to make an application to switch into a work category, for example Tier 2, if they were in a position to sponsor you. You are advised to check whether an employer is on the register of Tier 2 or Tier 5 sponsors if you require an employer to sponsor you.
Working during studies - UKCISA