Working in the UK
Depending on your visa you will have specific permissions if and how you can work in the UK during or after your studies.
Working during your studies
Students on full time degree-level courses holding a Tier 4 visa are permitted to work in the UK
Requirements and rules
- Up to 20 hours per week during University term time. UKVI has defined a "week" as "a seven day period starting on a Monday and ending on a Sunday"
- Full-time in vacation periods
- Full-time during term time if on a work placement that is an integral and assessed part of the course - any work placement must not be longer than 50% of the total course length (unless there is a UK statutory requirement for the course to contain a specific period of work placement which exceeds this limit.)
- As a student union sabbatical officer for up to two years.
- If you hold a Tier 4 visa for a part time course you will not have the right to undertake any work, paid or unpaid, in the UK.
Tier 4 students can only work on a temporary basis - they cannot be employed on a permanent contract. They cannot be self-employed or set up a business, or employed as a professional sportsperson or as an entertainer. If you have another type of visa, please check if you can work during your studies with the International Student Advice team. The Home Office provides some examples of what would be considered "engaging in business" (so you would not be allowed to do this) in the Tier 4 guidance. This includes:
- 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 a trust for you); or
- Working for a company where you also hold a statutory role, such as a director.
Even if you are working for a company or client outside the UK if you are physically in the UK while you are doing the work then this counts towards your 20 hour limit. It also means that if you are doing any freelance work for someone outside the UK (e.g. editing journal articles) this would count as self-employment so is not allowed.
Further information about working during your studies is provided by UKCISA. They have also produced a very useful blog covering some of the common issues around working during your studies and looking at different types of work that would not be permitted.
After your course has finished - your visa status
Once your course has officially finished, you will be classed as on 'vacation' and can work for up to 4 months or until your Tier 4 visa expires (whichever is sooner). If you wish to take a permanent full-time job in the UK after your course, you will need to change your visa status. You may be able to change to a Tier 2 visa once you have completed the course (after the official end date stated on the CAS.) Although remaining in the UK to work is not easy, opportunities are available to qualified international graduates.
Q: If I want to work 25 hours one week but only 10 the next is this OK? It averages out at less than 20 hours per week?
A: No. This is not an average figure. You can work only 20 hours per week MAXIMUM during term-time.
Q: I am a Masters student and I am doing my dissertation over the summer, but only during some evenings. Can I work full time as it is the summer holiday?A: If you are on a 12-month full-time Masters degree, you cannot work full-time during the summer as you are not considered to be on vacation during that period. This is the same for PhD students who are only on vacation during University closure periods or if formally agreed by your supervisor in writing.
Q: My employer needs a letter from the University confirming my term-dates. Where can I get this?
A: Letters confirming term dates are provided by the department. This should confirm when you are considered to be on vacation from the University and when you are not. The University cannot provide a letter confirming your working rights - these are detailed on your visa and it is your employer's responsibility to check if you can work or not. The Home Office has updated its guidance for employers on right to work checks for employers.
Q: The Christmas holiday ended on 5th January, but my department has an 'assessment period' until 23rd January. I don't have any exams. Can I therefore work full-time during the assessment period?
A: No, unless your department confirms in writing that you are considered to be on vacation from the University during that period.
Q: How do I know if the work I want to do during term-time is an assessed and integral part of my course?
A: Your department will know. If it is assessed and integral, the department should know where you are working and have some formal oversight / arrangement with the employer. There should be some formal procedure for assessing the work you are undertaking.
Q: I have handed in my dissertation early, but my formal course end date isn't until 30th September. Can I work full-time now?
A: No. You cannot work full-time until the formal end date of your course has passed, regardless of when you complete your studies. Once the formal end date has passed you are considered to be 'on vacation' for a maximum period of four months or until the end of your current visa, whichever is sooner, so can work full-time on a temporary basis at that point.
Q: What does being ‘self-employed’ mean? How do I know if I am self-employed?
A: There is a useful definition of ‘self-employment’ on the UK Government website. If you are not sure whether the work you want to do will involve you being ‘self-employed’ then you should check this with the International Advice Team before you undertake the employment. You need to be aware you are in breach of your immigration conditions if you act as self-employed whilst in the UK on a Tier 4 visa.
Q: Where can I get advice on working in the UK during or after my studies?
A: The International Advice Team in the Student Centre can advise on your rights to work in the UK and your immigration options in relation to working after you complete your course. The Careers and Skills Development Office can help with job applications, preparing for interviews, job searching, careers advice and CV preparation.
Visa opportunities after your studies
- Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
The visa is aimed at students who have successfully completed a degree course in the UK and who wish to develop ideas or entrepreneurial skills by setting up a business in the UK.
- Tier 2 (General) for international graduates
Visa if you’ve been offered a skilled job in the UK or you’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.
- Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme
PhD students will are able to apply for a further leave of 12 months under the Doctorate Extension Scheme.
- Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme)
Nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong (SAR), British Overseas Citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens and British Nationals (Overseas) can apply to work in the UK for 2 years.
- Tier 5 (Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange)
The scheme allows you to undertake specific types of work in the UK for a period of one year or for two years, depending on the scheme. You must have a Tier 5 sponsor.