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Working during your studies


As a student on a Tier 4 visa you're entitled to remain in the UK for the entire course of study, plus an additional period at the end of your degree. During this period you are entitled to work during your studies, as long the wording on your visa does not prohibit it.

Most students on full-time degree courses are given work restrictions.

If you're allowed to work, your visa will state that 'Work must be authorised'. This actually means that you have an automatic right to work. If you are not allowed to work, your visa will be endorsed 'No work' or 'Employment prohibited'.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) provides an information sheet on working during your studies.  

What are my work restrictions?

  • a) students must not engage in business, be self employed or work as a professional sportsperson or entertainer

  • b) students must not pursue a career by filling a permanent full time vacancy

Different work restrictions apply to undergraduate, postgraduate and postgraduate research students and others below.

Undergraduate students

Students studying at undergraduate degree level who have a restriction on working are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours a week during term time, and any number of hours during the vacation period. Once you've completed all elements of your degree and are waiting for your results then you will be able to work full time for a maximum of four months or until your Tier 4 visa expires, whichever is the earliest.  You can find details of your term dates here. 

Postgraduate taught students

Postgraduate students who have a restriction on working are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours a week during term time and full time during the Christmas and Easter Vacation only.            

During the summer term you cannot be considered to be on vacation until you have completed all elements of your degree, including submission of your dissertation or final corrections to your thesis. Once you've completed all elements of your degree and are waiting for your results then you will be able to work full time for a maximum of four months or until your Tier 4 visa expires, whichever is the earliest.  

Postgraduate research students

As a research student you do not have the same defined vacation periods as undergraduate and postgraduate taught students. Your working hours remain as 20 hours per week throughout the year. You would only be allowed to work full time during your vacation time.

As a PhD student your vacation periods would need be approved and authorised by your supervisor. You would need to make sure that authorisation of your holiday is recorded and a copy is also given to you. 

Applying for a yellow card if you're from Croatia

If you're from Croatia and wish to work during your studies, you have to apply for and be issued with a yellow registration card before you are legally entitled to work in the UK. The yellow card allows you to work 20 hours per week during term time and full time during the vacation.

The International Student Support team can help you to apply for the yellow card. Please come and see us in the International Building IN009 or email us for further information. 

Please be advised that yellow cards may take a number of months to be processed, therefore please ensure that you have made sufficient provision to help fund your living expenses before you come to the UK, and apply for the yellow card as soon as you have enrolled as a student at Royal Holloway.

For further information on how to apply please refer to the Home Office website.

Obtaining a National Insurance number

To work in the UK you will require a National Insurance (NI) number. Everyone who works in the UK must pay National Insurance (NI) contributions to the Government. These are deducted directly from your wages. Students who do not have a National Insurance number (including both EEA and non-EEA students) will need to follow the procedure below to obtain one. You must have the right to work in the UK.

Students who are actively seeking work may apply for a National Insurance number by telephoning the following number:  

0345 600 0643

 The telephone operator will ask you a number of questions including:

  • Full UK address and postcode

  • Personal details (name, date of birth)

  • Employer’s name and address if you have one

  • Your occupation

  • Your date of entry to the UK

  • Your eligibility to work in the UK (e.g. student visa, student dependant visa, EU citizen)

The phone call will last approximately 10 -  20 minutes.

If the operator considers you eligible for a National Insurance number on the basis of the information you have supplied, they will book an appointment for you to have a National Insurance number interview at one of the local offices (they will provide the address). An interview will be arranged locally (usually within 18 working days) and you will receive a National Insurance number several weeks thereafter. The whole process should take no longer than six weeks.

Work placements

If the work placement is included as part of your degree course when you applied for your Tier 4 visa, then you will be able to work full-time during your placement year as long as the placement is no longer than 50 per cent of the length of your degree  AND your degree is in the UK OR you are studying a degree in another country and part of your degree criteria is spending part of your time at  Royal Holloway.

Short term study students and employment

Short-term students are not allowed to work in the UK, either in a paid or an unpaid job. You're not allowed to enrol on a course of study that includes a work placement or work experience. Short-term students can volunteer but may not do voluntary work. You must be clear on the difference between the two.

Volunteering: voluntary work vs volunteers

Certain volunteering  positions count as work and some do not. You need to make sure you are aware of the difference as you could be breaching your work conditions.

Voluntary work (unpaid employment): this would count towards the number of maximum hours per week in which you can work:

  • Often have a contract with their employer/organisation (this means the employer must provide the work and the voluntary worker must attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks)

  • Voluntary workers are also usually remunerated in kind.


  • do not have a contract of employment

  • must not take the place of an employee

  • must not receive payment in kind except reimbursement for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses

  • usually help a charity, voluntary or public sector organisation.

You should always check with an organisation which offers you a volunteering opportunity whether it might be regarded as unpaid employment.

Some important points about your right to work

  • If you exceed the permitted working hours this 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

  • You are not allowed to apply for welfare benefits or public funds

  • You may undertake a sandwich placement, as long as it forms part of your degree.

If your employer is not sure about work conditions and restrictions please, provide them with the following link here. 








Contact us

We're located at the International Building, Room 009, 

We're open: Mon-Fri, 10.00am to  4.00pm 

Email: internationaladvice@royalholloway.ac.uk


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