If you hold a Tier 4 student visa for degree level study, you are usually entitled to work during your UK stay. However, there will be restrictions and it’s important you comply with them. If you don’t, you’ll be committing an offence.
How do I know if I’m entitled to work?
Students from within the European Economic Area (EEA)
You can work without restrictions, but see our recommendations on term-time working.
Students on a short-term study visa
You cannot work in the UK, either in paid or unpaid work.
Students with a Tier 4 visa
If you hold a Tier 4 student visa, your Biometric Residence Permit card (or your Tier 4 visa vignette in your passport) should say whether you have permission to work. It will normally show something like:
- Work limited 20 hrs p/w term time or
- Work 20 hrs max in term-time or
- Work limit as in PBS rules 20hrs p/w.
If you’re not allowed to work, it will say:
- 'No work' or
- 'Employment prohibited'.
Please make sure you check your visa carefully for the working conditions. You must abide by what is printed on your BRP, even if you have reason to believe it is incorrect. If you think there has been a mistake, please contact the International Student Support Office at the earliest opportunity as there are deadlines to fix Home Office errors.
What are my work restrictions?
You must not:
- engage in business, be self-employed or work as a professional sportsperson or entertainer (be careful of jobs in the 'gig economy' including Uber & Deliveroo - as a Tier 4 student you cannot work in this environment
- pursue a career by filling a permanent full-time vacancy.
For further assistance, take a look at UKCISA’s blog, or contact the International Student Support Office).
- work a maximum of 20 hours a week during term time
- work any number of hours during vacation periods
- Work full-time in the 4 months after you have completed your degree, up until the end of your Tier 4 visa.
You can find details of term dates here.
Postgraduate taught students
- work a maximum of 20 hours a week during term time
- work any number of hours during your Christmas and Easter holidays
- in the summer holiday, you must finish all elements of your degree, including submitting your dissertation or making final corrections to your thesis. You can then work full time for up to four months or until your Tier 4 visa expires, whichever is the earliest.
- Work full-time during the summer vacation period - this is because you are still classed as studying full-time until all taught elements of your Master’s are complete, and your dissertation is completed and submitted.
Postgraduate research students
As a research student, you don’t have defined holiday periods. Therefore you can:
- work 20 hours per week throughout the year
- work any hours during holiday periods that have been approved and authorised by your supervisor. You must have proof of this authorisation.
Obtaining a National Insurance number
If you want to work in the UK, you will need to apply for a National Insurance (NI) number. This will be used to record the National Insurance contributions and tax payments that are deducted from your wages.
To apply for a National Insurance number:
- Call +44 (0)345 600 0643. You’ll be asked to give your:
- full UK address and postcode
- personal details (name, date of birth)
- employer’s name and address if you have one
- date of entry to the UK
- eligibility to work in the UK (e.g. student visa, student dependant visa, EU citizen)
- This phone call will last up to 20 mins. If the operator considers that you are eligible, they will book you a National Insurance number appointment at a local office (usually within 18 working days)
- If your appointment is successful, you will then receive your National Insurance number several weeks later. The whole process generally takes about six weeks.
If your work placement is part of your programme of study covered by your Tier 4 visa (e.g. BSc Management with Accounting with a Year in Business), then the work placement can be full-time.
Volunteering - what counts as work
Certain volunteering positions count as work and some don’t. You need to be aware of the difference as otherwise, you could be breaching your visa conditions. Short-term students can volunteer - but they can’t do voluntary work (unpaid employment).
Voluntary work (unpaid employment)
If you’re doing voluntary work:
- the hours you work will count towards the maximum hours you’re allowed to work each week
- you will often have a contract with your employer/organisation (the employer must provide work and you must attend at particular times/carry out specific tasks; this is normally the quickest and easiest way to distinguish between volunteering and voluntary work
- you will usually be remunerated in kind (paid in goods or services rather than money).
If you are volunteering, you:
- won’t have a contract of employment
- must not take the place of an employee
- must not receive payment in kind except reimbursement for reasonable travel/meals/accommodation for example
- will usually be helping a charity, voluntary or public sector organisation.
Always check with an organisation to find out whether the work you’re doing could be regarded as ‘unpaid employment’.
Applying for a yellow card if you're from Croatia
If you're from Croatia and wish to work during your studies, you will need to apply for a yellow registration card. This will allow you to work 20 hours per week during term time and full time during the holidays.
To apply, see the Home Office website. We can help you - see our contact details below.
Some important points about your right to work
Breaching your visa conditions is a serious offence and can lead to deportation from the UK
The university is required by law to report to the Home Office any breaches of visa conditions it is aware of, so please contact ISSO if you’re unsure of a job opportunity or of any requirements an employer has put on you
You must not depend on income from working to support yourself during your studies
You are not allowed to apply for UK welfare benefits or public funds
If your employer is not sure about restrictions for international students, we suggest they look at this Government guidance.
Want to know more about working during your studies?
See this information sheet from the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).