Working during your studies
Working to make ends meet is an essential for many students. But if you are an international student, are you allowed to take paid work? On this page, you'll find the information you need to stay within the rules.
Broadly speaking, many Tier 4 'General' students are allowed to do some paid work in the UK during their studies. Tier 4 'Child' students – who are aged 16 or older – can work up to ten hours a week.
Working and your visa
You should check your passport sticker (entry clearance or residence permit) or Biometric Residence Permit (identity card) to understand your working restrictions.
Who is permitted to work?
You are permitted to work in the UK if either your passport sticker or identity card state one of the following:
- Work (and any changes) must be authorised
- Able to work as authorised by the Secretary of State
- Work as in Tier 4 rules
- Restricted work (part-time term time, full-time vacations)
- Restricted work (term-time)
- Work limited to a maximum 20 hours per week during term time
- Work limited to a maximum ten hours per week during term time
Who is not permitted to work?
Your passport sticker or identity card might say something a bit different from these examples, but you can work if it does not say:
- no work
- work prohibited.
If your passport sticker or identity card says 'No work' or 'Work prohibited' you must not work because this would be a breach of your immigration conditions and a criminal offence. The Home Office can check whether someone has been working by making unannounced visits to employers and by obtaining information from the tax department, HMRC.
Please note: students studying at the UWE Bristol International College are not permitted to undertake any work.
If you are in the UK as a student visitor on a Short Term Study visa, your passport sticker or the stamp in your passport will say 'No work' or 'Work prohibited'. This means that you are not allowed to:
- take paid employment
- take unpaid employment
- do a work placement, even if it is part of your course.
If you want to be able to work, you must check that you meet all the requirements of the Tier 4 student Immigration Rules. If you do meet these requirements and you want to apply as a student, you will have to return to the country where you usually live and make an entry clearance application there.
Other types of immigration permission
If you are in the UK but are not a resident, a holder of a Tier 4 Visa or on a student visitor visa, check what your passport sticker or any other documents issued by the Home Office say about employment.
You can usually work without restriction if the only condition in your passport is 'no recourse to public funds'. If it says 'no employment as a doctor in training', you can do any kind of work except employment as a doctor in training, which would usually be on the Foundation Programme.
What kind of work can you do?
You can do most kinds of work, but you must not:
- be self-employed
- be employed as a professional sportsperson including as a sports coach
- be employed as an entertainer
- take a permanent full-time job
- work as a doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on the Foundation Programme.
If your employer is outside the UK, your hours of work undertaken in the UK still count towards your limit of ten or 20 hours a week in term-time.
Professional or amateur sportsperson?
You might need to decide whether your sports activities are professional or amateur. The Immigration Rules define an 'amateur' as 'a person who engages in a sport or creative activity solely for personal enjoyment and who is not seeking to derive a living from the activity'. If you meet this definition, your sports activities are not 'professional' and so you can pursue them with Tier 4 immigration permission.
What about volunteering?
You might want to be a volunteer. However, there's a difference between unpaid employment (voluntary work) and volunteering, so you should always check with the organisation offering you a volunteering opportunity whether it can be regarded as unpaid employment. This is because time you spend doing unpaid employment counts towards your maximum number of hours of work a week.
If you are subject to a work prohibition, perhaps because you are studying at the UWE Bristol International College or have short-term study leave, you should be very careful not to undertake any activities that could be regarded as unpaid employment because this would be a breach of your work conditions.
How many hours a week can you work?
The maximum hours you can work during term time are normally printed on your visa sticker or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), and will depend mainly on when you made your most recent immigration application. If you are not sure how many hours per week you are allowed to work please ask a UWE Bristol Immigration Adviser.
Working during term time
As a student at UWE Bristol you can work a maximum of:
- 20 hours a week if you are studying at degree level or above (this includes undergraduate, Masters and PhD courses)
- 20 hours a week if you are on a study abroad programme at UWE Bristol
- ten hours per week if you are studying a course below degree level at UWE Bristol
- ten hours per week if you have immigration permission as a Tier 4 (Child).
If you have permission to work, you shouldn't work more than the maximum number of hours (20 or ten) in any one week in term time, even if you sometimes work under the maximum number of hours a week in other weeks.
A ‘week’ has been defined by UKVI as meaning a period of seven days beginning with a Monday. If you work irregular hours and/or have more than one employer, you'll need to keep detailed records of how many hours you work each day so that you can be sure that you are not in danger of breaching your work condition.
If you have permission to work, you can work full-time before your course starts and after your course has ended. If you are a full-time student, you may find your studies suffer if you work more than 16 hours a week.
Regardless of the endorsement on your visa, not all students are allowed to work full time during UWE Bristol vacations (see UWE Bristol's term-time and vacation dates). If you are a postgraduate student, please view the ‘postgraduate and research students’ section below.
If you should be doing academic study during this time, you should limit your employment to 20 (or ten) hours per week. Academic study includes:
- attending classes and lectures
- preparing for exams
- doing coursework
- writing essays, a dissertation or thesis.
This means that your entitlement to work during vacations may depend on the type of course you are doing. For example, if you are supposed to research and write a dissertation or thesis while other students are on holiday, this is term time for you and you should restrict your work to 20 (or ten) hours a week during this time.
Employers have a legal obligation to check your term dates before you can start work. You must provide your employer with one of the following:
- A printout from your institution's website showing the term and vacation dates for your course
- A copy email or letter from your institution to you confirming your term and vacation dates
- A letter from your institution to your employer confirming these dates
Postgraduate and research students
As a postgraduate taught or postgraduate research student you can only work what's called 'restricted hours' until you've successfully completed your course.
For most postgraduate students this means you can work no more than 20 hours per week – even during UWE Bristol vacations – until you have submitted your final piece of work, typically your dissertation or thesis.
Working if you leave your course early
You shouldn't work at all if you leave your course or take a break before you have completed it. This is because your permission to work depends on you following a course of study that has work rights attached to it.