Students Staff

Working in the UK during your studies

Please read UKCISA's extensive guidance on working while studying.

European students

If you are a European national you can work freely in the UK. Please read the UKCISA guidance for more information.

International students

Whether you can work during your studies depends on what type of immigration permission you have. Your visa will say if you can work in the UK and, if so, how many hours per week during term time.

If you are unsure what conditions you have been given or don't understand the wording on your sticker/identity card, please check with our International Services Team before you start working.

You can work if your Tier 4 visa (Entry Clearance or Biometric Residence Permit) says you can, provided you haven’t stopped studying before completing your course. The hours you can work and type of work you can do are restricted.

The Home Office state in the Tier 4 Policy Guidance: "The main purpose of the Tier 4 visa route is for you to come to the UK to study. Where you are permitted to work, the intention is that this should be to supplement your income whilst studying (in most cases we expect this to be taking a part-time role for an established business/organisation(for example, a customer service role at a retailer) or as part of a work placement provided it is an integral and assessed part of your course)."

If you have Tier 4 dependants in the UK who want to work they should check the wording on their visa. Further information is available from UKCISA.

  • Types of work

    The UK government allows most Tier 4 (General) students to work in the UK, however, the type of work you can do is restricted, including as a work placement and applies for the whole of your Tier 4 visa including the ‘wrap up’ time after your course has finished.

    You must not:

    • be self-employed or engage in business activity (read the Tier 4 Policy Guidance for a definition)
    • be employed as a professional sportsperson including as a sports coach
    • be employed as a professional entertainer
    • take a permanent full-time job (except as an elected SU sabbatical officer)
    • work as a doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on the foundation programme

    We highly recommend you read the UKCISA information including the UKCISA blog for more information on the types of work you can or can’t do.

    Amateur entertainers, sportspersons or sports coaches

    You can work as an ‘amateur’, this is defined in the immigration rules as 'solely for personal enjoyment and not seeking to derive a living from the activity'.

    An ‘entertainer’ is not defined in the rules but the Business Help desk at the Home Office confirmed that they take it to mean 'taking part in entertainment in any way other than as an amateur'.

    Your employer should be able to tell you if you are regarded as an ‘amateur’ and if they have any doubts should check with the Home Office Business Help desk. If you won’t have an employer, it’s not allowed as you’d be self-employed or engaging in business activity.

  • Elected Sabbatical Officer

    The Tier 4 employment conditions allow employment as a Students' Union Sabbatical Officer, as long as:

    • it's for up to two years
    • the post is elective
    • the post is at the institution that is your sponsor

    In addition, elected Sabbatical Officers can work up to the hours stated on their visa in other employment.

    You can also be elected to a National Union of Students (NUS) position.

  • Volunteering

    You might want to be a volunteer during your time in the UK. There is a difference between unpaid employment (voluntary work) and volunteering, and you should always check with the organisation that offers 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.

    The Government has produced information about the difference between voluntary work and volunteering with some useful examples, and the Tier 4 Policy Guidance now confirms that Tier 4 students can volunteer and explains how the Home Office differentiates between 'voluntary work' and 'volunteering'.

  • Number of hours

    Your Tier 4 (General) visa should have a condition allowing the following hours of work per week in term time:

    • Degree students – 20 hours
    • Below degree level students – 10 hours

    You must only work the hours stated on your visa. You cannot exceed the hours in any individual week. A ‘week’ is defined in the Immigration Rules as 7 days starting on a Monday. In your vacations you can work longer hours but must check what term time means for you and when you have official vacations.

    If you're an elected Tier 4 Sabbatical Officer, you can work up to the restricted hours stated on your visa in other employment. This is in addition to the full time Sabbatical Officer post.

    If you are on an integral and assessed work placement as part of your course you can work full time in the work placement. In addition, you can do other allowed part-time work within the weekly limit stated on your visa.

    If your visa shows a different number of hours per week than stated above or states "no work" this could be an error. Please contact us and we will check it for you and if appropriate can request it is amended by the Home Office.

    Work is a valuable experience but your studies come first so, even if your visa allows you to work 20 hours a week the University recommends you do less than this.

  • Definition of term time

    The University's standard term times do not apply to all students. If you want to work more hours in your vacations, you must check when the University considers you to be on vacation. As a rough guide only:

    • Below degree level students – your term time will depend on the course you are studying.
    • Undergraduate degree students – you will have three terms with vacations at Christmas, Easter and in the summer.
    • 1 year Masters students – you will have vacations at Christmas and Easter only.
    • PhD students – you do not have standard vacations and should only work part-time.

    After the course end date on your CAS you can work full-time until your visa expires. PhD students can work full time after they have been awarded their PhD and submitted their thesis into our Research Repository until their Tier 4 visa expires. If the duration of your course increases, you must continue to work part-time hours until you have fully completed your studies and should seek immigration advice.

    If you withdraw, intermit or take a leave of absence from your course you must stop working immediately as you will no longer have the right to work in the UK.

  • Work Placements

    Work placements part of your course

    You may be able to undertake a work placement that is an assessed and integral part of your course. The University must check the work placement meets the Tier 4 requirements and report the work placement to the Home Office. For Essex degree level students it must not form more than 50% of your course duration (as stated on your CAS). Work placements can be paid or unpaid.

    In addition to an integral and assessed work placement you can also take other allowed types of employment up to the weekly hourly limit stated on your visa.

    The working restrictions regarding the type of work you are allowed to do also apply to a work placement unless there is a specific exception in the Tier 4 Policy Guidance. There are currently no exceptions that apply to University of Essex courses.

    Work placements alongside your course

    If you undertake a work placement alongside your study that isn’t integral, assessed and agreed by the University, you must count the hours within your weekly limit.

  • Breaching your working conditions

    If you undertake any work that is not allowed or work more hours than you should, you will be considered to be in breach of your immigration conditions. This is a criminal offence and can have very serious consequences for you and for the University’s Tier 4 sponsor licence.

    If you are concerned that you may have broken your conditions please seek advice from SU Advice, an independent, confidential Students' Union service.

  • Requesting written confirmation of your term dates and vacations

    Your employer must check your visa allows you to work and if there are any restrictions. You must have a valid visa in a valid passport or a valid Biometric Residence Permit. To employ a Tier 4 student your employer also has to have written confirmation from the University confirming your term dates and vacations, you can request this from our International Services Team.

    If your employer has any questions about your work conditions they would need to contact the Home Office.

    Your passport has expired

    If the passport your visa is in has expired, you will have to apply to transfer your visa to a Biometric Residence Permit if you want to work.

    Working at the University

    If you will be working for the University and have any questions about the right to work documents, please email Human Resources resourcing@essex.ac.uk.

If you have immigration permission as a Short-term student you are not allowed to work in the UK at all even if it is unpaid. You cannot do a work placement.

If you don't have a student visa you must check the immigration rules that apply to you before you start work. The immigration advisers at the University aren't able to provide advice regarding non-student immigration categories. Check the Home Office website for more information and seek advice from an alternative immigration service if necessary.

National Insurance and Income Tax

Information about Income Tax and National Insurance is available from HM Revenue and Customs.

The International Students' Association, part of the Students' Union, arrange National Insurance number interviews at our Colchester Campus at various points in the year.

Finding work

Our Employability and Careers Centre can help you find work and provide information about employment rights.