Working during study as Student visa holder
Updated on 28 April 2023
If you hold a Student visa you may be able to work while studying however you will need to check you are allowed. If you start to work in the UK you will also need to apply for a National Insurance Number.
Can I work while I study in the UK?
Check what your visa states (either your entry clearance vignette or biometric residence permit).
You cannot work in the UK if your visa states:
- No work
- Work prohibited
This means that you must not undertake any paid or unpaid employment, including work placement(s) which are part of your course.
You can work in the UK if your visa states one of the following:
- Work limited to max 20 hrs per week during term-time
- Restricted work. P/T term time. F/T vacations
Restricted work term time
You must ensure that you comply with any restrictions that apply to you, as it is a criminal offence to breach any immigration conditions.
How many hours can I work during my studies?
If you are here on a Student visa, you can normally work up to 20 hours per week during semester and full-time during vacations. This is a maximum of 20 hours in total in any 7 day period starting on a Monday, including paid or unpaid work and for one or more organisations. The 20 hours cannot be averaged over a longer period.
Please note that semester and vacation dates advertised on the University website only apply to undergraduate students.
Postgraduate taught students
You have more limited vacation periods than undergraduate students. You will be considered on vacation and able to work full time:
- During the Christmas break (from the end of the December exam period to the start of teaching in January)
- After your course submission date for your summer project/dissertation/internship until semester teaching resumes (for January intakes) or your visa expires (for September intakes)
At all other times throughout the year you are considered to be in term time and should only work up to 20 hours per week.
Postgraduate research students
The academic year for postgraduate research students is continuous, meaning you cannot work full time at any point during your studies. You may be able to work after you have submitted your thesis.
After you submit your thesis for examination, the number of hours you can work on a Student visa will depend on the stage of the process:
- The period between submission of thesis for examination and official notification of viva outcome is considered to be 'vacation' and you can work full time
- The period between official notification of viva outcome and unconditional approval of your degree is considered a return to full-time study. This includes time working on corrections, if applicable, and submission of the hardbound thesis.
The restrictions on the type of work you can undertake on a Student visa continue to apply.
Type of work
On a Student visa you can do most kinds of work, but you must not:
- Be self-employed (this may be described as ‘consultancy’, ‘contractor’ or ‘freelance’ work)
- Engage in business activity, this means working for a business where you have a financial or other significant beneficial interest in a capacity other than as an employee
- Fill a full-time permanent vacancy
- Be employed as a professional sportsperson, including as a sports coach
- Be employed as an entertainer
- Work as a doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on the foundation programme
If you are unsure whether these restrictions would apply in particular circumstances, you should seek further guidance from the Immigration Compliance Team prior to undertaking the activity.
Work placements and internships
For visa purposes the Home Office does not make a distinction between work placements and internships.
A Student visa allows you to undertake a work placement, provided it is an ‘integral and assessed’ part of your course. In most cases, you must not spend more than 50% of your course undertaking work placement(s). This limit does not apply where working more than 50% of your course is an essential statutory requirement.
Undergraduate and postgraduate taught students
You may have the opportunity to undertake a work placement as one of your modules, placement details will need to be agreed with your School.
If you undertake a work placement or internship during a vacation period the usual work rules apply.
Postgraduate research students
You can only undertake a work placement on a Student visa if it is considered to be integral to your PhD research and approved by your supervisor. If you wish to defer your studies in order to undertake a work placement, it will not be possible for the University to continue to sponsor your visa during that time.
You can volunteer on your Student visa but the Home Office makes a distinction between volunteering and voluntary work. Voluntary work is considered unpaid employment and is included in your 20 hours a week allowance. Even if the opportunity is advertised as 'volunteering', it could still be considered voluntary work.
Voluntary workers will usually have contractual obligations to perform the work (e.g. to attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks) with the employer being contractually required to provide the work – the contract does not have to be written. You may receive non-cash benefits for your work.
If you are volunteering, you do not have a contract. You must not be a substitute for an employee and must not be doing unpaid work – i.e. receiving payment in kind (although you can be reimbursed for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses).
We advise you to check with the organisation offering the volunteering opportunity whether it would be regarded as unpaid employment.
Paying income tax and National Insurance contributions
You need to pay Income Tax and National Insurance if you earn over a certain amount in a single tax year.
Employees and employers both pay National Insurance contributions and you will need to apply for a National Insurance number (NINo) to record your contributions once you start to work in the UK.
Apply for a National Insurance Number
You can apply for a National Insurance number provided none of the following are true:
- You have a BRP (biometric residence permit) with a National Insurance number printed on it
- You have lost your National Insurance number, check how to find a lost National Insurance number instead
- You are only applying for a National Insurance number because you want to apply for benefits or a student loan
You can apply for a National Insurance Number at GOV.UK and may need your passport and BRP card to prove your identity. It can take up to 8 weeks for a National Insurance number to be issued after you have proven your identity.
Can my family members work while I study in the UK?
Your dependants should be allowed to work if you are given permission to be in the UK for 12 months or more to study at postgraduate level. If your Student immigration permission is under 12 months long your family members will not be allowed to work.
My employer says I must prove I can work during my studies
If your visa does not prohibit work, you are allowed to undertake employment in compliance with your visa conditions without further approval or permission.
Your employer can check with UKVI that you are allowed to work. Employers have a legal obligation to check that you are allowed to work in the UK, so you must be able to provide evidence of this, usually by showing them your passport or visa. You can also request a letter from the University confirming your right to work in the UK
Immigration Compliance Team
+44 (0)1382 385390