Good news for students who are going to embark on an international study in the UK – you are allowed to find work and gain income to supplement your living funds. However, the exact rules depend on when your visa was issued. This article will outline the rules for those students studying in the UK on a Tier 4 Student Visa.

The Tier 4 Student Visa is the visa issued to international students who want to study at an educational institution in the UK. The study must be full-time. Once you receive an offer from a UK educational institution, you must apply for this visa. On receipt of the visa, you are permitted to study, and work, in the UK, although there are some ground rules.

Visa Applied For Before 4th July 2011

If you applied for the Tier 4 Student Visa before the 4th July 2011, the rules for the work that you are allowed to complete are different from the rules for those issued after that date.

Students on a Tier 4 Student Visa that was applied for before 4th July 2011 are allowed to:

  • Embark on part-time employment during the term-time
  • Embark on full-time employment during holiday time
  • Embark on a work placement that is part of your course of study
  • Take up employment in the Students’ Union in the role of a sabbatical officer for a period of up to 2 years
  • Take up employment as a postgraduate dentist or doctor on a Foundation Programme that has been officially recognized by the government

Up to 20 hours of part-time work is permitted per week if you are currently enrolled on a course that is at or above degree level (in the UK) or if you are enrolled on a foundation course.

You are also permitted to work part-time for up to 20 hours per week if you submitted your Tier 4 visa application on or before the 2nd March 2010.

If the course you are enrolled on is at a level below UK degree level, is not recognized as a foundation degree course and you applied for the Tier 4 visa on or after the 3rd March 2010, then you may only take up part-time employment for up to 10 hours per week.

Visa Applied For After 4th July 2011

The rules are slightly different for those full-time students who have applied for the Tier 4 visa after the 4th July 2011. The rules are also different depending on the level of study you are completing.

Those students enrolled on courses at or above QCF 6 / NQF 6 / SCFQ 9 (which generally refers to any Bachelor degree programs or higher) at any higher education institutions in the UK are allowed to:

  • Embark on part-time employment for a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time
  • Embark on full-time work during holidays
  • Embark on a work placement that is part of your course of study
  • Take up employment in the Students’ Union in the role of a sabbatical officer for a period of up to 2 years
  • Take up employment as a postgraduate dentist or doctor on a Foundation Programme that has been officially recognized by the government

Those students enrolled in courses below the UK degree level are allowed to:

  • Embark on part-time work of up to 10 hours per week during term time
  • Embark on full-time work during holidays
  • Embark on a work placement that is part of your course of study
  • Take up employment in the Students’ Union in the role of a sabbatical officer for a period of up to 2 years

If you are studying in the UK through an education provider that is not a recognized UK higher education institution, or publicly funded FE (further education) college, then you are NOT permitted to work during your course of study in the UK.

Other Restrictions

It is important to note that, at no point, are you permitted to embark on full-time permanent employment.

The government has also restricted the type of work that international students can embark on whilst studying in the UK. As an international student in the UK:

  • You are not allowed to work in a self-employed status
  • You must not embark on employment as a doctor in training. The only way in which this is allowed is if you are taking up this employment through a recognized Foundation Programme.
  • You must not take up employment as a professional sportsperson, entertainer or coach.

International students are permitted to work full-time during university holidays, in line with the limits outlined above.

On completion of your course of study, if you wish to remain in the UK and you submit a visa application for consideration, you may embark on full-time employment until you are informed of the decision on your visa application. However, you are only permitted to do this if your current visa has not yet expired.

As with any country, it is important that you abide by the rules of immigration in the UK. Breaking any of the rules regarding visas can result in deportation from the country. Be sure to apply well in advance for any visas that you require and always check with the university or directly with the immigration department if you are unsure of any of the restrictions or requirements of your student visa.