Students' union sabbatical officers

Last modified: 10 August 2016

We have written this brief guide to help international students and recently elected students' union sabbatical officers who are subject to immigration control understand the immigration requirements they need to meet in order to start and carry out their work.

Throughout this guide we include guilds and associations when we use the term "students' union".

We also aim to provide information for students' unions to help them advise their new sabbatical officers on immigration matters, and for Tier 4 sponsors who need to assign a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) to their students and former students. All parties need to work together closely and it is helpful if Tier 4 sponsors and students' unions have a standing arrangement as to how they will support international students who win elections, even if that has not yet happened in their institution.

We have divided the guide into three main sections but all information is of relevance to everyone involved with the process and it helps to have an idea of the requirements each person or organisation has to meet.

We are grateful to the following individuals and organisations for their help in compiling this information: Nick Entwhistle and Daniel Stevens of the NUS; Claire O'Leary of the University of Warwick; Jo Holliday of the University of Sheffield Students' Union; Ruth Newman of Kent Union and Tony Williams of the University of Kent; Neil Gaskin and Abbie Lacey of Swansea University.

Students and recent graduates

Last modified: 12 August 2016

Students' union sabbatical officers are paid, elected executive union positions. The term "sabbatical officer" also includes those elected to posts with the National Union of Students (NUS). These posts are usually full time.

You might be considering standing for election as a students' union sabbatical officer, or you might have already been elected. You can do this work either by taking a break from your studies or in the academic year after your course has ended. The post is usually for one year, but can be shorter. In many cases, you will be able to stand for re-election for a second year, but this depends on the rules of your students' union. If you want to know what the work involves, ask staff who work in the students' union at the college or university where you are studying or check their website.

European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals and students who are in the UK as the family member of an EEA or Swiss national should see EEA and Swiss students for information about your situation. The rest of this section does not apply to you.

You do not need to make an immigration application before starting work if you have immigration permission (leave) that allows you to work full time and that covers the whole of your period of work as a sabbatical officer. This is also the case if your current leave allows you do to the work but expires before the end of your post if you know that you will be able to apply to extend your leave in this category. This leave can be one of many different immigration categories, including dependant leave, UK ancestry, and Tier 5 (Youth Mobility). It does not include Tier 2 because this leave 'ties' you to the employer who issued your certificate of sponsorship (CoS). 

If you already have Tier 4 leave for your studies, or you might need to apply for Tier 4 leave to undertake the sabbatical officer post, see Tier 4 and Tier 4: funds and English language.

The students' union is required by law to check that you have immigration permission that allows you to do the work and to take a copy of evidence of this, usually your current passport and/or your current biometric residence permit (BRP) or immigration status document.

Students' unions

Last modified: 12 August 2016

International students are increasingly interested in standing for election as sabbatical officers, so it is important to be familiar with the legal requirements for working with those who are subject to immigration control. The NUS has produced a guide to the employment status of sabbatical officers that is of relevance to all officers.

Tier 4 sponsors

Last modified: 12 August 2016

A student with Tier 4 leave who has been elected as a students' union sabbatical officer during or after studies needs continued sponsorship from you, this includes those who are elected to work with the National Union of Students (NUS).

A student who needs to apply for Tier 4 leave in order to carry out the post or in order to complete studies after the post has ended will require a confirmation of acceptance of studies (CAS) from you. You remain responsible for the student, but you should not require the student to report to you. You should instead work with the students' union or with the NUS, so that you are alerted as quickly as possible to any problems that could affect your sponsorship of the student.

Home Office documents say very little about students' union sabbatical officers. For example, there is almost no guidance on how to complete the CAS for them or how to report when they start or end their sabbatical officer post. Information contained in this guide therefore reflects the experience of those who have sponsored sabbatical officers. If you have access to a Home Office account manager, it could also be a good idea to email details of how you intend to complete the CAS and ask for Home Office approval or corrections before you assign it.

The Tier 4 policy guidance states that time spent under Tier 4 as a sabbatical officer does not count towards the five-year cap on degree-level study, and the Immigration Rules provide an exemption for them from the academic progress requirement - see Assigning a CAS for more information.