Placements are an excellent way of obtaining work experience, especially if you are not otherwise allowed to take employment in the UK. The experience you gain can help you make decisions about your later career and is helpful when applying for jobs after your study.
You can do a work placement as part of your course even if you are
not permitted to take employment. The only exceptions are if your Tier 4
sponsor has probationary sponsor status and your course is below degree
level, or if you are under 16 years old.
A work placement must be an assessed part of your course and must
not take up more than one third or half of your course, depending on
the level of course and your Tier 4 sponsor. Your Tier 4 sponsor must
monitor you during your work placement and must let the Home Office know
that you will be working for part of your course. Your Tier 4 sponsor should provide a letter for your work placement provider containing details of the terms and conditions of the placement and how it will be assessed.
Work placements can be
paid or unpaid and can be full time, even in term time. The work endorsement in your passport or on your biometric residence permit will not state this, but the Home Office guidance for employers explains it.
If you are permitted to take employment, you can do that in addition to working on your placement.
An internship that is an assessed part of your course and does not exceed the one third/one half limit can be
treated as a work placement. In all other cases, you can take an internship only if you are permitted to work and it will be subject to the restrictions on Tier 4 employment.
This means that you cannot work full time unless it is your vacation
If you know when you apply for Tier 4 immigration permission that you will be taking a work placement as part of your course, you will be granted a visa that is long enough to cover both your course of study and your work placement. Sometimes students change their mind or might not be able to find relevant work - before you come to the UK, ask your course provider how it will help you find work and what will happen if that does not happen. For example, will you have to leave the UK and apply again or will you just finish your course early?
It is sometimes possible to decide after arriving in the UK to add a work placement to your course. If you add a work placement and, as a result, need to spend longer in the UK, you will have to make another Tier 4 immigration application. The Home Office will treat you as if you are starting a new course so if you apply for your visa on or after 6 April 2016 you will not be able to start your course with a work placement until you have made your new Tier 4 application. You will have to make this application outside the UK because the Home Office says that you do not meet its definition of 'academic progress'. For these reasons, it is important that you discuss adding a work placement with your course provider as early as possible, and some colleges and universities might not be able to offer this option.
You might want to take a work placement outside the UK. In those cases, check the immigration requirements of the country concerned. Also talk to your Tier 4 sponsor about whether it will continue to sponsor you while you are outside the UK or whether it will report you to the Home Office and you will then have to apply again to return to the UK. The advantage of retained sponsorship is that you do not have to make another immigration application; your Tier 4 sponsor will have to monitor your work. The advantage of not being sponsored is that your Tier 4 immigration will be curtailed (cut short) which means that time spent outside the UK will not count towards your overall limit on student leave.
See What kind of work can you do? and How many hours can you work? for full details.