How many hours can you work?

Last modified: 13 November 2015

Your work conditions, including the maximum hours you can work during term-time, are normally printed on your visa sticker or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), and will depend mainly on the date of application of your most recent immigration application.   If your visa sticker or BRP is not clear, select the date you applied from these choices.

The date of application means the date you submitted the online application and paid the immigration fee.  If you last applied in the UK using the old print-and-send or paper form, the date of application means the date on which you posted your application, or the date on which you attended the appointment at a  premium service.

If you will need to make a Tier 4 student immigration application on or after 3 August 2015 in order to complete your course, your course must meet the requirements explained in 3 August 2015 to present.

You might need to make an immigration application so that you can study a course at a higher level or at a different type of institution. In this case, you must comply with the work conditions you have from your original immigration permission until you receive a decision on your immigration application.

If your employer is outside the UK, your hours of work undertaken in the UK still count towards your limit of 10 or 20 hours a week in term time. You should also check with HMRC whether you are required to pay National Insurance contributions in the UK.

3 August 2015 onwards

Last modified: 17 September 2015

During term time you can work for a maximum of:

  • 20 hours a week if you are studying at degree level or above at a higher education institution
  • 20 hours a week if you are on a study abroad programme at an "overseas higher education institution" in the UK
  • 10 hours a week if you are studying a course that is below degree level at a "higher education institution"
  • 10 hours a week if you have immigration permission as a Tier 4 (Child) Student.

The Home Office defines a higher education institution as a Recognised Body or as an organisation that receives public funding as a higher education institution from specific funding bodies. You should check with your college or university if it meets this definition, or the Home Office's definition of an "overseas higher education institution" if you are on a study abroad programme.

If you are not covered by any of these provisions, you will not be able to work in the UK during term time or in your vacation periods unless you are doing a work placement, or you have been elected as a Sabbatical Officer or you are on the Foundation Programme for postgraduate doctors and dentists. This is likely to affect you if you are studying at a college in the private sector or a publicly-funded further education college.

Always check what the sticker in your passport or your biometric residence permit (BRP) says and make sure that you do not work more hours a week than it allows. It should specify whether you are allowed to work 10 hours or 20 hours a week in term time. It will say if you are not allowed to work.

If you have permission to work, you should not work more than the maximum number of hours (20 or 10) in any one week in term time, even if you sometimes work under the maximum number of hours a week in other weeks.

If you have permission to work, you can work full time during vacation periods, before your course starts and after your course has ended.

6 April 2012 - 2 August 2015

Last modified: 17 September 2015

During term time you can work for a maximum of

  • 20 hours a week if you are studying at degree level or above at a higher education institution
  • 20 hours a week if you are on a study abroad programme at an "overseas higher education institution" in the UK
  • 10 hours a week if you are studying a course that is below degree level at a "higher education institution"
  • 10 hours a week if you are studying a course at any level at publicly-funded further education college
  • 10 hours a week if you have immigration permission as a Tier 4 (Child) Student.

The Home Office defines a higher education institution as a Recognised Body or as an organisation that receives public funding as a higher education institution from specific funding bodies. You should check with your college or university if it meets this definition, or the Home Office's definition of an "overseas higher education institution" if you are on a study abroad programme.

If you are not covered by any of these provisions, you will not be able to work in the UK unless you are doing a work placement, you have been elected as a Sabbatical Officer or you are on the Foundation Programme for postgraduate doctors and dentists. This is likely to affect you if you are studying at a college in the private sector.

Always check what the sticker in your passport or your biometric residence permit (BRP) says and make sure that you do not work more hours a week than it allows. It should specify whether you are allowed to work 10 hours or 20 hours a week in term time. It will say if you are not allowed to work.

If you have permission to work, you should not work more than the maximum number of hours (20 or 10) in any one week in term time, even if you sometimes work under the maximum number of hours a week in other weeks.

If you have permission to work, you can work full time during vacation periods, before your course starts and after your course has ended.

31 March 2009 - 5 April 2012 and before 31 March 2009

Last modified: 19 May 2016

If you made your Tier 4 immigration application on or after 31 March 2009 and before 6 April 2012, you can remind yourself of your work conditions in Table 2 of a Home Office document for employers called Frequently asked questions about the illegal working civil penalty scheme.

If you made your most recent application for student immigration permission before 31 March 2009, your work conditions are explained in Home Office guidance for caseworkers about 'pre-Tier 4' students. 

How is a 'week' defined?

Last modified: 19 May 2016

We asked the Home Office how it defines a 'week' when calculating whether a Tier 4 student has complied with the limit of 10 or 20 hours a week of work in term time.

The answer we received on 17 May 2016 was "Though there is no definition in the Immigration Rules or guidance, our Policy colleagues have previously described a “week” in this context as being any rolling 7 day period". This means that a 'week' does not run from Monday to Sunday or from any other specific day. It might also be different from the definition of 'week' used by your employer for wages or shift schedules.

Instead, you must check that in any one 7-day period you do not exceed your permitted hours of work.

If you work irregular hours and/or have more than one employer, you will need to keep detailed records of how many hours you work each day so that you can be sure that you are not in danger of breaching your work condition.

What is term time?

Last modified: 17 September 2015

For most students, regardless of when you applied for your leave, term time and holiday or vacation dates are defined by your institution's calendar. These dates are usually based around the academic year with holidays at Christmas, Easter and in the summer. Where courses do not follow the usual August/September to June pattern, term time means any period when you are supposed to be doing academic work. For example, when you should be:

  • attending classes and lectures
  • preparing for exams
  • doing coursework
  • writing essays, a dissertation or thesis.

Your vacation periods, when you can work full time, are the period when you are not required to be studying. This will be different depending on the type of course you are doing. For example, if you are supposed to research and write a dissertation or thesis while other students are on holiday, this is term time for you and you should restrict your work to 20 (or 10) hours a week during this time.

From 16 May 2014, employers have a legal obligation to check your term dates before you can start work. You must provide your employer with one of the following:

  • a printout from your institution's website showing the term and vacation dates for your course
  • a copy email or letter from your institution to you confirming your term and vacation dates
  • a letter from your institution to your employer confirming these dates.

Home Office guidance for employers confirms that you can work full time during the additional periods of immigration permission you are granted before your course starts and after it ends.

Working after studies have ended

Last modified: 06 May 2016

Most students have immigration permission that extends beyond the end of their studies. You can work full time for this extra period once you have completed your course, which is confirmed in the Home Office's publication An employer's guide to right to work checks.

If you finish your course early, your Tier 4 sponsor will report this to the Home Office. If you have more than 60 days' immigration permission (leave) when your early completion is reported, the Home Office will contact you to let you know that your leave will be cut short (curtailed). Leave is usually curtailed to the new end date plus the additional period you were originally granted, for example one month, two or four months after the new end date, described as the 'wrap up period' in the Home Office's enforcement instructions and guidance. You can work full time between the new end date of your course and the new expiry date of your immigration permission. Employers need to see confirmation from your university or college that you have now completed your course.

If you leave your course before completion for any reason, including revocation of your Tier 4 sponsor's licence, see our information about Leaving or interrupting your studies and how it affects your right to work.

Although your student work conditions allow you to work full time after your course has ended, some Home Office staff do not always accept this. Be careful about leaving the UK during this period if you want to come back with your student immigration permission. A border force officer can decide that you no longer meet the requirements of the student Immigration Rules and cancel your permission. This is particularly important for you if you want to stay in the UK as a student or if you want to make an application in a work category of the Immigration Rules. It is safer if you either make your next immigration application:

  • in the UK before you leave, or
  • while you are outside the UK, in the country where you usually live if you need to make a work application.

If at the end of your course you apply to stay in the UK under a work route, for example Tier 2, you can work full time until your work application is decided.

Normally, you must not take work that is in breach of your student conditions. However, if you have Tier 4 leave, and you have completed a course of degree-level study at a recognised body or institution in receipt of public funding as a higher education institution, your Tier 4 study condition allows you to start your Tier 2 job after you have applied for Tier 2 leave and before the Home Office makes a decision on that application, even if the job is a permanent vacancy. 

Similarly, if you have applied under Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), you can start your business before you receive a decision from the Home Office on your application.

If you have applied for further Tier 4 leave under the doctorate extension scheme, you can undertake a permanent full-time job, be self-employed or work as an entertainer before you receive a decision on your application as long as your university or college has confirmed to you that you have completed and passed your doctorate.


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