Students' union sabbatical officers

Last modified: 10 August 2017

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 to work together with a student's Tier 4 sponsor. 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 two 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. Tier 4 sponsors can find information about sponsoring Students' Union sabbatical officers in our Immigration manual for UKCISA members.

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.

Information for students and recent graduates

Last modified: 09 August 2017

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 should see our information about their work rights. Students who are in the UK as the family member of an EEA or Swiss national can find information at Family members of EEA nationals.

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.

Sabbatical officers and Tier 4

Last modified: 09 August 2017

Students and recent graduates who have Tier 4 immigration permission (leave) can undertake a full-time sabbatical officer post. You will need to take time out of your study or you can undertake the post after your course has finished. During your sabbatical officer post, you are also allowed to take extra employment for up to 20 hours a week. This is confirmed in the Tier 4 policy guidance.

You might also be able to do the sabbatical officer post on a part-time basis, but you must not work more hours than are allowed by your current Tier 4 leave, usually 20 hours a week in total, and you must also continue studying full time.

Who needs to make a Tier 4 application

Students and recent graduates whose current leave does not allow work as a sabbatical officer need to make a Tier 4 application. You must be granted Tier 4 leave before you can start your job. You will also need to make a Tier 4 application if your current immigration permission allows you to start the sabbatical officer job, but expires before the end of the post and you will not be able to apply to extend in that category.

If you are in the middle of your course and you currently have Tier 4 leave, you can work full time as a sabbatical officer even if the work condition written on your entry clearance or BRP says something different. You will probably need to apply to extend your Tier 4 leave at some point so that you can do your work and then finish your studies. You should discuss with your college or university whether you should make that application before, during or after your sabbatical officer post.

If you have finished your studies and you have Tier 4 leave, you can start your sabbatical officer post on your current leave but you will need to apply to extend it in order to complete the post. You should plan ahead for this because you must meet many of the same requirements as students who apply under Tier 4. You need a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) from your Tier 4 sponsor and you need to meet a reduced Tier 4 funds requirement - see Tier 4: funds and English for details .

Your Tier 4 sponsor's duties

The college or university where you are studying, or where you have recently finished studying, must act as your Tier 4 sponsor, even though you will be working with the students' union or the NUS. This means that it is important that you or the students' union or NUS talk to your college or university as soon as possible after election so that everyone is clear about what happens next.

Your Tier 4 sponsor is required to report to the Home Office that you will be working as a sabbatical officer for the relevant period. Your Tier 4 sponsor remains responsible for you and is required to work with the students' union or NUS to ensure that you are carrying out your work and that you are not in breach of your conditions during this period.

Your current Tier 4 funds

If you currently receive a loan or are financially sponsored by a government, employer or other organisation, always check the terms and conditions of that financial sponsorship before you decide to stand for election as a sabbatical officer. In some cases, you might have to start repaying your loan if you take a break from studies or you might be in breach of your agreement if you do not return home or to your employer when your studies in the UK have ended.

One option if you have to start repaying a loan as soon as you take a break from studies is to wait and stand for election after you have completed your course. You must take up the sabbatical officer post in the academic year following completion of your course, and no later.

A potential alternative if you are not permitted to stay longer in the the UK than the duration of your course is to find out from your students' union if part-time work as a sabbatical officer is possible. This is an option only if your current Tier 4 leave allows you to work and you can continue your studies on a full-time basis. You can work full time in your vacations.

Funds for your Tier 4 application

You cannot use your future earnings to show that you meet the Tier 4 maintenance requirements. If you have started work before you make your immigration application you can use the money you have already earned to show you meet the requirements. All work must have been carried out when you had immigration permission that allowed you to do that work.

The level of funds you must show depend on whether you will be working either in London or outside London. See the Tier 4 policy guidance for details of how the Home Office defines 'London'. If you will be working for the National Union of Students (NUS) in London, you will have to show the higher amount, even if you have not been studying in London.

You need to show that you have two months' worth of funds. This means you must have £2530 (£1265 per month) if you are in London or £2030 (£1015 per month) if you are not in London.

You must hold your funds at the required level for a continuous period of 28 days before the date of your Tier 4 application.

For full information about the information your evidence must contain, see our detailed information about Tier 4 funds and the Tier 4 policy guidance. The Home Office will refuse your application if your evidence does not meet all requirements

English language

Tier 4 English language requirements apply to sabbatical officers as well as to students. Check how the confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) states that your Tier 4 sponsor assessed your English language. If it mentions qualifications, you must provide original certificates or transcripts as evidence of those qualifications. If the CAS does not refer to qualifications, you are not required to submit evidence of English language.

Where to apply, length of leave and your BRP endorsement

Before applying you should check whether you are able to make your Tier 4 application in the UK, or whether you will have to allow time to leave the UK and apply in the country where you usually live.

You should be granted Tier 4 leave for a period to cover the duration of the sabbatical officer post, up to 12 months. You should also be granted up to one month's leave before the post starts and up to four months' leave after your sabbatical officer post ends.

The endorsement on your biometric residence permit (BRP) will be the same as other Tier 4 student endorsements. This means that it will not state on it that you are now a sabbatical officer and it will state that you are restricted to working 20 hours a week in term time. This is because the Home Office regards work as a sabbatical officer as a 'course of study' and the 20 hours a week of work refers to employment you can undertake in addition to your full-time hours of work as a sabbatical officer. You can work full time as a sabbatical officer with this endorsement.

Study during your sabbatical officer work

You might want to continue studying your Tier 4 course while you work as a sabbatical officer.

This is possible only if you can continue studying it on a full-time basis. The Home Office rules do not permit you to study a Tier 4 course on a part-time basis, whether before, during or after your sabbatical officer work,  and your sponsor cannot allow you to do this.

The course for which your Tier 4 leave was granted does not meet the definition of 'supplementary study' in document 2 of the Tier 4 sponsor guidance: "Tier 4 students are allowed to undertake supplementary study in addition to their main course of study, such as evening classes, or short courses studied full-time during vacation periods". However, you would be able to study a different course while you work if it meets this definition of 'supplementary study'.

If it is important for you to finish your course within the original time frame, you have the option of standing for election after your course instead of during your course. You must take up the post in the academic year immediately following the end of your course.

When can sabbatical officers start work?

Last modified: 09 August 2017

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).

Your current leave allows work as a sabbatical officer

You can start your job immediately if you currently have immigration permission that allows you to do sabbatical officer work. The students' union or NUS is required by law to see specified types of evidence that you have this leave before you start work. This is usually your passport or your biometric residence permit (BRP).

You need to make an immigration application if your current leave is about to expire. You might be able to start work while you wait for a decision on the application. This will be possible if you can apply in the UK and your current leave allows you to work as a sabbatical officer, including Tier 4 leave, and you make a valid application before your current leave expires.

The students' union or NUS must see evidence that you have leave that allows you to work before you can start your sabbatical officer post. This means that, if possible, you should start working before you apply for leave. In this way, the students' union or NUS can see your relevant documents before they are sent to the Home Office. If this is not possible, the students' union or NUS must contact the Home Office helpline for employers and employer's checking service in order to obtain confirmation that you can start work while you wait for a decision on your application.

Your current leave does not allow work as a sabbatical officer

If your current immigration permission does not allow you to do this type of work, you cannot start your post until you have been granted leave that does permit you to carry out sabbatical officer work. You might want to consider making your application at a premium service centre so that you can receive a decision on the day you apply.

Your application is rejected or refused, or you have no immigration permission

If your application is rejected as invalid you should seek advice immediately as you might at this point have no leave which means you must not work. You should also seek advice immediately if your application is refused.

If you are currently in the UK without any leave, you should seek advice from your international student adviser or an immigration lawyer as a matter of urgency before you attempt to make an immigration application. You must not work until you have been granted leave.

 

Options when a sabbatical officer post ends

Last modified: 09 August 2017

Your options when your sabbatical officer post ends depend on whether you need to complete your course, and whether you want to undertake further study or find work in the UK or elsewhere.

Finish your course

If you need to finish your course and you have Tier 4 leave, your Tier 4 sponsor will report to the Home Office that you are now studying again. If you have not yet applied to extend your leave in order to complete your studies, you should do this before your current leave expires.

Before applying, check whether you are able to make your application in the UK.

Take a new course

If you have already completed your studies, you need to think about whether you want to carry out further studies, go home, or stay in the UK for work or other reasons. If you do not want to leave the UK, the type of immigration application you need to make depends on what you want to do and your personal circumstances.

It is important to know that the Home Office states in its Tier 4 policy guidance that time spent in the UK as a sabbatical officer is not included when assessing whether you have spent or will spend more than five years undertaking courses at degree level. The same applies if you are elected to a post with the National Union of Students (NUS), even if you have already spent time working as a sabbatical officer with your students' union.

Work options

Tier 2 employment could be an option. You might need to remind employers that in most cases you can apply in the UK so you do not need a restricted certificate of sponsorship and you are not subject to the resident labour market test. If you have current Tier 4 leave, you must meet a few additional requirements. Details of Tier 2 and other work schemes are explained in our information for students about working after your studies, and you can refer employers to the Home Office's Policy guidance for Tier 2 and Tier 5 employers.

You can also ask a college or university that is an endorsing body to support you in an application as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), even if you passed a degree more than 12 months previously or if you want to be endorsed by an institution that is not the one where you studied.

Information for students' unions

Last modified: 09 August 2017

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.

Checking permission to work

The Home Office's comprehensive guidance on preventing illegal working provides details of what checks you need to carry out and which documents you must see as evidence that a person is allowed to carry out the relevant work in the UK.

These checks apply to all employees so they will not be new to you. However, you might not yet be familiar with the types of immigration permission that students are likely to have, and what exactly they allow the student to do.

The Home Office's information for employers on preventing unlawful discrimination explains how to carry out these checks in a non-discriminatory way.

Sabbatical officers and Tier 4 leave

The main immigration route for students and for students' union sabbatical officers is Tier 4. Tier 4 allows full-time work for sabbatical officers who are elected to work for the NUS or in the students' union connected to the college or university where they are studying, or where they have recently completed their studies. Sabbatical officers can undertake up to 20 hours a week of employment in addition to their full-time sabbatical officer post. This is explained in the Tier 4 policy guidance.

If the sabbatical officer is part time, a Tier 4 student can undertake it. However, the hours of work must be restricted to those allowed by the student's current immigration permission, usually 20 hours a week in total, and the student must also continue studying on a full-time basis.

Evidence of Tier 4 leave

Tier 4 leave that was granted outside the UK (entry clearance) takes the form of a vignette or sticker in the student's passport which is valid for 30 days and a biometric residence permit (BRP) which is valid for the rest of the student's leave and is collected soon after arrival in the UK. Tier 4 leave granted in the UK (leave to remain) is evidenced through a BRP only.

Both the short-validity vignette and the BRP should state clearly that the student has Tier 4 leave, but they will not state that the student is now a sabbatical officer. This is because the Home Office regards work as a sabbatical officer as a 'course of study'. The work conditions might be restrictive, for example, limited to 20 hours a week in term time, but the student is, in spite of this, allowed to work full time as a sabbatical officer. This is provided for in the Immigration Rules paragraph 245ZU(c)(iii)(5) for entry clearance and paragraph 245ZY(c)(iii)(5) for leave to remain.

Work closely with the Tier 4 sponsor

The Tier 4 sponsor for study remains the Tier 4 sponsor for the sabbatical officer post, so you need to work closely with the college or university, which retains responsibility for ensuring that the sabbatical officer meets the relevant requirements, including attendance and not breaching immigration conditions. If the student needs to make a Tier 4 application in order to do the sabbatical officer post, the Tier 4 sponsor must assign a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) to the student before the student can make that application.

Sabbatical officers with other types of leave and EEA nationals

Some students might have immigration permission that is not Tier 4 leave. They might be permitted to work as well as study without having to apply for Tier 4 leave. They will probably have no work conditions on their entry clearance sticker or on their biometric residence permit, or they might be subject solely to a prohibition on working as a postgraduate doctor or dentist. For example, those with refugee status, Humanitarian Protection, dependant leave, Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) or UK ancestry leave are not tied to a sponsor or employer.

Not all dependants are permitted to work; some will have a condition that states "No work" or "Employment prohibited".

Those who have work-related leave might be "tied" to a particular employer which would prevent them from starting work with you. For example, those with Tier 2 leave can study as long they carry out the employment for which they were given Tier 2 leave, but they can not work for you if you are not the Tier 2 employer. Such a person would probably need to apply for Tier 4 leave in order to work as a sabbatical officer, but should seek immigration advice in order to explore all options.

The endorsement on students' BRPs or passports might not state the type of leave they have, but always check with them and, if in doubt, ask to see any Home Office leaflets or letters they received with their leave, as these usually set out the details of work and other conditions.

It is very important that students do not stay in the UK beyond the expiry of their immigration permission (leave). For Tier 4 students, it can result in refused applications, whether in or outside the UK. No one who is in the UK without immigration permission is allowed to work.

European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals and their family members are in most cases permitted to work in the UK without restriction. However, Croatian nationals usually need a registration certificate before they can start work.. We provide details of what EEA national students need to do and the evidence they should be able to produce in our information for EEA nationals and for their family members.

If you are not sure whether a student or recent graduate has immigration permission that allows them to work for you as a sabbatical officer, you can find out about most immigration categories on the Home Office website, and use their guidance for employers before the post starts.


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