Students' union sabbatical officers

Last modified: 18 January 2018

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: 18 January 2018

Students and recent graduates who have Tier 4 student immigration permission (leave) which allows them to work can undertake a full-time sabbatical officer post. You can do the post part way through your course or in the academic year after you finish it. 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.

For information about which Tier 4 students are permitted to work in the UK, see Can you work?

Who needs to make a Tier 4 application

Your Tier 4 sponsor's duties

Your current Tier 4 funds

Funds for your Tier 4 application

English language

Where to apply, length of leave and your BRP endorsement

Study during your sabbatical officer work

When can sabbatical officers start work?

Last modified: 18 January 2018

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

Your current leave does not allow work as a sabbatical officer

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

Options when a sabbatical officer post ends

Last modified: 18 January 2018

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

Take a new course

Work options

Information for students' unions

Last modified: 18 January 2018

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

Sabbatical officers and Tier 4 leave

Evidence of Tier 4 leave

Work closely with the Tier 4 sponsor

Sabbatical officers with other types of leave and EEA nationals


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