Can you work?

Last modified: 18 April 2017

Tier 4 (General) students who are sponsored by a higher education institution (HEI) or by an overseas HEI can work during their studies. Tier 4 sponsors are listed by type of institution in the register of Tier 4 sponsors

Tier 4 (Child) students who are aged 16 or older can work, but younger students are not permitted to work. 

Tier 4 (General) students sponsored by a private provider, an embedded college, a publicly-funded college or an independent school cannot work but may be able to undertake work placements that are an assessed part of their course - see Work placements and internships.

Students sponsored by a publicly-funded college who applied before 3 August 2015 for the Tier 4 (General) immigration permission they hold now can work. 

See also What kind of work can you do?How many hours can you work? and Employers, income tax, National Insurance.

How can you check that you are allowed to work?

Last modified: 09 August 2017

Check what your passport sticker (entry clearance or residence permit) or biometric residence permit (BRP) says. You should also have received detailed information in a letter when you received your entry clearance or BRP. You can work in the UK if your passport sticker or identity card says one of the following, or something similar:

  • Work (and any changes) must be authorised
  • Able to work as authorised by the Secretary of State
  • Work as in Tier 4 Rules
  • Restricted Work. P/T term time. F/T vacations
  • Restricted work term time
  • Work limited to max 20 hrs per week during term-time
  • Work limited to max 10 hrs per week during term-time.

Your passport sticker or identity card might say something a bit different from these examples, but you can work if it does not say:

  • No work, or
  • Work prohibited.

You must not work if your passport sticker or identity card says "No work" or "Work prohibited" because this would be a breach of your immigration conditions and a criminal offence. The Home Office can check whether someone has been working by making unannounced visits to employers and by obtaining information from the tax department, HMRC.

If you are allowed to work, find out more about the types of work you can do, your permitted hours of work and how to find employment.

Work before, after the course and in vacations

Last modified: 17 August 2017

Most Tier 4 students have immigration permission that starts up to one month before the course start date and extends for up to four months beyond the end of their studies.

Students who are allowed to work may work before the course starts and after it ends. This is confirmed in the Home Office's publication An employer's guide to right to work checks.

You can also work during your vacations, and you are not limited to working 10 or 20 hours a week in vacation periods. If you want to work more than your usual restricted hours, your employer is required by law to check that your education provider agrees that you are on holiday. For full information about this, see What is term time?

Students who are not allowed to work must not work in term time or during vacation periods.

For information about working with Tier 4 immigration permission after your course has ended, see Working after studies have ended. Details of many other work schemes that might be of interest to you are at Working after studies.

Work placements and internships

Last modified: 09 August 2017

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.

What is a work placement or internship?

A work placement must be an assessed part of your course and usually must not take up more than one third of your course. Degree-level students sponsored by a higher education institution (HEI) or by an overseas HEI can spend up to half of their course in the UK undertaking work placements.

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 (up to 10 or 20 hours a week in term time) 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 period.

See What kind of work can you do? and How many hours can you work? for full details.


Can you change your mind about doing or not doing a work placement?

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.

Taking a work placement outside the UK

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.

Leaving or interrupting your studies

Last modified: 06 July 2017

Even if you have Tier 4 immigration permission that allows you to work, you should not work if you leave your course or take a break from it before you have completed it. This includes the situation where your Tier 4 sponsor withdraws sponsorship temporarily because you need to re-sit exams or repeat some of your course and do not need to be in the UK before you re-sit or repeat.

The reason is that your permission to work depends on your being sponsored to follow a course of study that has work rights attached to it, and your education provider will have reported to the Home Office that it is withdrawing sponsorship from you. The same applies if your Tier 4 sponsor's licence has been revoked.

However, you might be able to work or continue working if you have completed your course early or if you are in the process of changing sponsor.

For full details of when employers may and may not employ you in these and similar circumstances, see information under the heading, 'Impact of a change of circumstances on a Tier 4 points based system student's right to work' in the Home Office guidance for employers.

Short-term student

Last modified: 05 April 2017

If you are in the UK as a short-term student, your passport sticker or the stamp in your passport will say "No work" or "Work prohibited". This means that you are not allowed to:

  • take paid employment
  • take unpaid employment
  • be self-employed
  • do a work placement, even if it is part of your course.

If you want to be able to work, you must check that you meet all the requirements of the Tier 4 student Immigration Rules, which we describe in Tier 4: eligibility and requirements. If you meet these requirements and you want to apply as a student, you must return to the country where you usually live and make an entry clearance (visa) application there.  

Other types of immigration permission

Last modified: 18 September 2015

If you are in the UK with some other immigration status, check what your passport sticker or any other documents issued by the Home Office say about employment. You can usually work without restriction if the only condition in your passport is "No recourse to public funds". If it says "No employment as a dr in training", you can do any kind of work except employment as a doctor in training, which would usually be on the Foundation Programme.