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Finding work

Last modified: 25 February 2016

You can find advertisements for jobs in your local newspapers, in shops, on notice boards around your university or college, in the careers service or your Students' Union. There are many job search websites and job agencies. Find out more from your institution, which may have its own job shop for students.

You should not be asked to pay for help in finding work or if you are offered a job, and do not take a job if you have any doubts about whether you will be paid, or treated properly or if the employer will act lawfully at all times. The UK Government has guidance on what you can expect when looking for a job.

Income tax, National Insurance

Last modified: 29 January 2019

You will have to pay income tax if you earn more than a specified personal allowance in any tax year. You can find out more about personal allowances and income tax rates from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

Employees and employers both pay National Insurance contributions, which help to fund contributory benefits, for example, the state pension and jobseeker's allowance.

Your home country's tax authorities might expect you to file a tax return there, or to pay tax on your UK earnings.  You should contact the relevant government department in your home country to check the rules about this.

The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group has produced a tax guide for students, with a special section for international studentsHM Revenue and Customs also has information about tax aimed at students.

Apply for a NI number

Last modified: 21 January 2019

Your National Insurance number (NINo) is a unique personal number which is used to record your National Insurance contributions. You do not need to have a NINo before starting work, but you must obtain one when you get a job.

You apply for a NINo by calling 0800 141 2075. You might be sent a letter, asking you to attend an appointment. If this happens, the letter will list the documents you will need to bring to the appointment. You usually need to take your passport, payslips or a letter from your employer confirming that you will be working for them. Your appointment will take place at your nearest Jobcentre Plus office, or Social Security office in Northern Ireland.

You can find more information about National Insurance numbers and how to obtain one from GOV.UK, which also provides a textphone number for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing and explains what to do you if you lose your NINo, and from HM Revenue and Customs.

Employers checking permission to work

Last modified: 29 January 2019

If you have a passport sticker or biometric residence permit (BRP) that does not prohibit work, you are allowed to take employment as described in What kind of work can you do? and How many hours a week can you work? without getting any further approval or permission.

Your employer can check with the Home Office that you are allowed to work by contacting its business helpdesk or employers' helpline.

Employers have a legal obligation to check that you are allowed to work in the UK, so you must be able to provide evidence of this, usually by showing them your current passport and/or your current biometric residence permit. If your current entry clearance sticker is in a passport that has now expired, you need to apply to transfer your leave into your new passport by making a transfer of conditions application. Although you can travel using your old and new passports, employers cannot accept an entry clearance sticker in an expired passport, even if your period of leave has not yet expired. For full details of the documents employers can accept, see the Home Office's guide to Acceptable right to work documents.

Your employer will need to see information about the term and vacation dates for your course, so that it is clear to them and to the Home Office when you are allowed to work more than 10 or 20 hours a week. This information must be in one of the following formats:

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

The Home Office has published guidance about the checks that employers must make and where they should go to find out whether a person is allowed to work.

You might not have your passport or biometric residence permit if, for example, it is with the Home Office because you have applied to extend your immigration permission in the UK. If you made your immigration application before your previous student immigration permission ended, you still have the right to work under the usual student conditions. However, a new employer must see evidence that you are currently in the UK with student immigration permission before allowing you to start work. The same can apply to your existing employer, who should have noted when your immigration permission ended and now wants to be sure that you still have the right to work.  In these cases, your employer must receive confirmation from the Employer Checking Service of the Home Office

For some jobs, employers must also carry out criminal record checks before you can start work. The Home Office has information for employers about how to request these checks from countries other than the UK.

Employer obligations

Last modified: 25 February 2016

UK employers have a number of legal duties towards their employees. These include:

  • anti-discrimination measures
  • health and safety requirements
  • the obligation to pay the minimum wage
  • the obligation to comply with laws relating to maximum working hours and breaks
  • the duty to pay National Insurance contributions and to provide wage slips.

UK Government information for workers and jobseekers

UK Government information for employers

Can I apply for tax credits and welfare benefits?

Last modified: 06 May 2016

If the entry clearance or residence permit in your passport or your biometric residence card states that you are subject to the condition "No recourse to public funds" or "No public funds", you must not apply for tax credits, or other welfare benefits that are included in the definition of "public funds". This would be a breach of your immigration conditions. The only exception is if your country has an agreement or reciprocal arrangements with the UK, details of which are in the Home Office guidance for its caseworkers on public funds.

For details of which benefits are "public funds", see Public funds.