How many hours can you work?

Last modified: 18 April 2017

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: 05 April 2017

First check whether you are allowed to work - see Can you work? 

If you are permitted to work, your maximum working hours in term time are:

  • 20 hours a week if you are studying at degree level or above at a higher education institution (HEI)
  • 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 an HEI
  • 10 hours a week if you have immigration permission as a Tier 4 (Child) Student and you are at least 16 years old.

The register of Tier 4 sponsors states whether an education provider is an HEI or an overseas HEI. See also How is a 'week' defined?

These hours are in addition to any time you spend on a work placement that is an assessed part of your course - see Work placements and internships.

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.

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.

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: 09 August 2017

First check whether you are allowed to work - see Can you work? 

If you are permitted to work, you are restricted to working a maximum number of hours a week in term time.

Maximum working hours

Your maximum working hours in term time are:

  • 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 register of Tier 4 sponsors states whether an education provider is an HEI, an overseas HEI or publicly-funded further education college. See also How is a 'week' defined? 

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.

You can work full time during vacation periods, before your course starts and after your course has ended.

Work placements

You might be able do a work placement as an assessed part of your course, even if you are not otherwise allowed to work.

Work placements can be part time or full time, paid or unpaid, but you can do them only if

  • your Tier 4 sponsor has Tier 4 Sponsor status, or
  • your course is at degree level or above, or
  • you have immigration permission as a Tier 4 (Child) Student and you are at least 16 years old.

If you can do work placements, the time you spend doing them depends on the level of your course and your education provider.

You will be able to spend up to half of your course doing work placements, or longer if there is a legal requirement for this, only if you have Tier 4 (Child) immigration permission or if:

  • you have Tier 4 (General) immigration permission and
  • your course is at degree level and
  • your education provider meets the Home Office's definition of a higher education institution.

If you do not meet all of these requirements, your work placements can take up a maximum of one third of your total course.

Check with your Tier 4 sponsor if it has Tier 4 Sponsor status or if it meets the definition of a higher education institution. If you do not know whether your course is at the right level for doing work placements, ask your Tier 4 sponsor.

If you are allowed to work for 10 or 20 hours a week, you can carry out this work in addition to time spent on a work placement.

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

Last modified: 17 August 2017

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 the July 2016 version of An employer's guide to right to work checks.

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: 17 August 2017

Since 6 April 2017, 'week' has been defined in the Immigration Rules as "a period of 7 days beginning with a Monday". 

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 by exceeding 10 or 20 hours in any seven-day period, starting on a Monday.

Before this change was announced on 16 March 2017, we asked the Home Office how it defined 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".

Note that the Home Office was aware that this policy interpretation of 'week' had no basis in its own legislation or guidance, so other reasonable interpretations should be accepted for work carried out before 6 April 2017, but not on or after that date. 

What is term time?

Last modified: 17 August 2017

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.

An employer's guide to right to work checks 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.

Work with Tier 4 leave after study has ended

Last modified: 17 August 2017

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.

Tier 4 sponsors are obliged to report early completion of a course to the Home Office. If you have more than 60 days' leave when your early completion is reported, the Home Office will contact you to let you know that your immigration permission 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. Full details are in the Home Office's enforcement instructions on curtailment. You can work between the new end date of your course and the new expiry date of your immigration permission. This, including information about what happens when the Home Office takes a long time to curtail your leave, is stated in An employer's guide to right to work checks. 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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