What kind of work can you do?

Last modified: 06 May 2016

If you are allowed to work, you can do most kinds of work. However,  there are some kinds of work you must not do:

  • self-employment and business activity
  • work as a professional sportsperson including as a sports coach
  • entertainer
  • a permanent full-time job
  • doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on the foundation programme.​
Find out more about how many hours you can work.

Self-employment and business activity

Last modified: 19 April 2016

Under Tier 4 you cannot be self-employed.

If you are not sure whether your proposed work would be self-employment, you can check with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) by contacting them or by using their information and self-assessment tools.

If you applied for your Tier 4 immigration permission on or after 6 April 2016, you must not "engage in business activity". The Tier 4 policy guidance provides examples of what this means. For example, if you are not an employee, you must not work for a business in which you have a financial or other significant beneficial interest.

Professional sportsperson

Last modified: 25 February 2016

Under Tier 4, you cannot work as a professional sportsperson including as a sports coach.

You might need to decide whether your sports activities are professional or amateur. The Immigration Rules provide a definition:
'“Professional Sportsperson”, is someone, whether paid or unpaid, who :
is providing services as a sportsperson, playing or coaching in any capacity, at a professional or semi-professional level of sport; or
being a person who currently derives, who has in the past derived or seeks in the future to derive, a living from playing or coaching, is providing services as a sportsperson or coach at any level of sport, unless they are doing so as an “Amateur”'.

'An “Amateur” is a person who engages in a sport or creative activity solely for personal enjoyment and who is not seeking to derive a living from the activity. This also includes a person playing or coaching in a charity game.'

This means that you can work as a sportsperson with Tier 4 immigration permission only if you are not providing services at a professional or semi-professional level, and if you do not make, have not made, and do not intend to make a living from playing or coaching at any level, unless you meet the definition of an 'amateur'. The definition of 'amateur' implies that you can have made a living from sport in the past or plan to do so in the future but are not intending to do so now, and it includes participation in a charity game. If you are not sure if you can meet this definition, check with the sporting organisation concerned and/or your education provider.


Last modified: 22 October 2015

You must not be employed as an entertainer.

An ‘entertainer’ is not defined in the Immigration Rules. The Home Office's Business Helpdesk has stated (in an email dated 3 September 2015) that "We take it to mean, however, taking part in entertainment in any way other than as an amateur, as defined in paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules".  The definition of 'amateur' is the same as for sportspeople, in the paragraph above, and covers creative activities including music, dance, art, drama.

Studying music or dance at degree-level

Last modified: 25 February 2016

If you are studying music or dance at degree-level, you are allowed to undertake a work placement that involves professional performance, as an exception to the general prohibition on work as an entertainer. The work placement must be arranged by your college or university and it must be an assessed part of your course. This has been possible since 5 September 2011 for music students and since 6 April 2012 for dance students because of changes to document 2 of the policy guidance for Tier 4 sponsors.

Employer is outside the UK

Last modified: 13 November 2015
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.

Volunteering and unpaid employment

Last modified: 06 May 2016

You might want to be a volunteer.

There is a difference between unpaid employment (voluntary work) and volunteering, and you should always check with the organisation which offers you a volunteering opportunity whether it can be regarded as unpaid employment. This is because time you spend doing unpaid employment counts towards your maximum number of hours of work a week.

Students with a work prohibition must be particularly careful not to undertake work that could be regarded as unpaid employment. This includes Tier 4 (General) students sponsored by a private institution, an independent school or by a publicly-funded further education college and short-term students. Taking unpaid employment would be a breach of your work prohibition and is treated very seriously by the Home Office - your immigration permission will be curtailed (cut short), you could be removed from the UK and you will have difficulties returning. If in doubt, do not undertake the work.

The Tier 4 policy guidance confirms that Tier 4 students can volunteer and explains how the Home Office differentiates between 'voluntary work' and 'volunteering'.

There are many ways of finding volunteering opportunities, and your Tier 4 sponsor can probably help. Here are some links to get you started:

National Council for Voluntary Organisations (England)

Volunteer Scotland

Volunteering Wales

Volunteer Now (Northern Ireland)