Working alongside your studies: What you need to know
Working alongside your studies is a fantastic way to gain skills and experience for your future career. It is also a chance to get to know the local community.
Many international students in the UK take a part-time job alongside their studies. Others do a work placement or internship as part of their course. On a work placement or internship, you are assigned to an employer to gain first-hand experience of the workplace, in a role linked to your course and career aspirations.
I’m an international student from the European Economic Area (EEA). Can I work in the UK?
Take a look at your entry clearance vignette or biometric residence permit to check how many hours you are allowed to work. Even if you are not allowed to work on your visa you may be able to carry out a work placement as part of your course.
I’m an international student on a study visa. Can I work in the UK?
Students on Tier 4 visas
Many Tier 4 students can work while they are studying in the UK.
Whether you can work, how many hours you can work and the kind of work you can do depends on where you study and your visa status. Many students can work up to 10 or 20 hours during term time and full-time during holidays, depending on your study level – find out on the UKCISA website.
If you have a Tier 4 (General) or Tier 4 (Child) visa, you can work during your studies and holidays in the UK if:
- You are studying at a publicly-funded higher education institution (HEI) – this includes almost all universities and some private colleges (see the register of Tier 4 sponsors); or
- You are studying a short-term study abroad programme with an overseas higher education institution (also see the register of Tier 4 sponsors);
- And you are over 16.
You may take most types of employment but will not be able to be self-employed, work as a professional sportsperson or entertainer or take a permanent full time vacancy.
You can still do a work placement as part of your course, but you cannot work in a part-time or full-time job in the UK if:
- You are at a publicly-funded further education (FE) college and you made your visa application after 3 August 2015 (when the regulations changed for further education students); or
- You are studying at any other college or university that is not listed as a publicly-funded HEI on the register of Tier 4 sponsors
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Students aged under 16 cannot work in the UK.
Before taking any job, work placement or internship – even for unpaid, volunteer positions – check that your visa status allows you to work in the UK, and if so, how many hours you can work per week. UK immigration and visas are managed by the UK government’s Home Office, and you can find full information at UK Visas and Immigration.
The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) publishes up-to-date news on changes to immigration regulations and gives full guidance for students.
For full details, please see paragraphs 288 to 308 of the full guidance for Tier 4 students (PDF) from UK Visas and Immigration.
Do I have to pay tax?
There are other considerations too, such as National Insurance and paying tax. Read this page on the UKCISA website for excellent advice on this topic.
Take it easy!
Working too many hours can leave you feeling tired and stressed and could affect your studies. Think about how a job will affect your life, and ask your tutor or international student support officer for advice if you have any concerns.
Where can I find part-time work in the UK?
If your course involves a work placement or internship, it is likely that your school, college or university will arrange this for you. Speak to your tutor to find out more. If you are looking to arrange your own short-term work placement or internship, your institution may have a Careers Advisor who can help. In addition, the National Careers Service and Prospects have lots of good advice.
To find part-time roles, look out for notices around campus. You could also register with a recruitment agency, look in your local newspaper or contact companies you would like to work for.
Read more about finding and getting a job in the Entering a career section.
Volunteering is very popular with young people in the UK. The aim is to improve society; most volunteer positions are with charities. Volunteering is a great way to gain new skills and boost your CV too.
There are all kinds of volunteer roles. You could help to organise a charity event, help elderly people, work in a charity shop, a museum or gallery... the options are endless. Find out more at UKCISA and the UK government website, or speak to your Careers Advisor.
Be aware that there is a difference between unpaid employment (voluntary work) and volunteering so always make sure you check this with your organisation to stay on the safe side.