Getting a student visa in the UK can be an expensive process, not to mention the additional £1,023 per month you need to show in your bank account to prove you’re able to sustain yourself while living in the UK. So, employment is an attractive prospect, not to mention the work experience, exposure to the English language and opportunity to make friends and connections.
However, before you go out and start working, you must check on your student visa whether you have permission to work or not.
But even if you have legal permission, as an international student in the UK on a student visa, you’re not allowed to work 40 hours a week during term time. You’re only allowed to work up to 20 hours per week. The rules do change outside of term time, and some students don’t have permission to work at all, so make sure you’re aware of all the details to avoid any legal trouble.
Can International Students Work in the UK?
In theory, yes, international students can work while they study in the UK, though they can never take on permanent jobs. However, this is not the case for everybody. When you’re issued your student visa, it should state one of the following phrases to show that you are eligible to work in the UK:
- Authorised to work
- Work must be authorised
- Work as per Student Visa rules
- Restricted work – Part-time during term-time, Full-time during vacations
- Work limited to x hours per week at maximum during term-time
It may not be written exactly as above, but some variation of these phrases will permit you to work whilst studying in the UK. However, there are limits on the work you can do and how many hours you can work.
You are not permitted to work in the UK on a student visa if it states any variations on the following phrases:
- No work
- Work not authorised
- Work prohibited
If any of these phrases are written on your student visa letter, you may not work in the UK while studying, including unpaid work, and if you’re not sure, you should ensure you have permission before doing any work.
Working without permission is a significant breach of your visa conditions and can result in hefty fines for you and your employer as well as potentially causing a withdrawal of your visa or preventing you from obtaining other visas later.
Similarly, working more hours than you’re permitted is a breach of your student visa and can result in a substantial penalty, so make sure you’re clear on how many hours you can work while on a student visa in the UK.
How Many Hours Can International Students Work in the UK?
Minors can attend education facilities in the UK with student visas and can work up to 10 hours per week during term time, and full-time in official school holidays. However, most people coming to the UK to study are over 18 and looking to attend a British university.
While studying for a degree in the UK, with permission to work on your student visa letter, you can work up to 20 hours per week during term time, and full-time outside of official term dates.
If you’re planning on working full-time outside of your term dates, you should be aware of other legal stipulations. Under 18 years old, you are not legally allowed to work more than 40 hours a week, whether you’re in the UK with a student visa or not. Similarly, adults are not permitted to work more than 48 hours on average per week, unless they legally opt out of the 48-hour week.
There are slightly different regulations surrounding work placements.
Work placements are an excellent step into the world of work for young people and a great way to make connections to help your future career prospects, however, there are, of course, limitations for foreign students in the UK.
International students studying in the UK may undergo full-time work placements that are formally part of their university degree and so will be assessed. They may also work an additional 20 hours, maximum, per week while on their work placement, so in these particular cases, international students can work more than 40 hours in the UK each week. However, bear in mind the legal 48-hour working week before you begin a work placement and a part-time job.
Some of the terminology relating to university schedules and immigration regulations can be confusing, so let’s go through the most important terms to understand when finding out when and for how long you’re eligible to work in the UK on a student visa.
A ‘week’ is a 7-day period beginning on Monday, so as an international student at university, you can only work up to 20 hours per week during term time. Even if you have multiple employers, your total hours worked in one week should not exceed the hours you’re eligible to work. What’s more, this weekly limit includes paid work and unpaid work.
‘Term time’ refers to your course dates, which you can find on the website of the university you’re attending. During term time for university students, you’re allowed to work up to 20 hours per week, outside of term time, i.e. in the holiday dates specified by your university, you’re able to work full-time. But remember – you’re not allowed to take on a permanent position in a company.
‘Outside of term time’ also includes the time before your course starts and once it’s finished before your student visa expires. As student visas are given for the length of your course with an additional one month at the beginning and four months at the end, that’s a total of five months outside of term time that you’re allowed to work in the UK full-time.
For undergraduate students, the rules are pretty simple. Your university will provide official course dates and Christmas, Easter and Summer holidays are all officially outside of term time, meaning you can work full-time if you’ve successfully completed all of your work.
Student visas are given for an extended period to cover transport to and from the UK as well as give extra time for students who may need to re-sit any exams. If you have not completed or passed your exams by the end of your term dates and need to retake your exams during official holidays, this is then considered term time in which you should be studying, so you can only work up to 20 hours per week.
If you’re already working full-time in your university holidays and receive notice that you haven’t passed an exam or piece of coursework and you must retake it before completing your course or moving on to the next year, you have to change your hours immediately to fewer than 20 per week.
Postgraduate Masters Students
For masters students, Christmas and Easter holidays are out of term time so you may work full time during these breaks, however, summer holidays are usually the time you are expected to write your dissertation, so summer vacations are term time, so you can only work up to 20 hours per week.
If your Master’s programme lasts more than one year, however, and your university has an official summer holiday during the first year, you may work full-time.
Postgraduate PhD Students
PhD students do not have Christmas, Easter or Summer holidays as they’re expected to perform intense research throughout their course. The only time considered outside of term time for PhD students is before and after a course’s official dates and during a break that’s approved and documented by their supervisor.
What Jobs Can International Students Not Do in the UK?
Some part-time and full-time jobs can be attractive and lucrative to students, however, international students are not allowed to work in the following roles:
- Sportsperson or coach
- Doctor or dentist (unless otherwise specified)
Help with Student Visa
There are so many rules and exceptions surrounding immigration procedures that it’s understandable to fear going it alone. At Synergy Immigration Solutions, we’re here to help you get your student visa and understand all the finer details so you can make the most of your time in the UK.