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UK Life

UK life  Working during study

Working during study   

Working UK

Working after study
UK student visas 

UK life

It is possible that you will have to find a way to supplement the costs of your study. Luckily, UK regulations mean that many international students will not find it too difficult to work while in the UK.

It is vital that you have the correct visa or documentation to allow you to work in the UK before you start any job. Failure to do so could result in deportation or at the very least risk your continuing studies.

If you are a national of a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland, you will not need a work permit to work in the UK, and you will be able to work during or after finishing your studies, but you may need to register as a worker under the Worker Registration Scheme. (See the article about entry requirements and working in the UK for European students for more information.)

If you are from outside the EEA, see the article about student visas for further information about coming to the UK as an international student.

Conditions for non-EEA students working in the UK

New immigration rules affecting Tier 4 immigration applications came into effect on 4 July 2011.

If you made your Tier 4 immigration application on or after this date, you are only entitled to work if you study at either a higher education institution or a publicly funded further education college as defined by the UK Border Agency (UKBA)*. This change to the immigration rules is likely to affect you if you are studying at a private-sector college.

* The UKBA defines a ’higher education institution’ (or HEI for short) as a ’recognised body’ (meaning that it has its own UK degree-awarding powers), or a body in receipt of public funding as a HEI. Institutions (including further education colleges) that receive some public funding to deliver higher education courses do not fall within this definition of an HEI. You can find a list of designated bodies on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills website.  

If you are studying at a higher education institution, during term-time you can work for:

  • up to 20 hours a week if you are studying at degree level or above
  • up to 10 hours a week if you are studying a course that is below degree

If you are studying at a publicly funded further education college, during term-time you can work for up to 10 hours a week if you are studying a course at any level.

Students on a study abroad programme at what the UKBA defines as an ’overseas higher education institution’ in the UK can also work for  20 hours a week,  and those with immigration permission as a Tier 4 (Child) Student can work for up to 10 hours a week during term-time.

If you are not covered by any of these provisions, you will not be able to work in the UK.

The only exceptions are if you:

  • are doing a work placement related to your course
  • have been elected as a Students’ Union sabbatical officer
  • you are on the Foundation Programme for postgraduate doctors and dentists.

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 must make sure that you comply with any restrictions which apply to you, so always check what the sticker in your passport or your identity card says and make sure that you do not work more hours a week than it allows.

If you have permission to work, you can work full-time during your holidays.

Note that, with the exception of work organised by your university or college, any money that you hope to make while doing part-time or vacation work cannot form part of your visa application.

See the UKCISA Information Sheet Working during your studies and go to the UK Border Agency website for more.

National Insurance number

You will need a National Insurance number to be able to work in the UK. As well as income tax, your earnings will be deducted a certain amount for social security and the National Health Service. Contact your nearest Department for Work and Pensions office by looking in the phone book and organise an appointment. You will need to fill out a form, be able to prove your identity and show that you have a relevant visa, so take your passport along with you. Your number will take about 12 weeks to arrive, but you will be able to start work without it.

Typical jobs

Most students try and take work that they can easily fit around their study. This usually means shift work, such as working in a bar or restaurant, which can be changed around week by week. Call centres are another popular choice. Competition for these sorts of jobs will be fierce, so, if you think you will need to work, it is always best to organise a job as soon as possible.

During the holidays, the free hours that you can work are obviously a lot more and this is when most students take on full-time but temporary work in places where they can earn more money, such as in offices.

Factories and warehouses also take on many students, although the work can be very hard. Again, competition means that you should organise such work quickly, preferably before the holidays begin, so that you can start work as soon as your studying stops.

Finding jobs

Depending on when you are looking for work, getting a job can be very easy or very hard. Here are your choices:

  • University careers service will have information on any jobs available both on and off campus.
  • Recruitment agencies.
  • Local newspapers’ classified section.
  • Noticeboards at the university.
  • Online student jobs noticeboards and websites.
  • Signs in the windows of shops, restaurants, bars, etc.
  • Word of mouth.
  • Simply going to an employer and asking.

For holiday work, you may want to consider pursuing a job that will provide you with some experience for your long-term career goals. The careers service should have contacts in a variety of industries and can help you organise a placement. Employers are increasingly looking for evidence of such dedication to your future career.

Paying tax

If you earn less than £8,105 in the current tax year, (5 April 2012 to 4 April 2013), no tax is payable. However, in the UK income tax is automatically deducted from the salary under the Pay As You Earn system (PAYE). If your weekly pay is equal to more than £8,105 in the year (pro rata), you will have tax deducted from your pay.

When you have left or are about to leave the UK, you should normally complete form P85, or in certain cases form P85(S). The purpose of a form P85 is to inform HMRC that you are moving abroad. For employees taxed under PAYE, completing a form P85 should result in a tax refund to account for the fact that the employment income ceased during the tax year.

Check the HMRC website for further information.


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