Work Permission for Tier 4 Students

Work Permission for Tier 4 Students


Although the UK immigration rules provide vigorous demands for student coming to the UK from outside the EU to establish that they have the financial means to pay for their own costs throughout their studies, it is still quite possible that you will have to find a way to supplement the costs of your study by finding work. Current Immigration Rules in the UK 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. There are also hefty fines for employers taking on staff without permission to work.

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 full time during or after finishing your studies, but you may need to register as a worker under the Worker Registration Scheme.

If you are from outside the EEA, the position is not so straight forward. This article seeks to help you understand the current rules in force.

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. It often means that students studying at a private sector college are not given permission to work, despite the fact that these students may need that permission more than others.

 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 permitted hours in any one week during term-time, even if you sometimes work under the maximum number of hours a week in other weeks.

Remember that it is your responsibility to ensure that you comply with these rules. If you exceed these hours your student visa can be cancelled and you can be forced to leave the UK.

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

Bear in mind that any money that you earn whilst doing part-time or vacation work cannot form part of your visa application. You need to show that you already have sufficient funds to meet the requirements of your visa or at least that your parents are able to support and maintain you with those funds.