If you’re an international student, you may be curious about whether you can get a job while studying. International students are allowed to work in the UK, but only if you have a Tier 4 student visa. Students who are on a short-term study visa are not allowed to work.

If you’re asking ‘can I work and study in the UK?’, check out our information below to find answers to all your questions.

  1. Working with a Tier 4 student visa
  2. What kind of work can you do?
  3. Work placements and internships
  4. Working in the UK after you’ve graduated

1. Working with a Tier 4 student visa

The majority of Tier 4 students can have jobs while they study. This gives international students a chance to try out paid work, gain work experience and other social and cultural benefits that getting a part-time job or work placement while studying can bring.

However, to be eligible to work, you need to be studying at a university listed on the list of ‘recognised bodies’ which is a list of the official recognised universities. It is also dependant on the track record on compliance with the UK Government’s register of licensed sponsors.

How many hours can you work?

If you’re an international student enrolled on a full-time undergraduate or postgraduate degree, these are the hours you’re allowed to work:

  • part-time during term for up to 20 hours per week 
  • part-time during term for up to 10 hours a week if you’re studying a qualification below degree level
  • full-time during any holidays

If you’re not sure, you can check your visa vignette or biometric residence permit (BRP) for your personal work eligibility. 

For example, Newcastle University is a recognised body, and you can find more information about term times and holidays here. You need to know when the term starts and vacation dates begin so you can plan your working hours. UK universities will also be able to help you find part-time work in the city or on campus.

If you work irregular hours within a week, keep a detailed record of how many hours you work each day so that you don’t exceed the limit. 

2. What kind of work can you do?

With a long-term Tier 4 visa, you can apply for and accept jobs in most types of paid role and at any level. There are also no limits on what you can earn, but you have to make sure you never exceed the maximum amount of time you’re allowed to work.

Students on a Tier 4 visa are also not allowed to be self-employed, an entertainer, a professional sportsperson or a doctor or dentist. In some cases there are exceptions for students on specific degree courses.

Here’s another tip - don’t let your job distract you from your degree. It can be very exciting to focus on a new job but remember, your degree is the priority.

Can international students do volunteer work?

International students on long-term visas can apply to be a volunteer. Although you don’t get paid for volunteering, it’s a great opportunity to experience new ideas, industries and learn some new skills.

An important thing to remember is that there is a difference between how ‘volunteering’ and ‘voluntary work’ is viewed.

You need to make sure that when you apply for volunteering, it’s classed by the organisation you’re applying to as ‘volunteering’ and not ‘voluntary work’. 

This is because voluntary work involves the same type of work as volunteering, but counts towards the maximum 20 hours you’re allowed to work per week. However, volunteering does not.

To find more information on the differences between volunteering and voluntary work, you can read the Tier 4 policy guidance from UKCISA.

What work are you not allowed to do?

There are some roles that you’re not allowed to work in as an international student. Although, these rules can be different in certain situations so it’s good to read up on the specifics.

Here are the types of work you’re not allowed to do while studying:

  • self-employed 
  • professional sportsperson
  • permanent full-time job
  • doctor or dentist in training (unless that is part of your course)

You can check on specific activities by reading paragraph six of the Immigration Rules which define ‘employment.’ 

3. Work placements and internships

If you’re an international student looking for more experience related to your degree, internships and placements are a great idea

The experience and skills you will develop can help you decide what job you’d like to get after you graduate. It can also be beneficial when you eventually search for a career. 

Employers like to see you’ve had previous experience working in a related position or industry. Some degrees even offer work placements as part of the course itself. 

Work placements count as an assessed part of a specific course. If it’s a part of your course, you can work full time in a work placement, even during term time. You can also work full time in a placement if it’s within a holiday period. 

A work placement can be no more than 50% of your overall programme at degree level or 33% below degree level.

Internships and work placement can be undertaken only if your course already includes it as an option. Furthermore, you need to meet the following requirements about course level and sponsor so that you’re eligible to spend up to half of your course taking work placements:

  • you’re sponsored by a higher education institution or by a Tier 4 sponsor
  • you’re studying a degree-level course

An internship that is an assessed part of your course and does not exceed one-third of the time spent on the course can be classed as a work placement. However, if it’s not an official part of your course, the 20-hour work restriction will apply. You can still work in an internship full time if it’s during a holiday period. 

If you’re staying in the UK over the summer holiday, it’s a good idea to get an internship during that period. This will increase your skills and may help when gaining employment after graduation. However, this is only available for undergraduate students.

Universities and their careers advice service will be able to help you find opportunities, such as Newcastle University’s Careers Service.

For more information, visit the UKCISA blog on Tier 4 work.

4. Working in the UK after you’ve graduated

The UK has many fantastic industries that are all looking for international talent. Getting a degree and a job here is a real advantage for you and your CV. 

Furthermore, non-EU students who want to gain these benefits by applying for jobs in the UK must first apply for a work visa from UK Visa and Immigration. So what types of work visas are there?

Work visas: the facts

There are several types of work visas you can apply for after graduating from a UK university:

  • Tier 1 (graduate entrepreneur) visa: this visa is open to students who are developing a business idea. You need a sponsorship from your university who will have recognised the potential of your idea
  • Tier 2 (general) visa: this is the main visa used to remain in the UK after graduating. Before you apply, you must have an offer of a job from a licensed employer which offers an annual salary of at least £30,000
  • Tier 4 (student) visa: if you’re completing a PhD at a UK university, you can apply to stay for another 12 months in the country, beginning after you graduate. This gives you unrestricted work rights and a whole year to look for employment 
  • Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme: some nationalities can apply for this two-year work permit
  • Tier 5 Temporary Worker: you can apply for this tier and, if successful in your application, work in the UK for either 12 or 24 months (There are a number of different types of Tier 5 visas. You can explore them all here)

Just as a recap, if you were asking the question ‘can I work and study in the UK as an international student?’ - the answer is yes. But make sure to research into the specific job you’ll be doing and decide if any of the rules above apply to you. It all depends on which visa you apply for. 

Choosing a career path might seem like a difficult task, but it’s an important part of the university experience and will benefit you in later life. If you’re still thinking about what kind of career will be best for you, you might need to take our helpful quiz…

Want to find out more about working in the UK? Our Careers Services team offers invaluable advice about career opportunities and provides support with CVs and job applications.