Can you work on a UK student visa?

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Bryan Smith - October, 07 2022

4 min read

About the author

Content Manager at Prodigy Finance, helping international students gear up to study abroad

If you’re ready to start your study abroad journey in the United Kingdom, you’ve probably wondered whether you’d be able to work either part-time or full-time on a student visa.

Unfortunately, the answer is complicated and can greatly depend on whether you plan to study full or part time, and can also be informed by the type of visa you have applied for.

What are the UK’s visa tiers?

  • Tier 1 visas are intended to be offered to ‘High-Value Migrants’, which could include persons internationally recognised in the sciences or arts or notable entrepreneurs or investors.
  • Tier 2 visas are intended for ‘Skilled Workers’, which generally refers to Persons who have been offered a skilled job in a position that cannot be filled by a UK settled person or who have taken an inter-company transfer.
  • Tier 3 visas for ‘Unskilled Workers’ are intended for employment during labour shortages.
  • A Tier 4 student visa for Adult Students is intended for persons over the age of 16 intended to study full or part-time.
  • Tier 5 visas for Temporary Workers are designed for visitors to the UK who will be undertaking temporary occupation such as research or performance.

Understanding Tier 4: Adult Student visas in the UK

How long does a Tier 4 visa last?

A Tier 4 Student Visa is valid for the duration of your study programme, as well as an additional four months following the end of your classes.

What’s the difference between Tier 4 and 5 visas?

While a Tier 4 visa is intended for adult students aged 16 or older intending to study at or above the UK’s National Qualification Framework level 3, a Tier 5 visa is intended for temporary workers.

While you may work on a Tier 4 visa in accordance with the restrictions we’ll outline below, it’s worthwhile to note that a Tier 5 visa is only intended for temporary workers who will not conduct their business in the UK for a longer period of time.

Can international students work in the UK?

The good news is that students studying full-time, degree level courses who hold a valid student visa are generally able to work in the UK with some restrictions.

Generally, students with a valid UK student visa who are studying full-time may pursue work opportunities, but you may not:

  • be self-employed;
  • work in a position that would fill a full-time permanent vacancy;
  • work as a professional sportsperson including as a sports coach, paid or unpaid, as defined by the Home Office on pages 94-95 of the Student route guidance;
  • work as an entertainer, paid or unpaid;
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on a foundation programme.

Can I work in the UK while studying full-time on a student visa?

What are the expected UK student visa working hours?

To work in the UK on your student visa, you’ll need to comply with several restrictions - notably, you’ll be able to work up to 20 hours per a week (categorised as a seven day period starting on a Monday and ending on a Sunday).

You’ll also be able to work full-time in your vacation period, and further, you’ll also be able to work full-time if you enrol on a work placement that is an integral part of your chosen curriculum, with the caveat that your intended work placement must not be longer than 50% of your total course length.

You can also work as a student union sabbatical officer for up to two years.

Can I work in the UK while studying part-time?

Unfortunately, if you are enrolled in a part-time course on your student visa, you won’t be able to undertake any paid or unpaid work.

Can I work in the UK once my course has finished?

Once your course has concluded, you are classed as a student on ‘vacation’ - where you will be entitled to work either for up to 4 months or until your student visa expires (whichever comes sooner).

If you wish to pursue a full-time job in the UK after your course has completed, you will be required to change your visa status. You can apply to become a Skilled Worker up to three months before your course concludes.

Frequently asked questions

How many hours is a full time job in the UK?

While there’s no specific or set amount of time that legally constitutes a full-time job in the UK, workers are generally required to work more than 35 hours or more per week.

How are working hours defined on a UK student visa?

A student visa issued for full-time degree level studies enables you to work for a maximum of 20 hours per week.

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