Working while studying | University of Oxford
Working while studying
Students working in the Upper Reading Room of the Radcliffe Camera, Oxford, UK

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Working while studying

If you want to work while at the University, you must make sure that any work does not breach the conditions of your visa, while taking care to maintain a balance between employment and studies. This information is only about visa restrictions on working. You will also need to keep to University guidelines.

If you have a Tier 4 student visa for degree level study

Your Tier 4 visa sticker or your Biometric Residence Permit card should indicate that you have restricted work permission, for example:

  • Work limited 20 hrs p/w term time
  • Work 20 hrs max in term-time
  • Work limit as in PBS rules 20hrs p/w

If you have a Tier 4 visa granted for degree level study but it does not appear to have this limited permission, for example it states ‘no work’, or refers to a 10 hour limit, contact the University visa advisers to find out if this should be changed.

Working a maximum of 20 hours per week

Note that this is a maximum so during term time (or for research students during any period except when you are taking agreed holiday – see below) you must not exceed 20 hours in any week even if you work fewer hours in other weeks. You must include all of your employment, including unpaid work, if you are working in more than one job. All work that you do in UK must be included, even if your employer is based outside of the UK. ‘On-call’ hours where you are not actively engaged in work but where you have to be in a particular place that count as employment under UK working time regulations count towards the 20 hour limit.

Periods during your course when your hours of work are unrestricted

If you are an undergraduate or studying a taught masters course you are allowed to work more than 20 hours per week outside of University full term time or, if this applies to your course, extended term. However, if your course formally requires you to be engaged in full-time study during what would otherwise be vacation, for example preparing for and taking an exam shortly after the end of term, or writing a dissertation to be completed during a university vacation, you should treat the 20 hour a week employment restriction as applying to this period.

If you are a postgraduate research student you are only allowed to exceed 20 hours a week while you are on course, during periods of holiday agreed with your departmental supervisor in accordance with the University’s paid work guidelines. Your supervisor may also confirm you can be on leave for this purpose after you have submitted your thesis, if there is then a short period during which you are not required to do any academic work before you need to start preparation for your viva.

Working before the start of your course and after completion

The Home Office have confirmed that you may work unrestricted hours between your visa validity start date and the start of your course.

After you have completed your course, including all work to hand in and assessments, you are allowed to work full-time while your Tier 4 visa is still valid. If you are eligible to apply for a further visa and you make this application before the expiry of your current visa, your Tier 4 work conditions will continue while the application is pending. However, some types of work visa applications make provision for your work permission associated with that visa type to start before the visa is granted. This applies in certain circumstances if you have applied for Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, Tier 2 or the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme – you should check the provisions for the relevant visa type.

Research students will have completed their degree when they receive ‘leave to supplicate’. Before this point, you will only be able to work for more than 20 hours per week if your supervisor can confirm you are on holiday – see the section above, ‘periods during your course when your hours of work are unrestricted’.

Am I allowed to do a work placement?

You would be allowed to do a work placement that has been planned and arranged as an assessed part of your course and is referred to on your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies. Other work experience placements or short internships would need to come under your permission to work during vacation if they were more than 20 hours per week.

What would happen to my work permission if I suspended study or withdrew from my course?

The Home Office has stated that your work permission depends on you being a current student so it ceases if you suspend or leave your course and you are not allowed to work at all.

Can I work as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer?

If you are elected to a student union sabbatical position during your course you are allowed to work full time in this post on your Tier 4 visa. Please inform the University’s Tier 4 compliance team because the University as your sponsor is required to notify the Home Office. If your period of office does not fall entirely within the validity of your current visa, you can extend your Tier 4 visa to cover it, and complete your course if necessary. UKCISA has helpful information on the visa implications of becoming a Sabbatical Officer.

Work that you are not allowed to do

You are not allowed to be self-employed, which includes running a business, consultancy or free-lance work. You are not allowed to be a sports coach, a professional sports person or an entertainer, unless you are studying music and this is a professional performance arranged as part of your course.

You are not allowed to fill a full-time permanent vacancy. This means that if you are going to be working full time for a period for example during vacation, your employer will need to give you a short, time limited contract.

Checks that an employer will need to carry out before you start work

If you will be working for the University or a college, read the University’s information on employing students.

Your employer must check that you are allowed to do the amount and type of work that they are offering. They will need to see and record your visa in your passport or your Biometric Residence Permit card. Employers cannot accept a visa affixed in an expired passport as evidence of your right to work. Your employer should ask you to provide evidence of your term and vacation dates to clarify when you may work more than 20 hours per week. This could be in the form of:

  • a printout from the University’s website showing these dates
  • a copy of a letter to you or an original letter direct to the employer from the University confirming the dates you are on vacation. For graduate research students we recommend asking your supervisor to write you the letter on departmental notepaper.

To find out more about your employer’s responsibilities, visit the UKCISA website.

Obtaining a National Insurance Number and paying tax

You must apply for a National Insurance Number (NINo) if you start working in the UK (including any form of teaching at Oxford). A NINo is an individual account number used for recording National Insurance and tax contributions from your pay. If you are thinking about starting work you can apply for a NINo before you get a job. To apply for a NINo, call 0845 600 0643. You will be told when and where to attend an appointment, and which documents to bring.

You will be liable for UK income tax on employment earnings above the specified personal allowance set each year. Your employer will deduct this from your wages and show the amount on your wage slip. If you pay too much tax, you will be able to claim a refund.

If you have a visa as a Short-Term Student or were given permission on arrival to enter the UK as a Visitor

Visitors are completely prohibited from working in the UK, either paid or unpaid. This includes Short-Term Students and General Visitors.

Dependants’ permission to work

A family member over 18 who is eligible for and has obtained a visa as your Tier 4 dependant will be able to work without an hours limit or be self employed in the UK. Family members are not allowed to work as a doctor or dentist in training if their visa or BRP lists this restriction (subject to exceptions), or as a sportsperson/coach.

Implications of working in breach of conditions

As with other immigration conditions attached to your visa, it is a criminal offence to breach your work condition, which the Home Office take very seriously. Working over the 20 hours per week when that limit applies, or doing prohibited work could lead to your removal from the UK or refusal of future immigration applications and/or a time bar on returning to the UK. An employer who gives you work which breaches the conditions of your visa, or who does not properly check your right to work may be committing an offence.