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 are interested in working during your studies you must check that the type and amount of work is allowed by your visa as well as making sure it fits in with your course. It is a criminal offence with serious penalties to do any work which is not permitted under your visa conditions. 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 full-time 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 full-time 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.

You are not allowed to work at all if you have a Tier 4 visa to study a course part-time.

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 (Monday to Sunday) even if you work fewer hours in other weeks. If you are working in more than one job, the total hours across your different jobs must not exceed 20 hours. You must also include any unpaid work. All work that you do while you are physically in the UK is subject to the employment restriction, 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 scheduled study during what would otherwise be vacation, for example:

  • preparing for and taking an exam shortly after the end of term
  • undertaking a summer module
  • writing a dissertation to be submitted during vacation

then you should treat the 20 hour a week employment restriction as applying until you have completed the work. Check your undergraduate or graduate course handbook for further information.

If you are a postgraduate research student (masters by research or DPhil) you are only allowed to exceed 20 hours a week during your course if you are in a period of holiday agreed in advance 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’.

If you complete your course early, that is, before the end date given on the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies issued for your Tier 4 application, your visa may be shortened by the Home Office. You should not work longer following early completion than the length of extra time given on your visa originally after your expected course completion. For example, if you have had a Tier 4 visa for a two  year masters' course which included four extra months, and you complete the masters course 6 months earlier than expected, you should only work for a maximum of four months starting from your actual course completion date. Home Office information for employers says that it would be a breach of Tier 4 conditions to work longer than this.

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. You would need to arrange any other work experience placement or short internships for a vacation period if it involves working more than 20 hours a 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

Tier 4 visa holders are not allowed to:

  • be self-employed, which includes free-lance, consultancy or casual work where you are not on the employer’s or an agency’s employee pay-roll
  • fill a full-time, permanent vacancy except where you have completed your degree and have a Tier 2 application pending for a visa to do that job.
  • work as a sports coach or professional sports person
  • work as an entertainer, unless you are studying music and this is a professional performance arranged through the University as part of your course

Prohibition on engaging in business activity

In addition to other work restrictions, Tier 4 visa holders are not allowed to engage in business activity. The Home Office explains that you would be considered to be engaging in business activity if you are working for a business in which you have a financial or other significant beneficial interest in a capacity other than as an employee. Examples of business activity which is prohibited include but are not restricted to:

  • setting up a business as a sole trader or under a partnership arrangement and that business is either trading or establishing a trading presence;
  • being employed by a company in which you hold shares of 10% or more (including where the shares are held in a trust for you); or
  • working for a company where you also hold a statutory role, such as a director.

The only exception to the business prohibition is if you have a pending application for Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, you may work on developing your business.

What are the work restrictions on Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme visa holders?

For this information, see our page on working after your studies.

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 0800 141 2075. 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 and Short-term Students are completely prohibited from working in the UK, either paid or unpaid.

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

It is a criminal offence to do any work for which you do not have permission under your visa, including working over the 20 hours per week when that limit applies, or doing prohibited types of work. As well as the possibility of conviction of a prison sentence of up to six months or an unlimited fine, a breach could lead to 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.

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