Can I Work In The UK?

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Essex isn’t just about the courses and modules. It’s not just about the nights out and the delicious toasties in the SU Lounge. It’s also about helping you prepare for life after university, and about helping you to earn money while you’re here in a wide global community.

Because of this, they offer a whole host of employability options for students to take up while they study. This will help you to improve your CV, gain experience and earn money to help pay for food (and the odd night in Southend).

You can look at the list of SU student jobs here. And you can read all about the University Frontrunner scheme and read more about Essex Employability here.

However, as an international student, there are some important legal requirements that you have to follow when it comes to working in the UK, so make sure you keep reading to make sure you’re not caught out!


The following information is suitable for Tier 4 Visa holders only




“Am I allowed to work in the UK?”

  • In the UK, international students may be able to take part in paid or unpaid internships, part-time work or volunteering, if your visa says you have the right to work.  If you end your studies early you should seek advice before undertaking any further work.
  • Whether you have the Right to Work in the UK, and the number of hours you are allowed to work per week will depend on the conditions of your visa.  Before beginning any employment (paid, unpaid or voluntary) you should always make sure you understand the conditions of your visa.  Your visa (either Entry Clearance or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)) will state whether you have the Right to Work and if so how many hours per week.  For degree level students this will usually be 20 hours per week during term time.  If you are studying below degree level then this is reduced to 10 hours per week during term time.  If your visa states a different number of hours or states ‘no work’ you should seek advice before starting any work or volunteering activities by contacting the University International Services team on their immigration enquiry form
  • To be able to carry out paid work in the UK, you must have a National Insurance number. You might already have a National Insurance (NI) number printed on the back of your biometric residence permit (BRP). If you don’t, we arrange some National Insurance Number interviews on campus during term one. If you're interested, drop an email to VP International, and they’ll add to you a list and be able to give you more information once they've been confirmed.  You can also apply on your own here. You might have to travel to London for an interview though”.


“Are there restrictions on the type of work I can do?”

You must not engage in any of the following, paid or unpaid (including as a work placement unless the Tier 4 Policy Guidance allows an exception):

  • be self-employed or engage in business activity
  • be employed as a professional sportsperson including as a sports coach
  • be employed as a professional  entertainer
  • take a permanent full-time job (except as an SU Sabbatical officer)
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on the foundation programme

We recommend you read the Tier 4 Policy Guidance for definitions and the UKCISA guidance, including their blog ‘A working definition’, for more information.

“Can I do voluntary work?”

  • Volunteering is a great way to build your skills and experience.  The Home Office states there is a difference between unpaid employment (voluntary work) and volunteering.  Before doing any volunteering you should check with the organisation you are volunteering with as to whether the role is regarded as unpaid employment.  Voluntary work must be counted within the numbers of hours you work per week.  There is helpful information from the UK Government that gives information and examples about the differences between volunteering and voluntary work and you can also find further information in the Tier 4 Policy Guidance.


“Can I work more hours one week and less the next?”

  • Many students have asked in the past whether they can for example work 19 hours one week and then 21 the next. Unfortunately, this is not allowed, YOU MUST NOT exceed the hours stated on your Visa in any individual week during term time – the Home Office defines a week as 7 days starting on a Monday ending on a Sunday.   


“Can I work 20 hours per week per employer?”

  • Unfortunately, the restriction on Tier 4 work applies to the combined total of hours. So even if you work with more than one employer, you cannot exceed more than 20 hours combined in any individual week “What about working in the University vacations?”

The conditions on your visa relate to the maximum number of hours you can work during University term time.  During your university vacations, you can work more than 20 hours as long as your visa gives you permission to work.  The University standard vacation periods do NOT apply to all students so you should always check before beginning any work.  Masters students are not considered to have a summer vacation period and PhD students do not have any University Vacations.  You can find further information on the University’s webpage


“When is term time?”

  • There isn’t a specific answer to this. The University Immigration pages provide some general guidelines but these dates should only be used as a rough guide; many courses have individual term dates. So when it comes to something as important as Visa restrictions, it is important to check you have the right information for your own course.  You can find further information on the following University web page:


“I am a postgraduate student and need to plan ahead; do I get a summer break?”

  • Unfortunately, it is usually just Undergraduate students at Essex that get a summer break. 1 year Masters students don’t get a summer vacation, so are still restricted to the hours stated on their Biometric Resident Permits (BRP) during this time. PhD students don’t get any vacations, so they should only ever work the hours stated on their BRP.


 “I am worried I may have broken some of the restrictions, what will happen and what can I do?”

  • Breaking the working restrictions on your Tier 4 Visa is a criminal offence and may lead to very serious consequences. Any future immigration applications may also be affected and you could jeopardise the university’s Tier 4 sponsor status.
  • If you are worried that you might have broken any of the working restrictions on your BRP, then please seek independent advice immediately from an immigration lawyer, UKCISA or SU Advice.


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