Working in the UK during your studies

Please read UKCISA's extensive guidance on working while studying.

European students

If you are a European national you can work freely in the UK, with the exception of Croatian nationals who must obtain worker authorisation before starting employment. Please read the UKCISA guidance for more information.

International students

Whether you can work during your studies depends on what type of immigration permission you have. Your visa will say if you can work in the UK and, if so, how many hours per week during term time.

If you are unsure what conditions you have been given or don't understand the wording on your sticker/identity card, please check with the International Services Team by completing our online enquiry form, before you start working.

You can work if your Tier 4 visa (Entry Clearance or Biometric Residence Permit) says you can.

If you have Tier 4 dependants in the UK who want to work they should check the wording on their visa. Further information is available from UKCISA.

  • Types of work

    You can do most types of work with a Tier 4 (General) visa, but you must not:

    • be self-employed or engage in business activity (read the Tier 4 Policy Guidance for a definition)
    • be employed as a professional sportsperson including as a sports coach
    • be employed as an entertainer
    • take a permanent full-time job
    • work as a doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on the foundation programme

  • Elected Sabbatical Officer

    The Tier 4 employment conditions allow employment as a Students' Union Sabbatical Officer, as long as:

    • it's for up to two years
    • the post is elective
    • the post is at the institution that is your sponsor

    In addition, elected Sabbatical Officers can work up to the hours stated on their visa in other employment.

    You can also be elected to a national National Union of Students (NUS) position.

  • Volunteering

    You might want to be a volunteer during your time in the UK. There is a difference between unpaid employment (voluntary work) and volunteering, and you should always check with the organisation which offers you a volunteering opportunity whether it can be regarded as unpaid employment. This is because time you spend doing unpaid employment counts towards your maximum number of hours of work a week.

    The Government has produced information about the difference between voluntary work and volunteering with some useful examples, and the Tier 4 Policy Guidance now confirms that Tier 4 students can volunteer and explains how the Home Office differentiates between 'voluntary work' and 'volunteering'.

  • Number of hours

    Your Tier 4 (General) visa should have a condition allowing the following hours of work per week in term time:

    • Degree students – 20 hours
    • Below degree level students – 10 hours

    You must only work the hours stated on your visa. You cannot exceed the hours in any individual week. A ‘week’ is seven days starting on a Monday and ending on a Sunday. In your vacations you can work longer hours but must check what term time means for you.

    If you're an elected Tier 4 Sabbatical Officer, you can work up to the restricted hours stated on your visa in other employment. This is in addition to the full time Sabbatical Officer post.

    If your visa shows a different number of hours per week than stated above or states "no work" this could be an error. Please complete the immigration enquiry form and we will check it for you and if appropriate can request it is amended by the Home Office.

  • Definition of term time

    The University's standard term times do not apply to all students. If you want to work more hours in your vacations, you must check when the University considers you to be on vacation.

    • Below degree level students – your term time will depend on the course you are studying.
    • Undergraduate degree students – you will have three terms with vacations at Christmas, Easter and in the summer.
    • 1 year Masters students – you will have vacations at Christmas and Easter only.
    • PhD students – you do not have standard vacations and should only work part-time.

    After the course end date on your CAS you can work full-time until your visa expires. If the duration of your course changes you must continue to work part-time hours until you have fully completed your studies and should seek immigration advice.

  • Requesting a letter from the University for your employer

    Your employer must check your visa allows you to work in the UK. They will need a letter from the University detailing your term dates. You can request a letter from the International Services Team by emailing

    If your employer has any questions about your work conditions they would need to contact the Home Office.

If you undertake any work that is not allowed or work more hours than you should, you will be considered to be in breach of your immigration conditions. This is a criminal offence and can have very serious consequences. If you are concerned that you may have broken the rules please seek immediate advice from SU Advice.

If you have immigration permission as a Short-term student you are not allowed to work in the UK at all even if it is unpaid. You cannot do a work placement.

If you do not have a student visa you must check the immigration rules that apply to you before you start work. The immigration advisers at the University are not able to provide advice regarding non-student immigration categories. Check the Home Office website for more information and seek advice from an alternative immigration service if necessary.

National Insurance and Income Tax

Information about Income Tax and National Insurance is available from HM Revenue and Customs.

The International Students' Association, part of the Students' Union, arrange National Insurance number interviews at our Colchester Campus at various points in the year.

Finding work

Our Employability and Careers Centre can help you find work and provide information about employment rights.