Working on a Student Visa

This is a brief guide to the most common Student visa work issues. If individual advice on a matter not covered by the guide is required please contact the Student Advice and Support Service.

Whether you are allowed to work in the UK with a Student visa will depend on your visa conditions.

It is important to comply with the conditions of your visa.  If you breach visa conditions UKVI can rely on this to cancel your visa permission and refuse to grant future visa applications.  As the university is your visa sponsor if it becomes aware that you are breaching any visa condition it is obliged to report this to UKVI.

Visa conditions only apply while you are in the UK, they do not apply at times you are away from the UK e.g.  vacation or study abroad periods.

UKVI sets out the Student visa work restrictions and allowances within its caseworker guidance and guidance to employers who also need to ensure any employment is legal.  In general most students on a Tier 4 / Student visa are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during term-time and full-time during vacations including the period before a course starts and after it ends. For these purposes a week runs from Monday to Sunday. If your course includes an assessed placement or internship the 20 hours limit does not apply to such work.  Some Student visas will limit work to 10 hours per week e.g.  for those on the Art foundation programme or short pre-sessional English visas.

The visa restrictions limit the type of work and number of hours work during term-time.   If your visa allows work it does not limit how many jobs you may hold or how many hours can be worked outside term-time. 

It is important to check the conditions of your visa permission e.g.  from the decision details issued when the visa was granted and how ‘term-time’ applies to courses at Loughborough University.  We provide more information on that below.

UKCISA also provide useful information on Student visa work within its information and advice and blog.

When is term-time?

The University’s term dates are set out in the Student Handbook which also confirms how term-time applies to different cohorts of students at Loughborough University as well as the expected visa working conditions. Term dates are not set by the timing of assessments or coursework submission deadlines.

If an employer requires confirmation of your course or term dates you can obtain a letter giving study details from Student Records & Operations, the Doctoral College Office or London Student Services as relevant.  An employer can also rely on term dates available on-line.  An employer cannot rely on any letter from the University stating your right to work as it is not acceptable proof for UKVI right to work checks.

How do I check/prove my right to work?

This can depend on how you applied for your permission and how it was granted.  Visa decisions will generally include the conditions and a fuller explanation is provided in Student caseworker guidance.   Immigration documents such as a visa sticker or BRP generally only include an indication of work rights rather than a full statement.

If you have been issued an entry clearance vignette in your passport the work restriction should be noted in short form indicating whether work is allowed and any term-time hours limit.

If you have been issued a BRP this will contain a note of whether work is allowed and any term-time restrictions.

If you have been granted ‘digital status’ and have an online UKVI account (e.g. you applied for your Student permission using the UK immigration ID Check app) or you have a BRP you can view your immigration status online.  You can also generate a share code for a prospective employer to check your right to work online.

If necessary you can give an employer your details and permission to allow them to check your right to work directly with UKVI.  This is commonly used when someone is continuing in employment while waiting for a decision on a permission to stay/visa extension application.

UKVI guidance confirms when employers should check/obtain evidence of study details.  There is no provision to rely on a university letter making any statement about a student’s right to work, therefore the university is unable to issue such letters.  The employer should follow UKVI guidance and determine the right to work by checking visa and study details such as your course and study dates.

Work which is not permitted

There are certain types of work a Student visa does not permit:

  • Self employment or engaging in business activities.
  • Work as a professional sportsperson or coach (with limited exceptions e.g. if the work is an assessed placement).
  • Working as an entertainer e.g. as an actor, dancer, musician (unless undertaken as part of an assessed placement).
  • Permanent full-time work. This does not prevent temporary full-time work e.g. a fixed term contract outside term-time.  You can also start a permanent position if you have made an application to switch to Skilled Worker for that work or have applied to switch to the Graduate route.
  • Work training as a medical doctor or dentist.

Placement work

If your visa allows work this includes working for any number of hours on a placement which is an integral and assessed part of your course, the placement cannot form more than 50% of the programme.   While on placement you can take additional work up to the limit allowed during term-time e.g.  20 hours per week.

The placement provider will need a letter from the university confirming the details of your placement including that it is an assessed and integral part of your course, you can request this from the placement officer for your School.

Internships or work experience that are not an assessed part of your course do not count as placements, but these could be undertaken on a full-time basis at certain times e.g.  during the summer vacation for undergraduates or during the extra 4 months a Student visa usually covers beyond the course end date.

Work as a professional sportsperson

This is defined within the Immigration Rules.  Sub paragraph (i) below provides useful exceptions for Students allowing Amateur competition (including BUCS) and placement opportunities to be taken up professionally:

“Professional Sportsperson” means a person who is one or more of the following:

(a) currently providing services as a sportsperson, or is playing or coaching in any capacity, at a professional or semi-professional level of sport (whether paid or unpaid); or

(b) currently receiving payment, including payment in kind, for playing or coaching, and that payment covers all, or the majority of, their costs for travelling to, and living in, the UK, or has received such payment within the previous 4 years; or

(c) currently registered to a professional or semi-professional sports team or has been so registered within the previous 4 years (this includes all academy and development team age groups); or

(d) has represented their nation or national team within the previous two years, including all youth and development age groups from under 17s upwards; or

(e) has represented their state or regional team within the previous two years, including all youth and development age groups from under 17s upwards; or

(f) has an established international reputation in their chosen field of sport; or

(g) engages an agent or representative, with the aim of finding opportunities as a sportsperson, and/or developing a current or future career as a sportsperson, or has engaged such an agent in the last 12 months; or

(h) is providing services as a sportsperson or coach, unless they are doing so as an “Amateur” in a charity event; or

(i) is providing services as a sportsperson or coach, unless they are doing so as a Student who is studying a course at degree level or above at a higher education provider and playing or coaching sport as an Amateur or as part of a work placement that is undertaken as an integral and assessed part of their course.’

The general prohibition on work as a professional sportsperson does not prevent other work in the sports sector e.g.  sports promotion/management, non-coaching roles such as a performance analyst.

Self-employment or engaging in business activity

Government guidance explains when you are likely to be considered self-employed.  This can include when you are regularly trading for profit.  Beware of any positions that involve working on a ‘freelance’ or ‘consultancy’ basis.  Occasionally the distinction between being employed or self-employed may rely on several factors, information from the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group provides a commentary and further resources on this.

In regard to engaging in business activity UKVI Student caseworker guidance explains:

‘A Student will be considered to be engaging in business activity if they are working for a business in which they have a financial or other significant beneficial interest in a capacity other than as an employee.

Some examples which would be considered to be engaging in business activity are below. This is not an exhaustive list:

 • 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 they hold shares of 10% or more (including where the shares are held in a trust for them)

• working for a company where they also hold a statutory role, such as a director’

The UKCISA blog discusses various scenarios which can count as self-employment or engaging in business activity.

The prohibition on self-employment/business activity does not prevent accessing general  Enterprise support nor researching or planning a potential business.  However you should avoid any activity that could be construed as establishing a trading presence and this will limit your ability to pursue a year in enterprise.

Voluntary work or volunteering

‘Work’ incudes paid or unpaid work.  The visa restrictions are based on the type of work, number of hours in term-time or whether it is work on a placement, there is no consideration of how much is earned.

‘Volunteering’ does not count as work but unpaid ‘voluntary work’ is limited by a Student visa in the same way as paid work.  In the Student caseworker guidance UKVI explain:

Voluntary work is distinct from volunteering.

Factors to take into account when considering whether a particular activity constitutes voluntary work or volunteering are:

  • voluntary workers will usually have contractual obligations to perform the work (for example to attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks) with the employer being contractually required to provide the work – the contract does not have to be written - the worker is usually remunerated in kind.
  • volunteers do not have a contract - they must not be a substitute for an employee, and they must not be doing unpaid work – for example, receiving payment in kind (although they are sometimes reimbursed for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses).
  • volunteers usually help a charity or voluntary or public sector organisation’.

How can the University support you?

You can find guidance on various visa topics on the University’s webpages. These webpages include the most common visa related topics. If you require advice or guidance beyond what is covered on the webpages you can contact the Student Advice and Support Service.

Last Updated: 9th August 2023