Working in the UK
If you plan to work in the UK, either during or after your studies, you should become familiar with the rules of your visa.
Working during your studies
Only students on a Tier 4 (General) student visa can work (paid or unpaid) in the UK during their studies. Those on a short-term study visa are prohibited from working, including on a work placement or work experience.
In order to work in the UK, Tier 4 students must apply for a National Insurance number. You may already have a National Insurance number printed on the back of your biometric residence permit; you don’t need to apply for a National Insurance number if you already have one.
Normally, Tier 4 visa holders are able to work (paid, unpaid, and voluntary) 10 or 20 hours per week during term time, and full hours during University vacation periods. Your visa or biometrics card will detail the amount of hours you are permitted to work, along with any restrictions.
There are certain kinds of work you cannot do on a Tier 4 visa:
- self-employment and business activity
- work as a professional sportsperson, including as a sports coach
- a permanent full-time job
- doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on the International Foundation programme.
EU, EEA and Switzerland
Students from the EU, EEA or Switzerland (except for Croatia) don’t need to apply for permission to work in the UK during their studies, and there is no limit on the number of work hours or the type of work they can undertake. Find out about working in the UK as a Croatian national.
For further information on working in the UK during your studies, please see the UK Council for International Student Affairs website.
Volunteering during your studies
All students, including those on a short-term study visa and a Tier 4 visa, are able to volunteer. However, you should be aware that unpaid or voluntary work is not considered volunteering, and counts as ‘work’.
The difference between unpaid work and volunteering is that unpaid workers usually have contractual obligations to perform the work (for example, to attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks), and the employer is contractually required to provide the work. The worker is usually paid in kind.
Students who are volunteering 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). Volunteers usually help a charity or voluntary or public sector organisation.
You should always check with the organisation offering you a volunteering opportunity whether it could be regarded as unpaid employment. If it is, you will not be able to do the work if you are on a short-term visa, or you will have to count the hours against your allotted working hours per week if you are on a Tier 4 visa.
Working after your studies
International students who are coming to the end of their studies and are considering the possibility of staying on in the UK to work may wish to explore some of the schemes and visa options below. These do not apply to EU, EEA or Swiss nationals who are able to live and work in the UK without restriction.
Under many of these schemes, your spouse or civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner, and children can apply to stay in the UK with you or join you here from abroad.
Doctorate Extension Scheme
The Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme allows doctorate students to spend one year undertaking employment or self-employment in the UK after you have completed your studies. You must apply for the Doctorate Extension Scheme up to 60 days before your course end date (submission date).
Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur
The Graduate Entrepreneur scheme is aimed at recent graduates and postdoctoral researchers who have “genuine and credible business ideas and entrepreneurial skills” and whose UK university is prepared to endorse them under this scheme to help them develop these ideas. The University of St Andrews can offer Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur endorsement. Find out more about the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur scheme.
Tier 1 Entrepreneur
The Tier 1 Entrepreneur scheme requires funds that you must invest in a business in the UK, but you do not need a sponsor or endorsing body. Find out about the requirements for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur scheme.
Tier 2 is the main route if you would like to work after your studies in the UK. In most cases, employers are not required to show that they advertised the job and that no one else could do it before they can offer it to you. Find out more details about employment under Tier 2.
Student Union Sabbatical Officer
You can stay in the UK if you have been elected to a full-time salaried post as a sabbatical officer at an education establishment where you are registered as a student. Find out more about staying in the UK as a sabbatical officer.
Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme
Under the Youth Mobility Scheme, you can work in the UK for up to two years if you are a national of a qualifying country. Find out if your country qualifies under the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme.
Tier 5 Temporary Worker
The Tier 5 Temporary Worker scheme allows you to undertake specific types of work in the UK for a period of one or two years. Find out more about the Tier 5 Temporary Worker Scheme.
The UK ancestry route allows eligible persons to take employment and to set up a business. You can only apply if you are a Commonwealth citizen aged 17 or over and you can prove you have a grandparent who was born in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, or Republic of Ireland (but only if your grandparent was born there before 31 March 1922). Find out more about the UK ancestry route.
Working after your PhD
For PhD students, the period between submitting your thesis for examination and official notification of viva outcome is considered to be 'vacation' period, and you can work full time.
The period between official notification of the viva outcome and unconditional approval of degree, which includes time working on corrections if applicable, is considered a return to full-time study. Working during this time can only be undertaken as follows:
- Students who are not studying on a Tier 4 visa can continue to work full-time during this period unless the viva outcome is ‘revise and resubmit’.
- Students on a Tier 4 visa can only work for up to 20 hours a week in accordance with the restrictions of their Tier 4 visa.