Working in the UK during your studies

International students who hold a Tier 4 student visa to study in the UK are subject to working restrictions imposed by UKVI (UK Visas & Immigration). Your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card or visa indicates the maximum number of hours you can work. This includes both paid and voluntary work. All students are prohibited from engaging in business and from self-employment, nor are they allowed to provide services as a professional sportsperson or entertainer.

Breaching any of these conditions and taking up work where you do not have the appropriate permission is considered illegal working and will affect your immigration record. Illegal working can result in curtailment of your visa and risk any future visa applications you make. It can also lead to a prison sentence and a fine for you and a civil penalty for your employer. 

Tier 4 students and working for the University - compliance with UKVI restrictions

If you take casual employment at the University of Bristol you will be employed through the Temporary Staffing Service (TSS). TSS will assess all students' right to work and document it appropriately. Students will not be eligible for a work assignment that would result in working beyond their UKVI permission.  

You are allowed to work in the UK if:

1. Your Entry Clearance visa in your passport states 'Work limited as per Points Based System (PBS) rules', or;
2. Your BRP states 'Work 10hrs max in term-time' or 'Work 20hrs max in term-time'.
3. You are from within the European Economic Area (EEA). If so, you can work without restriction.

Working limits for Tier 4 students under PBS rules

Undergraduate students Your BRP states 20 hours per week, during term-time. However, the University and TSS guidelines allow only 15 hours per week, during term-time Full-time working should only take place during holiday periods within the academic year. Holiday periods follow the standard University calendar
Postgraduate Taught Students 20 hours per week, as per UKVI, during term-time Full-time working should only take place during holiday periods within the academic year and then not until your dissertation has been submitted (therefore, no full-time working over summer)
Postgraduate Research Students 20 hours per week, as per UKVI, during term-time TSS will not account for holiday for PGR students unless it is an approved, extended period. Please check with TSS for details
International Foundation Programme students 10 hours per week, as per UKVI, during term-time Holiday periods follow the standard University calendar
Students on a pre-sessional course 10 hours per week, as per UKVI, for the duration of their course Full-time working should only take place once studies are complete

Please note that the 20 or 10 hour per week limitations are per week – the periods worked cannot be averaged over a month or any other period. This limitation exists for both work within the University and for outside organisations, so employers of Tier 4 students should also remind those students of these restrictions if aware of work undertaken outside of the University. The permitted number of hours must fit into a 7 day period starting on a Monday and ending on a Sunday.

Please see the University's key dates page for specific term dates and vacation dates.

What qualifies as 'work' and which types of 'work' are allowed under Tier 4?

UKVI define work as including 'paid and unpaid work'; 'paid and unpaid work placements undertaken as part of a course of study or period of study'; 'self-employment'; and 'engaging in business activity'.

As a Tier 4 student the types of work you can undertake are restricted to 'paid and unpaid work' and 'paid and unpaid work placements undertaken as part of a course of study or period of study'.  Tier 4 students are prohibited from 'self-employment'; and 'engaging in business activity’ nor are they allowed to provide services as a professional sportsperson or entertainer.

UKVI also confirms that 'paid and unpaid work placements undertaken as part of a course of study' are separate from 'paid or unpaid employment', so can be done simultaneously. Therefore, a student can work up to 20 hours per week in casual employment with the University (15 hours if undergraduate) whilst on a work placement that is an assessed, integral part of a course.

What are the risks should a student work in excess of their conditions?

If a student is found to be in breach of their working conditions, the student could be subject to curtailment of their visa and deportation, which has come to fruition in the past for students at other institutions. It is also a criminal offence for students to exceed their working hours. Finally, the University would need to make an assessment as to whether to continue to sponsor the student’s Tier 4 visa.

What can affect a student's working permissions?

Should a student withdraw from their course or suspend their studies, our Tier 4 sponsorship of that student would cease and the student should stop working immediately. International Student Visa Advice and Compliance (ISVAC) informs the TSS of students on the date that their withdrawal of Tier 4 sponsorship is reported to UKVI. A student who has successfully completed a course early retains the right to work for the relevant length of time following their course completion (usually four months).

Students with leave (permission) in an expired passport

From 16th May 2014, students wishing to start new employment are expected to show a valid visa in the form of either a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP card) or a vignette in their current passport in order to satisfy a right to work check. A valid visa endorsed in an expired passport can be used as proof that the student has permission to be and study in the UK, but may not be accepted by an employer as proof of eligibility to work in the UK. In order to transfer your Tier 4 visa to a BRP card or to a new passport, you should apply for a Transfer of Conditions. Please see UKCISA for more information.

Students in the UK on a Visitor visa

You cannot undertake any work whatsoever, whether paid, unpaid or voluntary. This includes work placements, which are not allowed even if part of your course.

Further information

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