Working in the UK – A Guide for International Students |
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Working in the UK – A Guide for International Students

Written by Mark Bennett

International students are allowed to work in the UK (subject to the conditions outlined below). However, part-time work can be difficult to find, so you should not expect to fund your studies entirely in this way.

European students from the EEA

Students from a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland can work in the UK with no restrictions. No formal permission is needed, but you should be ready to show an employer your passport or identity card as proof of nationality. Students from outside the EEA or Switzerland should check the requirements below.

International students from outside the EEA

In general, most international students on a Tier 4 (student) visa pursuing a full-time postgraduate degree (for a period of over six months) can work in the UK during their studies, as long as they don’t:

  • Work for more than 20 hours per week, except during any vacations or in the case of an agreed work placement or internship
  • Engage in business, self-employment or provide services as a professional sportsperson or entertainer
  • Pursue a career by filling a permanent full-time vacancy

In other words, you can do most part-time jobs. If you’re unsure about your personal circumstances, the UK Council for International Student Affairs has up-to-date, detailed advice for a range of situations.

Can my partner work in the UK?

If you’re studying a postgraduate course of nine months or more at a recognised higher education institution, your partner will be given a visa or passport stamp that allows them to work. They will need a copy of your passport to show the immigration officer if they are following you to the UK.

What do I need before I can start work?

You will need to have applied for a National Insurance number to be eligible to work in the UK, but you do not need to have received your National Insurance number before you can start work. You should do this after you have received your offer of employment.

You can apply for a National Insurance number via the phone. After you’ve done this, you may need to attend an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus to confirm why you need a National Insurance number.

Can I undertake a work placement or internship?

If you’re a Tier 4 student, you can do a work placement, as long as:

  • It’s an assessed and integral part of your full-time Masters programme
  • It doesn’t comprise more than half of your degree
  • You stay enrolled as a student at your university

If the work placement meets these conditions, you’ll be able to work full-time for its duration.

If you want to take part in an extracurricular work placement or internship that isn’t part of your course, you must undertake it on a part-time basis (20 hours a week or fewer) during term time, or full-time during the holidays.

Can I work in the UK after my Masters?

After finishing your Masters, you usually have four months to start looking for employment. Once you have a suitable job offer, you can apply for a Tier 2 (general) visa that entitles you to live and work in the UK for up to five years. Your job will usually need to be a graduate-level position and provide an annual salary of at least £20,800 (or the industry equivalent).

If you applied for a visa through the Tier 4 postgraduate visa pilot scheme, you have a slightly longer period of six months to look for work in the UK after your course has finished. The UK plans to extend this pilot scheme to all Masters students in future.

Further information

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) offers a wide selection of resources for overseas students looking to understand their right to work in the UK.

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Last Updated: 15 March 2019