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Advice and Counselling Service

Does my immigration permission allow me to work?

The information on this page applies to students with Student or Visitor immigration permission.

For guidance about National Insurance numbers, income tax, finding work and earning money in the UK, see our separate web page Working during your studies

Please note that if your studies change or stop, this can affect your right to work: this is explained in the section below on Interrupting, resitting or withdrawing.

If you have Visitor permission 

If you have come to the UK as a Visitor (eg because you are doing a course of study of six months or less), you cannot work, either paid or unpaid. However, you can undertake genuine volunteering, which has a specific definition different to unpaid work. See the section below on volunteering / unpaid work.  

If you do not have permission to work, and you work, (paid or unpaid) you are committing a criminal offence. The immigration authorities treat work restrictions very seriously. They can refuse your immigration application, or remove you from the UK, if you work too many hours or if you do work which you are not allowed to do. You might also be barred from returning to the UK for a certain period. 

If you have Student immigration permission 

How many hours a week can I work? 

During term-time 

Your work conditions are normally printed on your visa sticker or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). 

If you are studying on a degree level programme and have the standard Student immigration permission work restriction, you can work up to 20 hours in any one week during term-time, (or 10 hours a week for certain programmes). A 'week' is defined in the Immigration Rules as "a period of 7 days beginning with a Monday". It is essential that you work no more than 20 hours (or 10 hours for certain programmes) in any seven-day period starting on a Monday. If you work irregular hours and / or have more than one employer, you will need to keep detailed records of how many hours you work each day so that you can be sure you are not in danger of breaching your work conditions.  

If you are found to be working more than your weekly limit of 10 or 20 hours in any week during term time, you can face serious consequences. The immigration authorities treat work restrictions very seriously. They can refuse your immigration application or remove you from the UK if you work too many hours or if you do work which you are not allowed to do. You might also be barred from returning to the UK for a certain period. 

If an employer asks you to work more than your weekly allowed hours during term time, explain that you cannot do this as you must comply with the conditions of your immigration permission. Some employers may tell you that it is fine to do just a few hours extra a week, or that you must only maintain an average of less 10 or 20 hours per week, or that overtime does not count. None of these things are true: you would be working illegally. For more information see Consequences of breaching a work condition below. 

During vacations 

You can work full-time during the University vacations that apply to your programme of study. If you are an undergraduate, your vacations will be the standard Christmas, Easter and summer vacations that apply to your programme. If you are studying on a one year taught postgraduate programme, your vacations will usually be just at Christmas and Easter: the summer is not vacation time. You use this time to complete a project or dissertation, or sit exams, and you can only work a maximum of 20 hours per week until the official end date of your programme. See Queen Mary's calendar for the official term dates. 

During re-sits 

If you are a continuing undergraduate student, you can work full-time up to the start of re-sits when you must revert to 20 hours for the whole of the Late Summer res-sit period, usually a two week period. After this you can revert to full-time hours until the start of the new academic year.  

Postgraduate research students 

If you are a postgraduate research student your vacations will be agreed with your supervisor and are normally for six weeks a year. 

Part-time courses 

If you have Student immigration permission for a part-time course, you are not permitted to work at all in the UK.

Working after the end of your programme with Student immigration permission

As well as in vacations, you can also work more than 20 hours a week between the official end date of your programme and the end of your permission to stay in the UK, which is normally about four months, depending on the length of your course. If you have finished your exams, or if you complete your dissertation early, you should not normally work more than 20 hours a week until the official programme end date. If you are a postgraduate research student, you can work full-time after formal submission of your thesis for examination to the Research Degrees Office, after you have defended your viva and completed your corrections.  

You can only work more than 20 hours a week after the end of your programme if you have actually completed the programme. For example, if you learn that you have not passed your final exams/coursework and have to take resits, you must change back to 20 hours or less (although see the ‘Warning’ above if you will be re-sitting out of attendance). 

You can provide your employer with a copy of your CAS and a Student Status letter showing that you have completed your studies.

If you finish your course earlier than expected (earlier than stated on your CAS), QMUL will report the early completion to the Home Office and the Home Office should curtail your visa to an earlier end date and notify you of the new expiry date.  Your employer will need evidence of your course completion.

Please see the UKCISA website for more information.

 

Employer checks

Employers have a legal obligation to check that you are allowed to work in the UK, so, you must be able to provide evidence of your immigration permission. You can generate a share code electronically  and your employer can check your right to work electronically. From 6th April 2022 employers are no longer able to accept or check a physical BRP as valid proof of a right to work.  

Employers are required by law to obtain and retain details of the term time and vacation dates of a course a student employee (who has limited leave to remain in the UK) is undertaking. This means that employers can see when your working hours are limited, and when they are unrestricted. The employer should request this evidence from the employee, either annually or for the entire course, in any of the following forms: 

  • A printout from the institution’s website or other institutional material which confirms your course timetable, or 
  • A printout of the timetable from your academic school
  • A printout of the official Queen Mary calendar  

You can also provide your employer with evidence of your student status (which also  confirms course completion date).

Please see the QMUL website for more information on evidence of student status 

There is more information about employer checks on the UKCISA website. 

Restrictions on the type of work you can do

There are also restrictions on the type of work that international students can do. You cannot: 

  • be self-employed* 
  • work as a professional sportsperson (including a sports coach) 
  • work as an entertainer 
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training (except on a recognised Foundation Programme) 
  • work in a position that would fill a permanent full-time vacancy (except on a recognised foundation programme or as a Students’ Union sabbatical officer) 
  • engage in business activity. 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. There is more information about the meaning of business activity in The Student and Child Student Home Office guidance. 

*There is information on the gov.uk website about what counts as self-employed. You are self-employed if you run your own business or if you work on a freelance basis. You are also self-employed if you sell goods (including online trading such as eBay or Amazon) that you buy with the intention of re-selling them, or if you make items yourself and sell them, intending to make a profit. 

Staying in the UK to work after your studies

For information on the possible immigration options that allow people to stay and work in the UK after studies see our guidance on working 

The Advice and Counselling Service runs information sessions every semester, with the QM Careers & Enterprise Centre about working in the UK after studies.  

If the programme you are studying on is not degree level, you can only work up to 10 hours per week during term time. The programmes that this applies to at Queen Mary are all English language courses including pre-sessional programmes and the International Science and Engineering Foundation Programme. However, if you have immigration permission which covers both a pre-sessional and the main degree level programme, you should still be able to work up to 20 hours per week. Always check what it says in your passport or your Biometric Residence Permit and make sure you do not work more hours a week than you are allowed. 

Working for an employer based outside the UK 

If you are working for an employer based outside the UK and you are physically not inside the UK, your Student visa work conditions do not apply. You should check the work rights in the country you are working.  

If you are physically in the UK, working for an employer based outside the UK, for example you are working for an employer remotely, or doing a "virtual internship" any hours you work for them will count towards your 10 or 20 hour maximum.  

Changing sponsor

If you have been granted immigration permission to study with a different education provider, it should be clear from your new immigration permission whether you are permitted to work and for how long. If you are in the process of changing your educational provider you can continue to work in accordance with your current immigration permission if you have started studying with your new sponsor, but only if you have a CAS to study a course with the new sponsor, the sponsor is a Student Sponsor (which Queen Mary is), and you make a new immigration application before starting the new course. For more information, please refer to the 'Right to work checks: employer' guidance and contact a Welfare Adviser if you are unsure. 

How does changes to my studies impact my working conditions?

Interrupting, resitting out of attendance or withdrawing

If you are not attending your programme because you are interrupting, re-sitting out of attendance or you have withdrawn, you must stop working as soon as this change to your studies takes effect. If you continue to work, you will be in breach of your immigration conditions. 

Warning: If you are an international student, you cannot normally remain in the UK if you withdraw or you are interrupting or resitting out of attendance for more than 60 days. Please see the information on Immigration Reporting and Curtailment. 

Please note: If you are re-sitting out of attendance and the end date of your course as stated on your CAS has already passed and you are not therefore reported to UKVI by Queen Mary's Immigration Compliance Team, we understand that you would still have immigration permission which allows you to stay in the UK and work. However, it would be difficult to argue that you are in an official vacation period, and you have not completed your course, and therefore it is advised that you do not work more than 20 hours per week during this period.  

Completing your course early

We explain in our guidance about changes to your studies what will happen if you successfully complete your course earlier than expected (for example because you changed programme to a shorter one). In this situation you can work as described in the section below 'Working after the end of your programme with student immigration permission'.  

Unpaid work 

Volunteering

There is a difference between unpaid work, voluntary work and volunteering. 

If you have a work prohibition, because you are in the UK under the Visitor or Short-Term Student immigration category, you cannot do unpaid work or voluntary work, however volunteering is permitted.

The rules for Visitors state: 

  • the volunteering lasts no more than 30 days in total and; 
  • it is for a charity that is registered with the Charity Commission. 

The Home Office guidancedifferentiates between voluntary work which is not allowed and volunteering which is: 

Voluntary workers: 

  • often have a contract with their employer (this means the employer must provide the work and the voluntary worker must attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks) 
  • are also usually remunerated in kind 

Volunteers: 

  • do not have a contract of employment. 
  • must not take the place of an employee  and must not receive payment in kind. Reimbursement for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses is permitted, however. 
  • support a charity or voluntary or public sector organisation, but must not be undertaking work ancillary to the organisation’s charitable purpose including, for example, routine back office administrative roles, retail or other sales roles, fund-raising roles and roles involved in the maintenance of the organisation. 

If you wish to volunteer, check with the organisation you wish to volunteer with that the role meets the government rules for volunteering for either Visitor or Short Term Student, because if it is voluntary work or unpaid work instead, you will be breaching your immigration conditions. See the helpful government guidance about the differences between volunteering and voluntary work for those with Visitor and Short Term Student immigration permission. 

If you have a work restriction, unpaid work and voluntary work counts towards your weekly limit on hours of work. So, if you want to volunteer, check with the organisation you wish to volunteer with that the role meets the government rules for volunteering (see above) to avoid breaching your weekly limit on hours of work. 

Work placements

If you are undertaking a work placement, which is an assessed and integral part of your course, you are permitted to work full-time on this placement, even during term-time. Please note this is only the case if it is assessed as an integral part of your course.  

If you are doing a work placement that is assessed as an integral part of your course, you can work your permitted hours per week in addition to working on your placement. If you finish your work placement early, you are still considered to be in term-time until the official end date as stated on your CAS. 

Internships

If you are studying with Student immigration permission, there is no longer any provision in the Immigration Rules for doing an internship. If you wish to gain work experience with a company, you need to ensure that any work you do meets the conditions of your immigration permission. For example, you could only work full-time during a vacation period from your programme of study. 

Other types of immigration permission

Immigration status other than ‘Student’ or 'Visitor'

If your permission to be in the UK is not as a Student or Visitor, you should make sure you understand whether you can work and, if you can work, whether you have any restrictions. This is usually shown on the UK immigration sticker or stamp in your passport or on your BRP.

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