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The term 'student visa' on this page refers to immigration permission issued under both Tier 4 and the Student route. Tier 4 was replaced by the Student route on 5 October 2020.

The academic year for postgraduate research students is continuous throughout the year without the vacation periods between terms which apply to undergraduates and some taught Masters. This means that both the University and student visa term-time working restrictions apply until submission of thesis for examination. Whether an internship is possible as a student visa holder will depend on the circumstances. In particular, whether it is considered integral to the PhD research. 

The following information outlines the University approval process to undertake a full-time internship, and the visa implications of doing so. Note that ‘internship’ could cover paid or unpaid internships, placements or work experience. This information applies whether the internship will take place in the UK or overseas, and whether it is remote from the internship premises or in person.

Approved as integral to your PhD

If the internship is integral to your PhD research, and approved through the University’s Leave to Work Away procedure, it can be undertaken on your student visa as it is considered to be part of your course. Before applying for Leave to Work Away, you should discuss the proposed internship with your Supervisor to confirm it would be considered integral to your PhD research. 

University approval under Leave to Work Away must be granted before the internship begins. Undertaking an internship without the necessary approval may result in a breach of the visa work conditions.

Where an approved internship is being undertaken in the UK, either with a UK-based organisation or remotely for an overseas company, the following will also apply: 

  • The internship details, including the name of the internship provider and internship dates, will need to be reported to the Home Office by the International Student Office. You would be emailed to confirm when this has been reported.
  • You may require a letter for the internship provider in relation to your student visa for right to work purposes. This letter can be requested from the International Student Office once leave to work away has been approved.
As a break in study from your PhD

If the internship is not integral to your PhD research, you would need to apply for non-medical intermission as an authorised break from study to be able to undertake it. If the intermission application is approved, it is not possible for the University to continue to sponsor your student visa during the break in studies for this purpose. Visa sponsorship would be withdrawn from the start date of the internship and your visa should subsequently be curtailed by the Home Office to 60 days from the date curtailment action is taken. The Home Office should communicate with you directly to confirm curtailment action and the new expiry date of your visa. It is possible this communication will not reach you so it cannot be assume curtailment action has not taken place. The University does not receive communication in relation to this. 

The International Student Office would issue you with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) so that you can apply for a new student visa to resume study at the end of your internship. If you require ATAS clearance, you would need to apply for this in good time as it will need to be granted before you can be assigned your new CAS. 

Applying for a new student visa to return to study at the end of the intermission period will require you to complete the full visa application process. You would need to pay the visa application fees again including the immigration health surcharge for the duration of the new student visa. Your new student visa would cover your thesis submission deadline, which will have been extended in line with the intermission period.

For internships undertaken in the UK:

  • In order to undertake an internship in the UK, you would need to apply for an alternative visa, such as a temporary work-related visa. Whether this is possible and can be supported by the internship provider would need to be discussed with the host organisation. If it can be supported, the host organisation would also need to provide you with guidance on the requirements for the application and whether you would be eligible to apply for this visa inside the UK.
  • You would need to provide a copy of the work-related visa to the International Student Office in case additional advice is required in relation to your return to studies at the end of the internship period, including whether you can make the new student visa application in the UK.
After submission of thesis for examination

The period between submission of thesis for examination until you receive the official notification of your viva outcome is considered by the University to be a vacation period. As such you would be able to work full-time on your student visa, although restrictions on the type of work would continue to apply. The duration of this period can vary and is unlikely to be known at the point you submit your thesis for examination. It will depend on both when the viva will be arranged and when the outcome considered formally. This may mean making arrangements for an internship during this time may not be straightforward. You are advised to contact the International Student Office with the specific details of your plans so that you can be advised based on your circumstances.

If you have questions about the visa implications of your internship, please contact the International Student Office. Questions about the University’s Leave to Work Away or intermission processes should be directed to Student Registry.