skip to content

The University applies strict working restrictions on students.

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.

Working hours

Students should ensure they are aware of the University's working restrictions which are generally stricter than the number of hours you can work on a student visa. The following is therefore provided for information.  

A student visa issued for full-time degree level studies allows you to work for a maximum of 20 hours per week during term-time. This is a maximum of 20 hours in total in any one week, including paid or unpaid work and for one or more organisation. The 20 hours cannot be averaged over a longer period.  A 'week' is defined by the Home Office as a period of 7 days beginning with a Monday. This also includes both paid and unpaid work. The University imposes greater working restrictions, as outlined above, and you will need to adhere to these.

A student visa issued for full-time degree level studies allows you work full-time during official vacation periods. Term and vacation dates differ depending on the level of study you are undertaking so it is important you check these before undertaking full-time work. This includes a full-time internship or placement unless it is part of your course. Please note that the term and vacation dates used by undergraduates do not apply to postgraduate research courses and some taught Masters courses. Masters students should consult their Faculty or Department for further details regarding official vacation periods during their studies and should be aware of the official end date of their course as stated on the CAS used to apply for the student visa. The academic year for postgraduate research students is continuous throughout the year, from 1 October to 30 September. It is therefore not possible, for example, for a postgraduate research student to undertake full-time work during the summer period. Whilst breaks for holidays are permitted, at times agreed with your supervisor, these are not periods that would permit full-time work. Whether you can work after submission of your thesis for examination varies depending on the stage of the process as outlined in the information below. 

Type of work

Students on a student visa can do most kinds of work, but you must not:

  • be self-employed;
  • engage in business activity;
  • work in a position that would fill a full-time permanent vacancy;
  • work as a professional sportsperson including as a sports coach, paid or unpaid, as defined by the Home Office on pages 94-95 of the Student route guidance;
  • work as an entertainer, paid or unpaid;
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on the foundation programme.

These restrictions apply throughout your time on a student visa. 


A student visa does not allow self-employment. Self-employment normally includes activities such as freelance writing or publishing, private tutoring or selling goods or services directly to an end customer, for example as a consultant. If you are not on the employer or agency's employee payroll, it is likely the work being offered is on a self-employed basis. If you are unsure, it is important you check your employment status prior to starting work.

In order to undertake work you should be given a formal document by the employer such as a 'contract of employment' or a 'worker's agreement' or some other written statement confirming your employment status. This includes where you will be undertaking work for one or more of the Colleges, or for the University. Please note you may find that other students (who are not on a student visa) may not need to have the same documentation in place.

Postgraduate students undertaking undergraduate supervisions, or students undertaking other work in College, must contact their College to arrange a formal worker's agreement before starting the activity if they hold a student visa. 

Engaging in Business Activity

A student visa does not permit you to engage in business activity. The Home Office defines this as working for a business in which you have a financial or other significant beneficial interest in a capacity other than as an employee. The Home Office provides some examples of the types of circumstances in which you would be considered to be engaging in business activity: setting up a business that is trading or has a trading presence; being employed by a company in which you hold shares of 10% or more; or working for a company where you hold a statutory role, such as a director. However, this is not an exhaustive list. If you are unsure whether this restriction would apply in particular circumstances, you should seek further guidance from the International Student Office prior to undertaking the activity.

Filling a permanent full-time vacancy

A student visa does not permit you to work in a position that would fill a permanent full-time vacancy. This means any work you undertake on a full-time basis where permitted, for example after completion of your course as outlined below, must be in a temporary position (i.e. the contract ends on a certain date). There is an exception to this if you applied for your student visa on or after 6 April 2022 and you make an application for the Graduate visa following successful course completion, in which case you can start a full-time permanent role whilst this new visa application is pending. 

Undertaking an internship / work placement

A student visa would only permit you to undertake an internship in the following circumstances:

Undergraduate students are able to undertake an internship during the official University vacation periods. The employer will need evidence of the academic calendar as confirmation of the vacation dates when you are permitted to work full-time. Acceptable evidence would be a printout of the academic calendar from the University’s website. Medical students undertake work placements as part of their course and the International Student Office provides details of these placements to the Home Office at the beginning of the relevant academic year.

Masters students are able to undertake an internship during the official vacation periods. These dates vary depending on the course so you should consult your Faculty and Department for further details regarding the official vacation periods. A small number of Masters courses include the option of a short internship/placement as part of the course. If this applies to your course it will be included in the course handbook. As an embedded part of the course, this is permitted on a student visa but the International Student Office will need to provide the internship/placement details to the Home Office in advance so it is important that you keep your Faculty or Department informed of the details and any subsequent changes. You should also be aware that the restrictions on the type of work you can undertake on a student visa, as outlined on this page, continue to apply. This includes not undertaking an internship/placement on a self-employed basis. 

Information for PhD students is outlined on our 'PhD - Internships and visa considerations' webpage. 


You can volunteer on your student visa but the Home Office makes a distinction between volunteering and voluntary work. Voluntary work is considered unpaid employment and is therefore restricted on a student visa, along with any other paid work, to 20 hours a week during term-time (note the University’s working restrictions are greater and information on defining term-time is outlined under ‘Working hours’ above). Even if the opportunity is advertised as 'volunteering', it could still be considered voluntary work.

The Home Office advises taking the following into consideration to help determine if it is voluntary work or volunteering:  

• Voluntary workers will usually have contractual obligations to perform the work (e.g. to attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks) with the employer being contractually required to provide the work – the contract does not have to be written. The worker is usually remunerated 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 – i.e. receiving payment in kind (although they are sometimes reimbursed for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses). 

It is advisable to check with the organisation offering the volunteering opportunity whether it would be regarded as unpaid employment.

For PhD students - working after submission of thesis for examination

After you submit your thesis for examination, the number of hours you can work on a student visa will depend on the stage of the process:

  • The period between submission of thesis for examination and official notification of viva outcome is considered to be 'vacation' 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 and submission of the hardbound thesis, is considered a return to full-time study. You can only work for up to 20 hours a week. 

The restrictions on the type of work you can undertake on a student visa, as outlined above, continue to apply. 

Working after studies

After your course has ended and whilst your visa remains valid, the Home Office allows you to work full-time on a student visa. The restrictions on the type of work, as outlined above, continue to apply. 

For PhD students, the end of the course is unconditional approval of degree.

For Masters and undergraduate students, the end of the course is either receiving official notification of approval of your degree OR the course end date as stated on your CAS as long as you have completed all required assessment for your course by this date, whichever is earlier. For students studying on an MPhil by Research examined by thesis and oral, when you can work full-time depends on the stage of the examination process and you are advised to contact the International Student Office for further guidance.

If you need any clarification about the working conditions on a student visa, contact the International Student Office for further advice.

You may also wish to consider switching to the Graduate visa after successful completion of your course.

University's responsibilities

In accordance with sponsor licence requirements, the University must notify the Home Office if it becomes aware a student is breaking the conditions of their student visa. This includes working in breach of the visa conditions.